Occidental College gets a colorful dose of diversity

Educational Empowerment Mural |Nathan Solis

By Nathan Solis

EAGLE ROCK — Pola Lopez’ color scheme is vibrant and almost jarring in a narrow, second story hallway at the Occidental College  library. Orange, violet and green pop from the mural Lopez was commissioned to create by a group of students looking to promote diversity in the student body.

“Usually what is spoken of when talking about diversity are ethnic backgrounds, but we wanted to include in the conversation gender identities, financial backgrounds, and first generation students who are coming here,” says Jacky Ayala, a sociology major who helmed the Educational Empowerment Mural project with several other students.

The mural serves as a colorful timeline for students,  said Bianca Cervantes, a Texas native who said she experienced culture shock when she first arrived at Occidental.  “One bird in the mural comes to Occidental, the other leaves with a leaf in its mouth, symbolizing education,” said the Latin American studies major. With her senior year just over and the colorful mural she helped create up on the wall, Cervantes admits that the project was daunting, but worthwhile.

As the design process began earlier this year, students gathered in a circle at group meetings and addressed what they felt were diversity issues at the Eagle Rock campus, where about 55% of the student body is  Caucasion.

“It was a really powerful couple of group sessions that we had,” said  Lopez, a Highland Park artist with other murals in the neighborhood. “The students opened up and really let loose what they were feeling,”

More of the design and painting process can be found at the group’s blog, Dialogue Through Art.

Left to Right: Artist Pola Lopez, students Jacky Ayala and Bianca Cervantes | Nathan Solis

Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.


  1. I wonder how folks would feel if the school was 55% hispanic, and they commissioned a group to design some asian art because there were “diversity issues” at the school. Heck, what if they commissioned some european art? I’m guessing it would be a veritable smorgasbord of hypocrisy.

  2. Hi true freedom, No need to worry – Plenty of European and Asian art at Occidental as well. I think you may be responding to a perceived subtext that doesn’t really apply to the situation.

  3. How about adding birds stuffed in a cage representing poverty, ignorance, greed, corruption, the uneducated, the unfortunate…you know, to represent the majority (99%) of high school students in the surrounding communities around Oxy who won’t be going to college (i.e. HP)!

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