During Earth Week, several Santa Ana artists and residents performed demonstration projects to help inspire Downtown Santa Ana's parks to be activated with more programming and use.
The projects were inspired by a global call for placemakers called Placemake Earth Challenge which is meant to engage locals with their parks through activations to catalyze further usage.
While the local action may seem simple, the aggregate of many people coming together around the world to improve their parks is impactful. Furthermore, these types of 'placemaking' activities are intertwined with some of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals for how humanity can maintain its urban existence going forward.
So, what happened locally? Downtown Inc helped organize participation by offering $1,000 microgrants. Grant recipients included Downtown Neighborhood resident leader Denise Reynoso, artists Roger Eyes R., Priscila Hernandez and AvantGarden Gallery.
Denise Reynoso showed up with her family to Birch Park to lead a recycled-materials art project. She was surprised to find that the park was locked during hours it should've been opened on Earth Day weekend. The park recently had a large, black fence installed around the park to prevent homeless from using the park. The good news is that Denise's action prompted a conversation with the City of Santa Ana Parks and Recreation Department to ensure the park is opened during open hours. It also further demonstrated to the City the stewardship and desire for more programming and activation in the park.
Another exciting took place a block away, where Laura Robinson from AvantGarden Gallery creatively used another fence that runs along Broadway as an outdoor art gallery. Robinson had attempted this guerilla gallery a few months prior for a Black History exhibit. This time, she added outdoor seating and an interactive mural at the recommendations of an international cohort who helped inspire and learn from the Santaneros on their project ideas.
It's exciting to see what locals can come up with when resources and permissions are easily granted for them to experiment with the fabric of the city. Downtown Inc hosts periodic calls for participation through our innovations website, StartupSantaAna.org.
Story by Ryan Smolar
Photos by Denise Reynoso and Laura Robinson
Santa Ana is quickly becoming a well-known hub for all things art and music in Orange County, with Downtown Santa Ana being the heart of all the action. And what makes us so special are the collaborations that come from such a close-knit community. One, in particular, has grown a massive following among locals.
Meet Daniel Jamezzz and Erick Yung; two longtime friends who are both seasoned contributors to the growing music scene in downtown. In 2019, this dynamic duo created the summer anthem “Mariposa” which marked the beginning of their musical journey together. And just two days ago, Daniel & Erick released their first collaborative album comprised of eight songs (and a whole lot of hype). The album is called “The Experience” which is different for every listener. Whether your body is moved by the intricately detailed production from Daniel, or your heart is swooned by the rich melodies and vulnerable lyrics sung by Erick, this album takes you on a journey of sound waves and heartbreak. But what sticks out the most is the clear collaboration between the two. Their friendship can be heard sonically throughout the entire album, easily identifying their contributions.
There's reason to rejoice in Downtown Santa Ana: a new agency called Travel Santa Ana quietly entered the world at the beginning of 2021 and Wendy Haase asserted her new role as the organization's first director this Summer.
What's Travel Santa Ana? It's the City of Santa Ana’s new tourism promotion organization dedicated to creating long term and sustainable economic growth for the region and its partners through innovative tourism programs, promotions, and partnerships. TSA is funded by the Santa Ana Tourism Marketing District, which includes 17 hotels and motels in Santa Ana, Calif.
Having Travel Santa Ana as a partner to downtown is a game-changer as the organization will enhance the sales, marketing and communication of Santa Ana's brand as a destination for leisure, business travel and group sales.
Haase recently took a tour of Downtown Santa Ana along with Downtown Inc and Santa Ana Business Council marketing and communication teams. They met with business owners and had lunch with stakeholders who are eager to connect Wendy to communities of interest from sports to arts, venues to residents and whole industries.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to not only build a Destination Management Organization (DMO), but to bring to life a destination’s personality,” said Haase. “I am beyond excited to work with my board of directors and community partners to brand and promote Santa Ana.”
Prior to joining Travel Santa Ana, Haase represented Destination Irvine for 11 years as vice president. Her travel and tourism career spans 22 years representing four different destinations and a luxury resort. She received her Certified Destination Management Executive Credentials from Destinations International in 2014. She currently serves on the board of directors for the California Travel Association.
So, what's happening next? Well, Travel Santa Ana recently surveyed its partners and the community extensively and will be utilizing the data procured to work on a strategic plan and to further develop the organization's brand and materials to represent Santa Ana's diverse offerings to a wide audience.
So say "Hi" and welcome Wendy! We look forward to continuing to develop partnerships and increase vibrancy of our neighborhood through partnerships with Travel Santa Ana.
