Esperanza: Finding Hope in Art

If you could create a piece of art to symbolize your individuality, struggles, hopes, and dreams, what would it look like? This was the challenge presented to young people participating in Esperanza's summer program. The result: A bright, boldly colored three panel ceramic mural capturing the unique characteristics of its creators while symbolizing the power of community through creativity.

Supported by an investment from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, fifteen Esperanza students created the ceramic mural in fifteen intense two-hour workshops at the Beck Center in Lakewood. "These workshops allowed our students to begin with an idea, and then watch that idea turn into something that can be seen, touched, and felt," said Jesus Sanchez, director of Programs for Esperanza.

Each panel of the mural depicts the educational struggles experienced by the Hispanic community, along with the students' personal hopes and dreams for the future. Flags celebrate the diversity of culture and heritage shared by the budding artists. Dorothy, 19, explains her contributions to the mural: "On the first panel we added something about ourselves, and I included a Dominican flag to represent my heritage."

While the mural’s bright colors project hope, it also directly expresses the very real challenges these young people face. Violence, heartbreak, and uncertainty about the future are contrasted with some of the brighter imagery that showcases their talents, interests, and music. But another student, Nikolet, sees something else in the mural – "esperanza" or hope. "Each panel shows something about us: who we are, our interests, things we are facing now, and our hopes for a bright future," she says.

The students' mural will be on display at the Beck Center for the Performing Arts, as part of the Hispanic Art, Hispanic Heritage Exhibit, from September 6 to October 6, 2013. Members of the community are welcome to view the exhibit free of charge any time during that period, and to join the students for a free opening reception on Friday, September 20, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the gallery. The Beck Center is located at 17801 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, OH 44107.

The mural was on display in August at Bruno Casiano Gallery in the Gordon Square Arts District, and will make its way in the coming months to various Cleveland Metropolitan School District schools, and then back to Esperanza by early winter.

View more photos of the students creating the mural.