The Blue Lot shows the 'true essence' of Santa Ana

The Blue Lot shows the 'true essence' of Santa Ana

9/17/2021 4:17:00 AM

The Blue Lot shows the 'true essence' of Santa Ana

An outdoor gallery of murals at the Blue Lot, curated by Ruben Salazar, seeks to amplify the voices and stories of the unseen communities of Santa Ana.

But Ruben Salazar isn’t most people.He’s spent the past five years transforming a parking lot on First Street in Santa Ana into an outdoor exhibition of murals from local artists. The pieces are anchored by important social justice messages, as the Blue Lot seeks to amplify the voices and stories of the unseen communities of Santa Ana.

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The Blue Lot will not let you forget. It bares naked realities to all those who pass by, forcing them to reckon with the unjust death of a young woman, the violence suffered by LGBTQ members of the Black community and the cultures of Santa Ana that have been pushed to the shadows by gentrification.

Advertisement“Because of the traffic that is on that corner on that street, they see these images on the property,” Salazar said. “If we can spark the imagination and attention of our youth and of our community in general, and create change, that’s what we want to do.”

For decades, the Blue Lot was occupied by a Cadillac dealership and then became a magnet for graffiti artists. It got its name because a group of artists got the idea more than a decade ago to paint the lot blue so satellites could see it in space. There are still some traces of the blue paint on the ground.

When Salazar took an interest in the property, he realized he wanted to bring it in another direction.“When I came along, I was like, ‘OK, why don’t we change this?’" Salazar said.Salazar, a well-known reggae musician and art lover, was born and raised in Santa Ana and envisions the Blue Lot as a cultural hub in the city.

In addition to the art, he’s held events at the Blue Lot, such as the Gente Night Market, which showcaseslocalentrepreneurs, artists and small businesses owned by people of color.“My vision of the property is the Blue Lot to be the pillar of Downtown Santa Ana,” Salazar said. “If you want to get a taste of the culture, the art of Santa Ana, you make your way to the Blue Lot.

“We want to be able to cater to the community and for it to be the home for our local artists and our local entrepreneurs.”AdvertisementA mural for Victoria Barrios, an 18-year-old who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Santa Ana, is one of several murals at the Blue Lot in Santa Ana.

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(Scott Smeltzer / Times Community News)Most recently, Salazar hosted anunveilingof a mural of Victoria Barrios, an 18-year-old who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting two years ago in Santa Ana. The mural is meant to encourage witnesses to come forward and to send a message about the city’s long history of gang violence. City officials, including Mayor Vicente Sarmiento, and law enforcement were in attendance at the unveiling.

Last year, as the country rose up against police violence following thekillingof George Floyd, the LGBTQ Center of Orange County approached Salazar with an idea for a mural on the Blue Lot that would serve as a unifying symbol for all Black people. Salazar was enthusiastic, and within a few days, a mural reading “All Black Lives Matter” was completed. The words are written in various colors signifying support for the LGBTQ members of the Black community.

Jackie Garcia, director of marketing and development at the LGBTQ Center, said the mural is a way for the LGBTQ community to feel seen and to raise awareness of the injustices they suffer. She noted that the Black and Latino trans community is subjected to hate crimes, and it’s important to know that there is a support system in the community that recognizes their pain.

Advertisement“Ruben immediately jumped up to support this cause,” Garcia said. “He didn’t even bat an eye, he just immediately was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’ … There’s just genuine support for the cause and for the community, and I think that’s what the Blue Lot is all about.

“Ruben has a big heart and he knows the power of art and community. So he’s using that very impact, that power that that holds in the community, and he’s using it there in the Blue Lot.”Ivan Marquez, a representative of the longstanding DJ crew Funk Freaks, said the Blue Lot is the “true essence” of Santa Ana. The largest mural at the Blue Lot was produced by the Funk Freaks.

“It’s touching on subjects and people that have been left out,” Marquez said of the art showcased at the Blue Lot. “I really do feel like it’s a literal representation of the streets of Santa Ana compared to all the other art that’s out there, which looks really clean and whatnot, but it loses that essence to an extent.”

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AdvertisementAn “All Black Lives Matter” mural is one of several murals at the Blue Lot in Santa Ana.(Scott Smeltzer / Times Community News)Marquez pointed out that the Blue Lot is just a few steps from Downtown Santa Ana, what he calls a symbol of gentrification. In contrast, the Blue Lot’s artwork shows the cold, hard, rich reality of Santa Ana. This is highlighted in the Funk Freaks’ mural, which pays homage to what it was like growing up in Santa Ana, a shared experience among the members of Funk Freaks, who were active gang members or graffiti members at some point in their lives.

Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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