Story and photos by Ryan Smolar
For the past four years, The Boca De Oro Literary & Arts festival has been a gathering place for local artists, poets, writers, and other creatives in the city of Santa Ana who feature their work through a series of sessions.
Now celebrating its 5th year, Boca De Oro is going to be bigger than ever, boasting 109 sessions with 156 speakers over the course of three days. Every session will be held virtually over zoom with a jam-packed schedule featuring workshops, readings, panel discussions, poetry slams, and visual performances.
Keynote Speaker, Pete Souza, will be embodying this year’s theme of historic memory, visions, and dreams by speaking about his experience as a White House photographer during the Obama & Reagan Administration.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph, arts activist & spoken word artist, will close the festival with a compelling speech sharing his passion for the immigrant youth.
Boca De Oro will also feature Santa Ana natives like Mayor Vincente Sarmiento, Councilmember Johnathan Hernandez, local artist Jouvon Kingsby, and dozens of teachers & students from the Santa Ana School District.
The purpose of highlighting these diverse creatives is to encourage the youth to be more involved. “We want to create a pathway for young creatives to network with professionals, college graduates, artists, and authors so they can be inspired to pursue the same fields,” says Madeline, co-founder of The Boca De Oro Festival.
For many years, artists have served as the true historians, documenting the sentiments of society in a way traditional historians have struggled to articulate.
For our stories to be told, we must encourage our young people to create and show us their perspective on how they see the world today.
Extraordinary events like the pandemic are important to document through one’s art because each community was affected differently. It is especially crucial for those who identify as BIPOC to share their experiences through their work, which is why the festival has made a great effort to highlight their stories.
But before we create, we must observe. Literature can be a great way to gain perspective of other narratives and fuel purpose through our art. “I think that those become like the universal language of true literature. We have the ability to be further than where we are. And we have the ability to express ourselves in more raw and realistic ways than we normally can,” Spencer said.
To forward this message, event founders Robyn MacNair and Madeline Spencer have created a free lending library campaign to increase literacy within the neighborhoods of Santa Ana.
Each participating neighborhood will have a built-in cabinet filled with books donated by the community. Every reader is welcome to take, borrow or return any book with no strings attached.
These collaborative efforts will hopefully bring forth the next generation of artists by connecting them with those who have paved the path before them.
Join us March 5th-7th during Youth Arts Month for an inspiring, reflective, and cathartic event created for all ages. To register for the Boca De Oro Literary & Arts Festival, simply click this link to view our catalog of guest speakers and performers to sign up for their sessions. Listen to the stories of our modern historians and be apart of history in the making.
Article By Sara Marshall
Although 2020 put most of our lives at a standstill, 2021 is the year to put things into motion. We’ve had time to learn, plan, and create during quarantine and we are now given the opportunity to show what life will be like in this new normal. Vic Carmona is just one of many individuals who has learned to adapt and forge new ideas that have been brewing since the pandemic.
Vic comes from a place called California city; a forgotten city filled with missed opportunities and roads that lead to nowhere. So naturally, he yearned for more. When Vic turned 20 years old, he decided to enlist in the Navy for a second chance at life. He wanted to be stationed the furthest he could from home and ended up in the beautiful country of Japan. During his 5-year stay, Vic was launched into a world he never envisioned possible; a world full of opportunities that inspired him and led him closer to his journey of self-discovery.
Fast forward to a few adventures later, Vic was hosting a fundraiser against the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy the Navy enforced. Being the first event he’s ever hosted, Vic was scrambling to get talent for his show. Unfortunately, his efforts were fruitless since not a single person showed up to volunteer their talent. But that didn’t stop him. He knew the show must go on! In a hurry, Vic slapped on some make-up, threw on a dress, and stumbled onto the stage to entertain the masses with an impromptu drag show. Although his performance was a bit shy from perfect, it sparked an interest in him that would later turn into a lifelong passion.
He began searching for drag queen costumes near and far, but every costume was priced beyond his means. So, he took matters into his own hands and decided to teach himself how to sew. Over the years, his hobby turned into a career as his designs began getting attention from the Fashion community. His work has been featured on America’s next top model, he designed costumes for performers like Luciana Caporasos and Lady Gaga in collaboration with Jeffrey Work, and has also shared designs with a myriad of local, charitable events.
