San Bernardino’s rich history stems back to the 19th century when Spanish missionaries first settled in the region. Some 200 years later, the city is a thriving entity, boasting a population of more than 222,000. Art and culture also factor into the diverse spectrum of the city. So much so that moving into 2024, residents and visitors can expect some colorful surprises from the City of San Bernardino Parks, Recreation, and Community Services.
“We’d love for people to know that while we do a lot of fun stuff here, there is also ‘meaning’ behind it,” says April Flores-Cooper, Executive Assistant to the Director of the city’s parks and recreation division. “It’s not about just throwing a party or retreat. It’s about getting folks to come together and celebrate each other’s traditions, and values, and be able to be safe doing it.”
Recently, the City of San Bernardino Parks, Recreation and Community Services received a grant from the Inland Empire Community Foundation and the California Creative Corps Fund, which offers grants to local, regional, and statewide organizations in 58 counties for unemployed and underemployed artists. The grants allow artists to create public awareness messages and projects in support of civic engagement and community participation.
The funds will be directed for a San Bernardino Parks beautification and cultural infusion endeavor that is divided into two parts, the first of which is to be centered around the creation of murals.
“We’re looking to add murals to several older buildings,” says Flores-Cooper. “A lot of folks are like, ‘I didn’t even realize that was a community center here.’ So, many people thought the Enconto Community Center would be a great place to have a mural; a place that has voter registration and other history. The mural would highlight that part of San Bernardino’s history and civic participation.”
Another mural is slated for the Rudy C. Hernandez Community Center near downtown San Bernadino. “We’d like to also tie that mural into San Bernardino’s history to make it more appealing and a talking piece,” Flores-Cooper adds, “so people walk away knowing more about what it means.”
One unique aspect of that project is the inclusion of a QR code, which people can scan on their devices, and which would take visitors to a website featuring additional information about the artist, the messaging behind the project, and the mural in general.
The second part of the grant funding is earmarked for cultural infusion. Last year’s inaugural San Bernadino Festival was well received at Seccombe Lake Park, and another festival is slated for 2024 at Lytle Creek Park.
“We hope to recruit local culture bearers and artists so we can offer visual performance, dance, bird song, or anything relative to an individual’s culture while also sharing the background behind it,” Flores-Cooper noted, pointing out that when the city was preparing the grant, leaders had already identified 27 seven unique dance and cultural performances.
“We’re hoping to provide a healthy stipend for these folks who come out for this and pay the performers and culture bearers to share their craft with the public,” she added. “We want to continue building relationships and hire artists for additional events as we move forward.”
A main draw in last year’s free festival was the Artist’s Village, which featured artists hosting workshops.
In the meantime, the city remains steadfast in offering locals and visitors a deep dive into its history and culture. One of the city’s guiding principles is to envision, “a world-class city which capitalizes on its location, the diversity of its people and its economy to create a broad range of choices for its residents in how they live, work, and play.”
“I think for a long time, the City of San Bernardino has been shed in a bad light,” Flores-Cooper notes. “Many residents come out and enjoy these community events. We want them to be proud of their community once again. We have so much rich history—from where we all started to the movie stars who used to come out here. We want people to feel proud again and have this place be a vibrant art and cultural hub.”
Learn more about the City of San Bernardino Parks, Recreation, and Community Services here.
This story originally appeared in the Press Enterprise October 2023
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