Youth group to open community arts and music center in East Palo Alto

Scape Martinez, left, a visual arts consultant for Youth Action Team, and Isaiah Phillips, Youth Action Team's community arts liaison, stand in front of an art installation announcing the future home of the East Palo Alto Youth Arts and Music Center on Jan. 5, 2016. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Scape Martinez, left, a visual arts consultant for Youth Action Team, and Isaiah Phillips, Youth Action Team's community arts liaison, stand in front of an art installation announcing the future home of the East Palo Alto Youth Arts and Music Center on Jan. 5, 2016. Photo by Veronica Weber.


A little more than a mile away from the future home of University Plaza, tucked in the southwest corner of the city, is a very different sign announcing a very different kind of project, one its organizers see as uniquely created by and for the community.

Colorful and bright, the sign's large, 3-D graffiti letters spell out "FUTURE" in front of a series of images -- a building, a music note, an artist's paint palette and a pencil. The 3 1/2 acres at the corner of Bay Road and Pulgas Avenue are the future home of the East Palo Alto Youth Arts and Music Center, a grassroots effort that will come to fruition in the next few years thanks to the San Francisco-based John & Marcia Goldman Foundation, which recently purchased the land.

The center will be an enormous boon for the community, a project organizer said, not only as a safe and peaceful space in a city known for its high crime rates, but one where residents struggling against a rising tide of external forces -- gentrification, climbing rents, new office buildings -- can celebrate and maintain their city's culture as it is today.

That sentiment is embodied in the sign at the empty lot -- actually a temporary art installation designed by East Palo Alto youth along with Scape Martinez, an urban artist who has worked in the community for more than a decade, including as artist in residence with the nonprofit Mural Music & Arts Project. (Martinez recently worked with youth artists to create two murals that were installed at crime "hot spots" in the city to promote peace and unity.)

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