Besides being a fashion designer by day and a vivacious drag queen by night, Vic is also a proactive member in his community. With a history of doing fundraisers, working with local non-profits, and hosting his own Fashion Show in 2019, Vic decided this year was the year to do something big for the community. So, he went to a fabric store and bought enough Muslin canvas to create an entire collection of unique pieces; designed with only the trendiest of trendsetters in mind. What makes it so unique you ask? Every piece will feature hand-painted, works of art from local artists. Vic aims to create at least 12 pieces for this collection and plans to launch this May for his 2021 Big Top Couture Fashion Show.
Although it will be virtual this year, rest assured it will be nothing short of spectacular! This 45-minute feature will showcase Vic Carmona’s wearable art collection with his signature, avant-garde style. But that’s not all! Vic is searching for jaw-dropping talent to make this show truly one-of-a-kind. We’re talking underwater acrobatics, ballerinas, fire breathers, and drag queens galore! He wants the City of Santa Ana to showcase all it has to offer. But more importantly, he wants to introduce the younger generation to a part of our community many didn’t even know existed in Orange County. A collection of unique, talented, and creative individuals who prove it is exceptional to be different.
If you would like to participate in The Big Top Couture Fashion Show, please email Vic at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Instagram at @officialcostumes for updates and previews to his upcoming show!
Article by Sara Marshall
As a child, Skyler Tanksley was fascinated with savory meals and wild food combinations. When the term “foodie” was coined and sharing food photos on Instagram was all the rage, Skyler and his now-life partner Chloe Ruiz were on a mission to experience the sweetest, most savory, and craziest food places they could find: pizza inside of a burger, donut ice cream sandwiches… you get the idea.
Skyler recalls earning the title “The Human Yelps” from their friends. After experiencing unusual meals at restaurants, Skyler wanted to recreate them in his own kitchen. He would remake the meals, adjust the recipe, and repeat until he mastered the entrée. His creations were better than what he was eating in restaurants.
While on this ever-exciting food journey, Skyler developed digestive issues. Skyler’s friend Garrett Nibarger, referred to as “G” by his friends, took notice. As a ten-year vegan, G hypothesized that Skyler’s issue could stem from meat and dairy products. He decided to put this hypothesis to the test.
G would observe what types of meals Skyler was eating and within the week, bring him a vegan alternative for him to try. The gifted food wasn’t leafy greens and tofu. G brought vegan pizza, egg rolls, and tacos. Skyler, being hungry, open-minded, and an adventurous eater, always accepted the gifts and ate them with joy. After all, a pizza was still a pizza, right?
After a couple weeks, Skyler started to notice his digestive issues slowly fading. He concluded the vegan food he was eating from G must play a role, even a small role, in his improved health. He was feeling so much better. Skyler couldn’t help but to question it, "Is it really because it's vegan? That’s why my stomach accepts it? That can't be." But the proof was in the pudding or, in this case, in the vegan food.
With a father from southern Texas and an immigrant mother from Cambodia, Skyler grew up far from vegan. When it came to plant-based eating, he was starting from scratch. He began researching a plant-based diet. The benefits of veganism appealed to him; he was thrilled to learn it would lessen his carbon footprint and benefit the animals.
Still, Skyler was concerned he couldn’t commit to veganism. After a lifetime of eating meat and dairy, he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to give it up.
It all hit him one night. Skyler realized his love for food stemmed from the amazing combinations he could make, not the individual ingredients. He knew he wouldn’t have a problem eating vegan if he could “veganize” the food he was already eating. This realization opened up a world of possibilities for Skyler and it catalyzed his culinary passion.
Skyler and his business partner Leo Orange had already been working together helping business owners develop their brands and market their products. Their agency had consulted for multiple brands in the travel, hospitality, and food industries. They helped their clients achieve success. Skyler was confident they could use these skills and launch a project of their own: a vegan restaurant.
Skyler, Chloe, and G created a menu full of the foods they grew up eating. After months in the kitchen, Skyler was confident in the vegan versions of the dishes he had created. He was ready to share his food with the world. Munchies OC, the first version of Munchies Diner, held its first pop-up at the Blue Lot in Santa Ana in November of 2018.
“It was the most exhilarating day of our lives,” Skyler recalls. The community’s amazing reaction to Munchies made the team’s desire to serve the community grow. While most pop-ups operate one to three times a week, Munchies was open six days a week. Consumers wanted access and Munchies delivered. From the Blue Lot, Munchies traveled to 4th Street Market, a culinary hub in Santa Ana, and then went off to a variety of music festivals, including Coachella.
Now a standalone restaurant, Munchies Diner is a physical manifestation Skyler’s journey from meat-lover to vegan. It demonstrates the ways in which friends and family can play such a major role in our successes. Without his dates with Chloe, the gifted vegan food from G, or the business he created with Leo, it’s difficult to say if Munchies would be what it is today.
