Paint in the park

Marine Corporal Phillip Ray Orabuena paints a section of his 105 foot mural on Third Street near Monterey Street. Orabuena, who served three tours in Iraq from March 2003 to March 2007, collaborated with four friends to put his memories of service and hom

Community members are invited to gather with their own paint and canvas to create art on the grassy 400 block of San Benito Street, near The Vault and the Briggs Building this weekend.

The artists will be working from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday Feb. 7. The idea for the project was born when Phillip Orabuena, one of the lead artists of the new country-themed mural on San Benito Street, saw poems projected onto the wall of The Vault recently.

“We were talking there with some people from the city about the use of the grass area and the development they want to do to it,” Orabuena said. “And I just found out that pretty much anyone can utilize it but it didn’t seem that way at first.”

The paint party will also mark the arrival of a few new additions to the green space including a donated picnic bench, chalkboard and lending library.

“The thing behind this project is ‘Look how much change we can do if we all work together, pool resources together. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot,” said Rolan Resendiz, 36, who is helping prepare the chalkboard for the grassy area. “That’s going to be ‘placemaking.’ You take something, give it a facelift and make use of it in a positive way.”

The nonprofit Project for Public Spaces defines a “placemaking” project as when community members take a hands-on approach to improving their neighborhood, city or region, according to their website.

The community chalkboard—created by Poet Rachelle Escamilla, Muralist Joel Esqueda and his boyfriend, Resendiz—will arrive Saturday, Resendiz said.  So far, Escamilla has funded the chalkboard project out-of-pocket, though the receipts have been saved in case a donor comes forward, he said. The Friends of the Library donated $75 to help fill the library, Resendiz said.

The picnic bench is being donated by Casey Jahsman, the founder of Project Possible, a business that sells reclaimed wood furniture and uses the profits to “make the world a better place,” according to its website.

“There’s a lot of people at this point,” Resendiz said. “It just adds up and it takes off.”

Orabuena has reached out to fellow artists about the Sunday painting event with postings on social media and Craigslist.com.

“Come out and just paint. Enjoy outside painting. It’s a way of doing outside art without worrying about, ‘Do we have permission to paint this wall?’ ” he said. “There’s no law against just going to the park and painting on your canvas.”

Orabuena hopes the number of people attending will continue to grow, much like it did with a community bicycle ride he started three to four years ago, he said. Originally, the summer Tuesday evening rides had just 15 people, but the group grew to almost 300 people, he said.

“The way I went about starting that is the same way that I’m going about this, but with painting,” the artist said.

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