By KENDRA SITTON | Uptown News
The first annual Mission Hills banner art contest culminated on Wednesday, June 5, with a Color on Canvas Awards Reception. Inside The Frame Maker, art contestants, their families and community members gathered to view the top-scoring banners up close that were hanging from light poles throughout the city just weeks before.
The contestants were tasked with painting an iconic place in Mission Hills on the large banners. While some chose the streets, landmarks, parks and houses that make up the city, many children chose to feature some of the businesses that make up the city’s core. When the banners were hung up throughout the city, 14 judges visited each street and scored them. Those invited to judge were community leaders ranging from business owners to representatives from Councilmember Chris Ward’s office.
“There was clearly a lot of enthusiasm — from the children, the judges, the parents. One of those things that everyone can get involved with,” said John Bertsch, the owner of Meshuggah Shack, who served as a judge. The old sign in front of his coffee shop which reads “everyone is welcome” was included in several banners.
“I’ve got a neighborhood-oriented business. Meshuggah Shack has come to symbolize for a lot of people the values of our community,” Bertsch said. “I feel like I’m part of the community and the children have cemented it for me.”
The awards event was catered with donations from the Cake Bakery, Lazy Acres, Pizza e Birra and Thorn Street Brewery, which was indicative of the widespread community support the entire program received. Although the banner contest was planned by the Mission Hills Business Improvement District (BID), a variety of community players came together to get the banners off the ground, literally.
The initial contest was funded with help from grants from both the county and city of San Diego, as well The Patio Group, Grant K8 School, Paint Box Art Studio and The Moll Family. Many of the art contestants were enrolled at Paint Box Art Studio under Jaimee Brant or took part in classroom projects under the tutelage of Grant K8 School art teacher Sarah Ekedal.
“Places where people can go see the art and kids can feel proud about the art — parents are willing to get on board with something — it’s a big piece of art. In some cases, they are willing to pay for more classes, or take it home and work on it from home, or get the background ideas ready because they want that opportunity for their child,” Brant explained. The art being displayed around the city was an important reason many families got involved. Many kids went to take pictures with the banners on the first day they were hung up.
“It was really beautiful. They [the students] made all the decisions. They came up with all their own ideas. I felt like I learned more about the kids than I ever have. We had discussions. We had collaborative work with literally two banners for 30 kids,” Ekedal said. With two banners per class, her students created a total of 42 of the banners. “They were so excited.”
While many of the banners were created with Ekedal and Brant’s support, a few children submitted independent pieces. The second-place winner for the sixth-eighth grade category, Hannah Marcano, hung the banner from her bedroom door in her family’s apartment to work on it.
“I feel happy to be able to share my artwork with the community and I feel really special to have been a part of this project. I think it’s really cool how we were able to come together to create artwork,” 13-year-old Marcano said.
The initial idea for the banner art contest was proposed by Audrey Patterson, whose mother-in-law has run a similar program in Placerville for the past 20 years. That contest usually features adult artists. While Mission Hills’ version of the event was initially planned to include all ages, it naturally evolved to be for children. Prizes were awarded to kids and classrooms in the TK-second, three-fifth grade and sixth-eighth grade categories.
“Mission Hills is a really small-knit community. Our business district always does a really good job of featuring different kinds of banners. So I just thought if we have an opportunity to have a new banner program, this one would fit perfectly. Originally, we thought it would be adult artists but it turned into something so perfect for us,” Patterson said.
Patterson, alongside her husband Curtis, also created a grand prize in honor of their mother’s longtime work in Placerville. The $500 Marianne Kalem Legacy Award Grand Prize from Patterson Engineering, Inc. was given to 7-year-old Ise Biezunski. She painted her banner with records overlaying a pink background with M-Theory Music’s logo.
“I like that there’s a lot of people, there’s a lot of banners,” Biezunski said during the awards reception. “I love music.”
The records feature her and her dad’s favorite artists, including David Bowie and Queen. He has shopped at the Mission Hills music store before and his daughter chose to paint the store in his honor. Since pink is her mom’s favorite color, that became the background.
The organizers hope to make the contest an annual event.
“I just can’t wait to do it again and I want the banners to be up for longer. We got such good feedback from the community about how impressed they were with all the children’s artwork, how touched they were to see that this is from our community,” Patterson said. “This is our community and it makes me really proud to live here.”
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.