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BRITE Mural Artwork Brings Communities Together


BRITE recently unveiled an inspiring mural in their new office space designed by local artist Nick Santos and kids from the Santa Paula Youth Center. This dynamic mural showcases a vibrant collaboration and acts as a source of inspiration for BRITE. The jubilant energy and creativity infused in this masterpiece visually represents the mission of BRITE of engaging youth to be active participants in the shaping of our communities and expressing themselves through art. This project is a testament to the organization’s ongoing dedication to bringing together diverse communities with kindness, respect, and understanding.

Creative Collaboration

The mural project grew out of a conversation between Victoria Sayeg Carr, (Director of Media and Performing Arts, BRITE) and Gabby Ornelas (Santa Paula Youth Center) about ways their two organizations could collaborate. BRITE had just moved into their new (and first-ever) space and the idea for a community-oriented mural created by youth was born.  

Gabby has known local artist Nick Santos, a fixture in the Santa Paula art scene, for over 20 years. Nick grew up in Santa Paula where he first picked up a box of crayons when he was just 5 years old. Using art as a secret weapon against a broken home, Nick found freedom in drawing and painting. He first worked as an electrician, but was soon able to become a full-time artist.  Now, he is a full-time artist who describes his work as getting to “transform people’s homes and work environments with my art. I like to create spaces that people can get lost in if even for a second.”  Nick largely donated his time and artistic talents to the BRITE project and used his own life experience to rally the youth together for this project.

Artistic Expression

Gabby recruited four students from the Santa Paula Youth Center to do the background painting as part of Nick’s vision for the project. Under Nick’s supervision and encouragement, they gathered in the BRITE office to create the mural. Nick says:

For me, my only directions were to involve the kids in the project. So with that, I thought about how cool it'd be to let them paint the walls with no rules. Just use their emotion and creativity. They painted and splattered the walls with anything they wanted. I took pictures of their hands doing creative things like painting or playing a drum machine, I used their own paintings as the skin color underneath. The contrast around the hands are a mixture of faces and free-form energy that has turned into somewhat of my signature style. I wanted the mural to represent what I believe BRITE is about, which is empowering kids through art and creativity.

In describing his experience with the kids, Nick says:

At first, I saw that the kids were a little shy or embarrassed to be there. But once they got that brush and paint in their hands, they lit up. With no rules, they really impressed me with the characters they created. They really got into it, even using bare hands as brushes. They went from silent in the corner to all-out laughter and excitement. The final day they walked in, I really saw a sense of pride in them.

In just over a week’s time, the collaboration came to life.  After the kids made their mark, Nick transformed their expression into a cohesive work of art with a strong message.

Engaging Youth

In describing why Nick chose to donate his time and work with the Santa Paula youth, he notes:  

I come from a similar background as these kids from Santa Paula with an imagination, but no guidance or direction where to channel it. I was essentially lost and didn't know the power my art had to change my life or the people around me. If I can change one person's life or be a positive outlook for someone, why not. I want to help uplift anyone I can that may not see they are worthy… yet.

Gabby was thrilled to witness the collaboration between Nick and the students and in sharing her feelings she notes,:

Super cheesy, but my heart was really bursting at the seams watching how the youth evolved in the creative space from beginning to end. It was easy to choose the students because they in one form or another are artistically inclined, and getting to work with Nick who is an amazing artist from Santa Paula. I was so excited for the Youth to have direct access to him, and see how someone with similar background and story as their own overcame many difficulties and was able to follow his passion and become successful despite his tough upbringing. …..It was so much fun and so rewarding to see the excitement on our youths' faces. I would love to multiply the experience 100 times over for students everywhere! Art is such a powerful outlet, it should be accessible to all!

Gabby describes what she hopes the youth took away from this experience:

I really hope that they always remember what they felt when they walked back into the BRITE office and saw their work plastered all over the wall. That sense of PRIDE that they were part of such an amazing piece of art. I hope that they experience that over and over again in life as they achieve their goals, and make their own hopes and dreams their reality. 

Future Collaborations

BRITE hopes to expand on this project to create future collaborations with more youth.

Here’s what Nick says he hopes the youth took away from this experience: A sense of pride and some direction or hope. It's cliche to say follow your dreams, but I really hope it helps them follow theirs.