By Joy Hanna
“Dear San Fernando Valley” is a student-led arts organization with a mission to encourage new social connections through community-based interactive public art works, as well as the promotion of the arts and social justice.
As part of their International Baccalaureate (IB) Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) project, five hard working students created this organization to encourage new social connections through a community based interactive public artwork.
With their blog “Dear San Fernando Valley,” seniors Ashley Ahn, Irene Joo, Tiffany Pacol, Natalie Shtangrud, and Katya Tankimovich have set out on a journey to make the San Fernando Valley a more beautiful and pleasing sight to the eyes.
With projects such as utility boxes and community fridges, they have made every single project a work of art that holds a thoughtful message.
“We just felt like there was a huge disconnect between a lot of friends since we were so distant and spread apart. So we really wanted to use a digital form of communication, which is why we created a letter campaign and had people submit letters about the San Fernando Valley. Since this is our community and our home, we wanted to hear the voices of our community members and from there, We created a larger product out of it,” Shtangrud said. She is the art director and outreach coordinator for the project.
The team received letters with a wide variety of subjects ranging from favorite recipes to thoughts on Covid to Netflix recommendations. Across all the letters, however, there is a theme of community, of seeking to build relationships.
“We also have a passion for art and have noticed the ways it can bring communities and cultures together in multiple ways, encouraging unity. By creating a multi-faceted art-driven campaign, we hope to help contribute in creating a cultural identity for our home, the San Fernando Valley,” the girls stated in their “Dear San Fernando Valley” blog.
Some of the projects the girls have worked on include painting a refrigerator that functions as a community pantry for those in need. They worked to beautify a very community oriented project. They have also painted murals on utility boxes around the neighborhood.
These students inspire people in the area to work together to keep the San Fernando Valley beautiful. Their art shows us that if we took time out of our day to help it look a bit nicer, such as pick up trash we see next to our feet, or paint murals on lonely walls, our world wouldn’t be such a gloomy place to live in. Even more, if we all come together, we can help make connections with those around us as well.
“The reason why we collected the letters was because we were trying to solve the lack of social connections in our community through art. Art has an immense ability to connect people and it’s so powerful and so we included quotes from the letters in our artwork, and that would allow our community to be involved with the artworks and make them feel as if they were a part of it,” Joo said. She is a graphic designer and social media director on the project.
Check out their website for more information on their upcoming work: https://www.dearsfv.org/ You can also follow them on instagram @dearsfv