Pura Avenida (meaning pure avenue) is more than just the story of a mural on Wall St. on the west side of Ventura. Local artists, residents, and organizations struggled to get the mural approved through many layers and hurdles of meetings, fees, and permit processing since last year. Finally, in October, the project received approval. The mural is the first seed in a garden of ideas to offer youth on The Avenue opportunities to help beautify the community and honor the rich Mexican American culture that makes the west side the best side.
Onofre Banderas, a longtime Ventura resident and artist, and Jackie Pearce, director of WCDC, came up with the name Pura Avenida while brainstorming appealing branding names for local kids.
In 2019 Banderas was an innocent victim of gang violence. After a long recovery, he realized he wanted to prevent other youth in the community from succumbing to the same fate. Pearce, who has been a vital part of revitalization efforts on The Avenue for many years, was introduced to Banderas through a mutual friend, and local artist, Lynne Okun. Banderas was part of Okun’s art programs when he was younger at the Kids’ Arts/Cultural Center that provided free art programs to low-income kids in Ventura. Being introduced to art as a kid had a positive influence on him, an opportunity that he wants to create for other kids. Pearce says this collaboration with Banderas is a bridge to reach even more community members and to blend organizations, thereby gaining even more support and funding. The Pura Avenida mural is the start of this plan that aims to weave local artists, youth, and community organizations into gente unida.
Pearce sees the mural painting as a catalyst to introduce young people to what else is possible. For example, she has been working with Alex Wulff, a DATA Middle School STEM teacher and the founder of the non-profit STEMbassadors, Inc., to establish a neighborhood site for teaching residents how to use the latest high-tech manufacturing equipment. Equipment, such as laser cutters, CNC routers, and 3-D printers, can be used to teach real-life skills as well as entrepreneurship. Pearce and Wulff have recently secured a location for this workspace in the El Portal Building on Ventura Avenue.
Pura Avenida mural work begins
The latest news with the Pura Avenida mural is that preparations are underway for the mural painting on Wall St.! December 18 and 19 will be the first artist workdays, bringing together the team of local artists to chart the course for the mural’s creation. After a pause for the holidays, the plan is to assign sections of the mural, for the artist team to work on, at the beginning of January. Once that groundwork is done, Pura Avenida youth will be brought in to work on the painting of the mural. Stay tuned for more remarkable things happening on The Avenue!