Visual arts

Column: At Monarch School’s new arts center, homeless students have a place to create and grow

In nature, a chrysalis usually contains the stuff of a single new butterfly. At Chrysalis: Monarch School’s Center for the Arts, there is room for a multitude of new lives to grow and take flight.

Launching May 11 with a three-day grand opening, Chrysalis is the new performing and visual arts space for K-12 students at Monarch School in Barrio Logan, which educates and supporting homeless students since 1987.

Located in a 6,000 square foot building just down the street from the Monarch School, Chrysalis features a 99-seat theater, dance studio, gallery space to exhibit works by art and creative spaces for teaching visual arts workshops. The new multi-purpose hall will allow the school to expand its already strong creative youth development programming with drama, music, media arts and other offerings that will help Monarch students stretch their wings as far as they go. they can.

“I think the arts at Monarch are especially powerful for our students,” said Erika Malone, Monarch’s Art Department Manager. “Art is a place to call home and belong. A student who isn’t sure what to eat or where to sleep that night may say, “ The arts is my place. It’s where I belong. It’s something I can count on. It’s a resource that accompanies me at any hour of the day or night.

“The ability to imagine is something no one can take away from you. It’s not something you have to buy. Art awakens their sense of possibility and their sense of agency.

Unsurprisingly, the chrysalis itself was sparked by an act of imagination.

Shortly after Afira DeVries arrived as president and CEO of the Monarch School Project, which is the nonprofit arm of the school, she began interviewing staff members about dreams. they had for the future of their departments. How would they like their creative Monarch gardens to grow?

During his nearly five years at Monarch, Malone had seen how much his students loved to play. But the school had no theatre, or even a stage. Now he has both, thanks to a center that will also have room for the whole community.

In addition to giving students a place to dance, play, play music, and work with visual artists, Monarch School’s plans for the Chrysalis include offering arts programs for students’ families and for members from the community.

Other arts organizations and community groups will be able to rent space for their own events, and Malone hopes to have an artist-in-residence program, where local creators could make the Chrysalis their home, and students could see the process up close. Creation.

“Connecting with an artist is a gift, and it’s also a gift for the artist,” Malone said. “That’s the great thing about the Chrysalis, being able to congregate in that place and interact with people that students wouldn’t otherwise interact with.”

Chrysalis’ three-day grand opening kicks off May 11 with “Flutter Fest,” a free public event that will feature student performances, artist talks, and artistic creation. On May 12, the public is invited to the “Metamorphosis Art Exhibition“, which highlights the works of Monarch School students and community artists.

On May 13, there will be an evening cocktail party that will include food from local chefs and restaurants and an art auction, all to raise funds for Monarch’s creative youth development programs. . An RSVP is required for this event.

But another advantage of the Chrysalis is that you don’t even have to go inside to feel its spirit.

The exterior of the building houses “El Corazón y Su Mariposa” (“The Heart and Its Butterfly”), a 163-foot-wide mural that is the result of a collaboration between Monarch students and the local interdisciplinary artist Araceli Carrera.

The design for the mural – which features a heart filled with seeds growing in the wings of a butterfly – grew out of a workshop Carrera held with students last June. It was painted by Carrera, with help from Monarch students and their families and Carrera’s visual artist brother, Rafael.

With its vibrant colors and strong themes of hope and renewal, the Chrysalis mural is a tribute to the love Monarch students have for their school. It also reflects their enthusiasm for the artistic adventures that await them in a place where possibilities are always in bloom.

“We talked so much about what Monarch meant to them and how much they wanted to honor that. And through art, we were able to honor that in such a powerful way,” said Carrera, who also used the mural project as a way to honor her ever-supportive mother, who passed away in January 2021.

“I told them about my mom and why it was a good opportunity for me as an artist to release some of my grudges. And it inspired them to talk about what they had to get out sometimes.

“One of the amazing things about art is that it allows you to share with confidence. It teaches you to problem solve, respect process, honor diversity, and really dive into who we are in our own humanity. I know the Chrysalis is going to provide that, and it gives me so much joy.

For more information on Chrysalis’ grand opening celebration, visit