Munchies shows the power of community at large. Munchies OC was able to become Munchies Diner because of the people who showed up to eat Skyler’s food day after day at the Blue Lot. Seven months and 210 pop-up events later, Munchies Diner sits on N Bush Street in Downtown Santa Ana, serving the very same community.
Story by Mandy Tapfer & Veston Rowe
Mike Cano loves helping small businesses succeed and he's here in DTSA for the next three months to help the businesses in downtown Santa Ana at no cost to them.
Mike's one-on-one small business coaching program is called Project Business Lift and it came to the attention of the Downtown Santa Ana business district after the program boasted incredible results up the road in Long Beach, California.
Project Business Lift's most recent service area, North Long Beach, saw nearly a 40% increase in small business revenues durng the pandemic and several businesses who participated in the program won Great Plates food contracts, local and federal grants and loans and media attention.
Now in DTSA, Mike will be going door-to-door and introducing himself to business owners and employees. He will help get everyone's contact information so the downtown business district can make sure to be in touch, support their growth and stay coordinated.
Next, Mike will work with businesses to navigate any particular issues or opportunities that seem timely for the business to tackle. The support level is wonderful as Mike is willing to get his hands dirty to help businesses overcome any barriers to their success whether that means website work, social media help or access to capital and other support.
Mike is bilingual in Spanish and is the CEO & Founder of LatinX Digital, a consulting firm that provides growth strategies and digital marketing services to small businesses. He looks forward to serving your downtown busienss today. Please get in touch with him at email@example.com or 949-237-2968.
Story by Ryan Smolar
Open Stage has recently become Santa Ana’s coolest new showcase for local artists and musicians! Every last Saturday of the month, Briana Harley brings us along to meet some incredibly talented individuals around Santa Ana. This month, Open Stage takes us to some interesting spots throughout Downtown like the Spurgeon building, the Butterfly House, and the Blue Lot! Open Stage feels more like a hangout with good friends than a show; however, viewers are given a deep insight of what kind of music is being created by a versatile group of artists in Santa Ana.
Twitch Kid opens the show with an entire segment of performances to original songs! Twitch Kid is a local artist who not only is a unique musician, but also focuses on artistic expression through visuals. Twitch Kid’s style is very much experimental rap with inspirations from drag and theatrical makeup! Shot at the historical Spurgeon building, Open Stage took viewers on a surreal experience with Twitch Kid.
The next location was the Butterfly House where Alexander Lee gave a beautiful performance on piano. Alexander is a talented local pianist. His performance was a breath of fresh air and it was nice to enjoy the beauty of simplicity.
Briana took us to the top of the parking structure on 3rd and Broadway, which is close to the Artist Village and the 2nd Street Promenade. There, they recorded multiple artists performing live! Lizzy and the Palm performed songs with Megan Fransisco, Logan, and Briana Harley, proving how well these friends can collaborate with each other! Lizzy performed additional songs that really showed how versatile and raw her sound is. She takes listeners on a journey with her that is truly unique.
John Roseboro also performed with Lizzy on acoustic guitar. His beautiful style of classical guitar was met with Lizzy on vocals! His performance is the kind of music you just want to listen to after a long day. Check out his work to find out more about what he does.
To close out the night, an amazing local band, The Offtrax, performed on the Blue Lot! They are a high energy, surf punk band that has a lot of character and a fun sound. They performed some originals and a cover, which ended the night on a perfect note! Playing right in front of a beautiful mural, this scene really captures the essence of Santa Ana!
This past year has looked very different for Santa Ana, including the ArtWalk. However, we’re not letting these circumstances hold us back from celebrating the culture and art of Downtown Santa Ana. We’ve compiled a list of things that are happening this month. Join us and support these local artists throughout October! For more updates, follow us on Instagram and Facebook.
The Santa Ana Unified School District is heading up the Digital Artwalk with their new special, “Arts Forward!” This is a great way for educators, students, and community members to empower one another through the arts. Join the live stream every first Saturday of the month to support your local schools!
Every Saturday of October, join music lovers from around the world for this online event! Explore different types of new music through this virtual experience! Check out their event page for more details.
Alfadir Luna is an artist based in Mexico City. His exhibition is an ongoing storefront installation that can be viewed anytime from the 2nd Street Promenade. Check out their website to learn more about Luna’s work!
