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LAUSD magnet school establishes new identity through inspiring mural

Bryan Sarabia | August 8, 2023

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The colorful mural was brought to life by local artist Robert ‘Dytch66’ Gomez of Blank Canvas LA. (Photo by Attain Design & Marketing)

An LAUSD magnet school recently celebrated a remarkable milestone by unveiling a stunning mural.

Valley Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, or VOCES, welcomed the mural as a step in the school’s effort to create an inspiring campus environment.

VOCES is a new school serving students from grades 6-12. Formerly Sun Valley High School, the east San Fernando Valley school welcomed its first class of students in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

This upcoming academic year holds particular significance for VOCES as the school is occupying the campus exclusively for the first time. To commemorate this milestone, the school administration decided to commission the mural serving as a symbol of the school’s vibrant spirit.

“We’ve shared this space with a charter school, but this past year was the last year they will be occupying this campus,” said VOCES Principal Ivania Holodnak. “Before, it was hard to grow, but that’s not the case anymore. Now that we have room to expand, we need the marketing and branding that will help establish this school in this community.”

Renowned local artist, Robert ‘Dytch66’ Gomez of Blank Canvas LA, was selected to bring the mural to life. With Blank Canvas LA’s expertise in custom murals, outside murals, hand-painted murals, graffiti, painting, and signs, he was the perfect choice to undertake this ambitious project.

“The purpose of this mural was to inspire hope … This is not just a painting; it is a symbol of faith in the students and their future aspirations,” said Gomez. “Teaching them that there are multiple ways to chase their dreams, and anything is possible.”

A closer look at the mural. (Photo by Attain Design & Marketing)

Spanning 40 feet, the mural adorns a wall adjacent to the school’s gymnasium. The centerpiece of the artwork is VOCES’ mascot, a Spartan warrior, depicted in a burst of vibrant colors. The mascot is set against a backdrop combining elements of the school’s film program, showcasing reels representing the academy’s focus on film and production curriculum.

“Sun Valley High School was a failing school that was not serving the community as a high quality option for its students. When VOCES opened its doors, it was meant to stop people in this community from sending their kids to other schools,” said Holodnak. “Branding is so crucial because your community needs a sense of pride in their school. So this mural is just one way to let our students, staff, parents and stakeholders know that VOCES is the Sun Valley community’s beacon of hope.”

Holodnak said the mural was just one way the school is trying to establish itself in the community, including more rigorous courses and working with media companies to offer internships in film and production.

“One of the things that is so important is your vision,” Holodnak said. “No one will follow you if you don’t have a vision. This mural not only is a vibrant way to establish VOCES, but it also represents a new era for this campus.”

Holodnak said the old Sun Valley High logo was still visible throughout the school, but mentioned how the school has “worked hard to remove the final traces of that school and tell everyone about VOCES’s vision.”

“I want them to see our brand new beautiful mural and see the Hollywood sign, the film and production elements and say ‘OK, that’s what I want. I want to be a part of that. I want to be there.’ ”

This article is part of a collaboration between The 74 and the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism.

Bryan Sarabia is a junior at the University of Southern California, originally from Houston, Texas. He is majoring in journalism and Spanish.

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