2023 class partners with local artist Lina Velasquez on mural

Leadership Morgan Hill class of 2023 on the steps of the Capitol Building in Sacramento. Photo by Chris Foster

By Marty Cheek

The Leadership Morgan Hill class of 2023 is taking on an ambitious project to revitalize Morgan Hill’s Community Park. The students have brought in a local artist to transform a barbecue-picnic area building into a breathtaking work of art with murals of nature that will serve as a focal point for visitors and locals alike.

The building is officially called “the staged barbecue area,” but class member Laurie Foster described the structure as a “gazebo.” The hexagon-shaped building’s orange-brown paint has weathered over time, leaving behind a tired and worn appearance.

“People are genuinely excited about this transformation,” Foster said. “The building has been an eyesore for far too long.”

The Leadership Morgan Hill class partnered with talented local artist Lina Velasquez to execute their vision. Together, they meticulously planned the mural’s themes, ensuring it harmonized with the enchanting ambiance of the nearby Magical Bridge Playground.

Mock-ups of the proposed designs digitally imposed on the building’s walls were developed to show members of the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Library , Culture  and Arts  Commission, and the Morgan Hill City Council. They showcase the integration of local oak trees, rolling hills and other aspects of the South Valley’s natural environment, evoking a sense of serenity and connection to the rural surroundings.

Building as it is in April 2023. Photo courtesy LMH 2023 class.

The project requires funding. The class had set a budget of $10,000. The members actively seek support from the community with a comprehensive fundraising strategy including a flier to potential sponsors detailing the various levels of involvement. Donations can be made on the Leadership website at www.leadershipmorganhill.com/class-of-2023.

Class member Nancy Rivas, a passionate advocate for the arts, shared her enthusiasm for the endeavor, highlighting the unique opportunity it presents for families by enhancing the Community Park section frequented by children.

“It’s a beautiful area, and the Magical Bridge Playground provides a unique opportunity for families to come together,” she said. “However, just a few feet away there’s a section that needs some love and help. We aim to bring it in alignment with the artistic perspective and have it stand side-by-side with the Magical Bridge.”

From birthday parties to celebrations of life, the staged structure has been witness to countless cherished memories. However, Rivas envisions a transformation that will elevate these experiences to new heights.

“Knowing what it looks like now and what it can potentially look like after (the project is done), I firmly believe it will add to people’s memories,” Rivas said. “When you celebrate something in a place that has been beautified, it leaves a lasting impression. It becomes a backdrop that you will fondly recall.”

Building as it is in April 2023. Photo courtesy LMH 2023 class.

To foster community engagement and inspire young minds, the class has organized a special event at the Magical Bridge Playhouse starting 3:30 p.m. Saturday, July 22. Families with children ages 5-12 are invited to meet the talented artist, Lina Velasquez, who will train them to create elements for the mural such as butterflies, birds and flowers.

The class will provide art supplies for the children to take home, allowing them to continue exploring their creativity. The space is limited for 30 children and parents must be present. Pre-registration is required  at [email protected].

Rivas said Velasquez envisions a mural that symbolizes the endless possibilities that lie ahead for Morgan Hill.

“She’s looking for trees that represent life and nourishment and different roads and different opportunities,” she said. “She plans to incorporate various elements like butterflies, birds, and other natural artistic representations to enhance the overall aesthetic.”

Velasquez’s artistic expertise extends beyond this project, as she has previously worked on various notable commissions. These include a majority of murals painted on utility boxes around town for a previous Leadership class. Her commitment to her craft is reflected in her guarantee of the mural’s quality for five years. Should any touch-ups be required, Velasquez has vowed to return and ensure that the artwork remains pristine.

To protect the mural from vandalism, the class has taken additional precautions, said class member Don Moody. The finished masterpiece will be covered with an anti-graffiti coating.

To donate to the Leadership Morgan Hill class of 2023’s project, click HERE

The art will complete that whole area in the park, he said. He marveled at the popularity of the adjacent playground among children and families, but noted that the gazebo area, much to his surprise, served as a gathering spot for a wide range of activities. From picnics to weddings to marriage anniversaries, the space held immense potential.

The artistic direction for the mural will reflect the natural surroundings, incorporating the essence of the rolling hills and serene landscapes. The artist aims to capture the natural feel without including iconic symbols focusing on a broader representation of classic Morgan Hill artwork, Moody said.

With a Sept. 18 deadline in mind, aligned with graduation, the class is determined to complete the project on time. By working collaboratively and harnessing their diverse skills and talents, the class is poised to create a lasting legacy that will be enjoyed by generations to come.