Empowerment Through Art!
During one of Kristy Sandoval’s recent mural commissions, the 34-year old mom from Pacoima was standing on a scaffold plank with a paint roller in hand. Down below, her five year old daughter looked up, realizing her mom was at it again.
“There was a time when every mural she saw, she thought I’d painted,” says Sandoval of her daughter. “Seeing me do this, makes me feel like she’s not going to have any limits.”
Most recently, Sandoval has been working on painting the exterior wall of a Coin Laundry in San Fernando. Her project—a colorful illustration of children playing with bubbles escaping from a washing machine—is almost complete.
As she unpacked supplies from her car and prepared bright blue and pink paint on a tray and bucket, Sandoval reflected on her journey as an artist in the San Fernando Valley. To date, she has been responsible for approximately 30 public murals in Los Angeles. Two of those massive art displays—her biggest murals so far, are currently on display along Slauson Avenue in South LA.
Sandoval studied Interactive Media Design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco where she was influenced by the artistic culture and freedom of the city. In 2007, she returned home to attend to personal family matters, a few semesters short of completing her degree. But the knowledge and perspective she had acquired in San Francisco proved to be enough to propel her career in an enormous way.
“When I came back home, I noticed that Pacoima didn’t have the same feel (as San Francisco). “I woke up one morning and said, ‘I’m going to paint a mural.’”
In order to make it happen, Sandoval initiated an outreach campaign where she contacted nonprofits, civic leaders, old acquaintances and friends. Eventually, she was connected to then LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office, which funded one of her first projects.
Then she collaborated with a non-profit group in Pacoima and launched a Mural design program for teens.
“I started with one class a week and it just grew,” she says.
Before she knew it, several other charitable organizations were requesting her classes for their programs as well. Teaching a younger generation of artists became a turning point for Sandoval.
“When I was working with the youth, teaching classes, I noticed the young girls had a big lack of self-confidence and motivation to go after something and dream big,” she recalls. “When I would ask, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ the answers were so limited! It’s a big reason why I tackle women empowerment in a lot of my murals.”
From that point, Sandoval took it upon herself to focus a lot of her public art on themes of women and feminism.
One mural titled “Decolonized” painted on an insurance office wall in Pacoima shows a tattooed woman with blue hair releasing birds and butterflies from what appears to be a cage (the building’s window). The woman is standing wearing a maroon skirt (an awning attached to the building) on a bed of orange poppies.
Another mural in Pacoima features Assata Shakur, the African American freedom fighter and political activist.
“Assata Shakur was my image,” says Sandoval. “I wanted to put out a strong female figure that young girls could learn about.”
In 2011, Sandoval became a mother. She gave birth to a baby girl, which moved her to seek a more stable, full-time job but also deepened her commitment to the arts and women empowerment.
“(My daughter) has access to all the paints and canvases at home. It’s something to promote creativity, problem-solving. Art can help someone think outside of the box.”
In terms of balancing her career as an artist and her role as a mother, Sandoval admits it was difficult at first but things have since gotten easier. Her daughter is as much an apprentice as she is a companion, she says.
And when it comes to explaining to the little girl what mom does for a living, Sandoval keeps it simple: “I bring her with me”.
Mommy In Los Angeles had the opportunity to spend a morning with Kristy Sandoval during her work on the Coin Laundry Mural, located at 13285 Maclay Ave. San Fernado, CA 91340.
We commend her for her talent, initiative and determination to motivate young girls and women in Los Angeles to feel empowered through her work and for giving teens a unique opportunity to explore the arts.
Connect with Kristy Sandoval