Muralist inspires youth

FINISHED PRODUCTS—Manny Velasquez, a muralist from the Dia de los Muertos festival at East Los Angeles College stands next to one of the murals he created at Van Nuys High School with some of his volunteers, from left, Fernando Palacios, Kimberly Zuniga, Carmen Barajas and Joel Giron. CN/Manuel Miguel


By Manuel Miguel


On the Dia de los Muertos festival, East Los Angeles College invited Manny Velasquez, 53, to participate in it

For the last 30 years he has helped youth through art, helping them with their problems trying to get them to understand that there is more to life than where they stand.

Velasquez is currently putting up three murals at Van Nuys High School in the San Fernando Valley.

His murals are seen all over San Fernando Valley Hollywood and around the Los Angeles Area.

Before becoming a full time muralist, he taught at California  State University, Northridge. Velasquez was a director at Positive Alternatives for Youth in Panorama City for seven years, among many other things.

Velasquez says that working at Van Nuys High School helped him notice that many of our youth face many issues in which schools and parents do not help them understand.

So far, he has helped many students understand that life is not just about having fun and smoking marijuana.

There is more to life than that; he has helped convey that message to the youth he has encountered over the 30 years of his profession.

Velasquez states that when he was a director in Positive Alternatives for youth he would work 12-14 hour shifts but did not mind. Velasquez loves what he did and that was helping the youth with whatever they needed.

He is currently helping students at Van Nuys High School understand that school is the way to go.

Some of his volunteers skip class and go to him and help him with the murals.

During that time, he helps them understand what type of goals they may have and know what steps they should take to accomplish those long-term goals.

Velasquez added that he was hired to only do one mural at Van Nuys High School, but is doing two more for free.

About 85 percent of mural expenses have come out of his pocket. Velasquez sometimes sells some of his work, and others he keeps for sentimental value.

For example, he received an offer of about $500 for a mask he did, which was displayed at the Dίa de los Muertos festival.

He refused to sell it because his mother, who is currently diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer, helped him with the mask.

Some of his works include the Ritchie Valens murals at Pacoima Middle School and Ritchie Valens Park in the San Fernando Valley, which inspired the creation of the movie La Bamba.

He tries to help out communities by reaching out to the youth and helping them so that they can change their communities in positive ways.

HEAR THE MUSIC—Muralist Manny Velasquez reaches out to youth to show them positive ways to change their communities. This mural is one of three displayed at Van Nuys High School. Velazquez’s murals are displayed throughout the San Fernando Valley. CN/Manual Miguel

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