The Orange County Center for Contemporary Art is temporarily closed, but they’ve created an amazing virtual tour of their space for anyone to enjoy! The exhibition, “Terra Incognita,” showcases work from artist-couples who explore “unknown land.” Check out their website to see the work, as well as the 360 virtual tour that will be available through October 10th!
Check out this online tour of Jerry Rothman's exhibit, showcasing his ceramics from the Laguna Art Museum Collection. Learn more about his career and his collection on their website!
GENE is an amazing local artist based in Santa Ana! His work is very much inspired by the human spirit, as well as movement and ancient cultural wisdom. GENE has curated an online gallery so check out his website to see some of his incredible work! He has several beautiful collections to look at!
Although Frida Cinema’s venue is temporarily closed, they’ve created multiple, safe ways you can still enjoy movies! Check out their website to find out more details about their pop up drive-ins and their streaming service online that are going on throughout the month!
B Minus Studios is located in the historic Santora building. They are putting on a show starting October 3rd in honor if the halloween season! Appointments are required, as there will be limited availability on select dates only. Keep up with B Minus Studios on their Instagram page to find out how you can visit!
In the Callejon Del Beso, they have an art exhibition every month of young and emerging artists. During the pandemic and due to the restriction to leave, they have created an online virtual-exhibition with the works of these same artists to continue promoting the Callejon! Check out their interactive gallery on the website! They also have a mural workshop taught by Maestro Camacho that is carried out online as well. This workshop shows the progress of two small murals painted in the alley during the pandemic.
Also, special this month, Nalle Fine Art will showcase live in the alley the works of Moises Camacho, Fiona Harris and Joseph Hawa. Stop by between 3rd St and 4th St on Bush St.
AvantGarden has a 20-year history in Downtown Santa Ana, where its earned its reputation as the gallery of new, unusual, experimental ideas in art. AvantGarden will be popping up outdoors at 3rd Street near Spurgeon Street at The Copper Door's outdoor space along 3rd St. This will be a unique opportunity to grab food, a drink, and enjoy art while social distancing.
Story by Breanna Policar
In the second episode of “The Hot Hour,” we got to explore Downtown Santa Ana with Maria the Hot Tortilla and meet some amazing individuals! Maria took us to so many cool places that showed off some of the best parts of DTSA. Through interviews, good food, and shopping, Maria learned more about the vibrant culture that makes up Santa Ana.
To kickoff her journey, Maria introduced us to Thomas, the owner of the newly opened boba shop in Fourth Street Market! He shared that Loose Leaf Boba offers fresh-pressed teas, artisanal drinks, fresh ingredients, and even organic matcha! Their menu offers a variety of customizable options that makes their boba unique. Support their business by stopping by and enjoying a hand-crafted drink!
Maria then took us to GCS Clothing, a store that has been a cultural hub for Santa Ana for 11 years. GCS not only carries an impressive collection of clothing and art supplies but also hosts ongoing art shows and performances. We met a local photographer, Jazmine Woods, who showed some of her work with us! At GCS, there are always talented artists cycling in and out so you know that whenever you visit, there will be some fascinating work by local artists.
In the dynamic Fourth Street Market, Maria took us to Patches and Pins, a fun and unique flea market that offers collectables, clothing, food, and more! Maria then met with the owner and artist behind Donnies, a shop that has vintage comic books, sneakers, clothing, patches and pins! Gente Night Market is a monthly event that takes place at The Blue Lot, a popular spot for the community of Santa Ana to share art, music, food, and good times. To showcase all of the markets unique finds, Maria took us on a virtual walthrough, meeting some interesting vendors along the way like @jstrailmex_snacks and so many more talented vendors!
Maria also got to share an exclusive interview with the owner of Slushcult, a quirky mini mart that offers the community of Santa Ana a great place to express individualism and cultivate a tight-knit community. The owner of Slushcult shares the origin story of the brand and what it has evolved into today.
Fourth Street Market is Maria’s next stop, highlighting Alta Baja. We get to meet the owner, Delilah Snell, who tells us about their wine club, as well as their amazing menu!
Maria then meets up with Loni over some food to talk about the Amigas Social Club, an empowering community for women who want to connect and inspire others! Together, they visited some local stores, including Ninos Bridal Couture, Stussy Archive, and La Michoacana Express.
The beauty of DTSA is that there's so much more left to explore! Join Maria The Hot Tortilla for the next episode in October for some brand new, exclusive content!
You can watch all of our videos on our Youtube channel! Don't forget to subscribe, comment, and share!
Story by Breanna Policar
New, dispatches and updates from Downtown Santa Ana