A year after its opening, the Academia de Arte Yepes plans to provide an eight-foot-tall painting of the Virgen de Guadalupe to every Eastside Catholic parish by mid-December.
Students at the academy, which is housed in a studio at Salesian High School, have painted and donated murals for the Boyle Heights Senior Citizens Center, PUENTE Learning Center, Cal State Los Angeles, Pepperdine University and others. They are learning painting techniques for free under the direction of artist George Yepes, who attended Salesian.
"This is something positive," said Ed Robles, whose daughter Rebecca is a student at the academy. "The kids should get positive response because they've been working hard."
The academy's 23 students, from 9-year-olds to high school seniors, work three to six days a week, painting the murals and working on individual paintings that they exhibit, Yepes said. In addition, each parish was asked to have its top art student join those at the academy to complete the paintings.
Nineteen canvases are to be done in time for the Dec. 12 celebration of the Virgen at East Los Angeles College. There, members of parishes from throughout the Los Angeles diocese will march in a procession. Some dress as the Virgen, considered the patron saint of the poor and oppressed and a symbol of devotion.
The children will carry the paintings in the procession from St. Lucy's Catholic Church in City Terrace, where a mural painted by Yepes on the front of the church will be dedicated that morning. From there, they will walk down Eastern Avenue to Avenida Cesar Chavez and then to the college for the celebration.
"This all just developed just two weeks ago," Yepes said. Students were painting the outlines of four more Virgen de Guadalupe paintings in the studio as he spoke Wednesday afternoon.
The project started with three students who attend St. Mary's Elementary School and wanted the school to have one of the paintings. They negotiated with the principal, who at first wanted the students to paint a mural outside. They agreed on a canvas painting that would adorn a wall inside the school.
As other schools heard about the plan, they asked if they could also receive an academy painting, so Yepes agreed to supply all the Eastside parishes.
Andres Rosillo, 19, volunteered to help, contacting schools and churches on the Eastside. "Everybody's really excited," he said. "The only thing is the size of the paintings--but some of them say, 'If we don't have a wall, we'll build it!' "
The Academia de Arte Yepes is funded in part by a three-year California Arts Council grant.