More than 100 community members came out Wednesday evening to support the kick-off meeting for the development of the Santa Ana Arts Master Plan.

The meeting is part of a weeklong community engagement effort that consists of 30 different arts-related events and meetings throughout the city.

Led by a few city officials and representatives of the Cultural Planning Group, an organization specializing in bringing arts into communities, the gathering allowed residents to give input and ideas regarding the new art plan.

Jerry Allen, a representative from the Cultural Planning Group, emphasized the importance of the Santa Ana residents’ input.

“We are pleased and honored to be working with this city that has such deep roots in the arts, as a group we know that the best ideas already exist within the community,” Allen said.

Ideas suggested by community members included building an arts center where art would be created and performed, revitalization of the mobile library, and weekly events that are accessible for all community members.

Yareli Alcantor spoke up on behalf of mobile libraries. “I know as a kid, I was limited in books I could read because my parents never had time to take me to the library, so bringing back the mobile library could benefit kids that are in similar situations,” she said.

Luis Carillo, meanwhile, called for greater frequency of events. “There should be weekly events like the art walk…events that appeal to all ages,” he said.

Santa Ana’s own “roots in the arts” were emphasized with a slide show reminding the crowd of the various artists, writers, and musicians that have called Santa Ana their home.

Critically acclaimed playwright and author Josefina Lopez was the night’s keynote speaker. She talked about her struggles as a Chicana writer and how difficult it was to truly get her career started.

Lopez was emphatic when it came down to funding for the arts.

“It is sad when you just want to transform the world and be a writer and then people ask, ‘well how are you going to pay rent?’”

Participants agreed that emphasis on exposure to the arts at a young age is crucial and they talked about incorporating the Santa Ana Unified School District into the arts plan.

“Children will and must benefit from the arts plan as we build this better future for them. Santa Ana is a young community and so the youth must be served!” said Tomas Benitez, another Cultural Planning Group representative.

Providing access to the arts and opportunities to be involved in them remained a consistent theme throughout the meeting.

When asked what she envisions the city to be like once the arts master plan is in motion, Santa Ana High School art teacher Katrinka Sanburn said: “I want to be able to go down any street in Santa Ana and have there be some form of art.”

City resident Sandra Pocha Peña, the vice chair for the inaugural arts committee had the final word.

“The oldest mural in Santa Ana is in the back of the Yost Theater and it says in Spanish, ‘Santa Ana: City of Gold, Cinema and Variety’,” she said. “So let’s keep that going!”

More information on the rest of the community engagement week can be found here.

Vanessa Sandoval is a Santa Ana resident and UC Irvine Literary Journalism major. She can be reached at

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