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Graffiti empowers social activism

Nicole Godinez, a sophomore liberal arts major, painted a mural about how education stays with people forever, as part of the Empowerment Through Art and Graffiti Community Event on April 27 on the University Mall. The event was put on by the Social Com­mentary and Activism Through Graffiti class, taught by Gerlaine Kiamco, adjunct professor of anthropology. / photo by Katherine Careaga

Veronica Orozco
Staff Writer

An event two years in the making came alive April 27 as artists from the community gathered to take part in what is hopefully the first of many Empower­ment Through Art and Graffiti Community Events.

Dozens of students, faculty and La Verne residents stopped by the University Mall to support art, activism and enjoy food and music while adding contributions to one of the plywood walls.

“This event was created to help get students to be more active and have more events that speak about social issues and politics,” Gerlaine Kiamco, an adjunct anthropology professor, said.

Kiamco is a University of La Verne alumna who graduated in 2006. Kiamco’s former academic adviser, Kim Martin, first approached her about creating this graffiti project.

“I had the idea two years ago but everything got so busy and there were so many obstacles I never got around to it,” Martin, anthropology department chair, said.

“This is Gerlaine’s specialty and it is what she knows; that is why I asked her to come in and help.”

Kiamco’s Social Commen­tary and Activism Through Graffiti class did all of the publicizing and organizing for the event.

“The hardest part was getting people here,” Cintia Ventura, a sophomore anthropology major, said.

“(Kiamco) had her mind on this and even though this is her first year here and first time doing this event, she had it all set up and all we had to do was make it happen.”

The graffiti event attracted a wide selection of people from the community, including a tattoo artist and two graffiti artists who wore masks to keep their identities a secret.

Although the graffiti artists attempted to not draw attention to themselves, their piece did not go unnoticed.

The anonymous artists’ piece was a commentary about how a person evolves from an animal into a student and then a college graduate, only to become thousands of dollars in debt and de-evolve back into a beggar, barely making enough money to get by.

The graffitied boards will be displayed around campus and then saved to be lent out to any club or organization that wants to use them for an event.

“I want this to be a continuing event and to become a new tradition for the school,” Kiamco said.

“A lot of other campuses have a wall for social commentary and this one does not,” Martin said.

“We are a Hispanic serving institution and if you go to Mexico it is not gang graffiti on the walls, it is graffiti that is meant as social protest and activism.”

Funding and supplies for the event were given to the class by the University’s provost and the Coalition for Diversity. Home Depot also provided donations and discounts to help the class successfully complete their project.

Veronica Orozco can be reached at

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