Instilling pride in their school with a mural

Jun 10, 2021 | Front Page

By Mary-Justine Lanyon

When muralist Wes Abarca created an eagle mural at Mountain High School – representing the school’s mascot – he did more than just beautify one of the school’s exterior walls. He shared his story with the students, bringing home the message that success can be theirs.

Abarca had been talking with Principal David Nygren about forming a mural club, something he would still like to do. When Nygren showed Abarca the school’s logo with an eagle and suggested the district commission him to create a mural, Abarca took on the challenge of making it more colorful.

He designed the eagle’s feathers in a stained-glass style, projecting the image on the wall and outlining it. Abarca then numbered each feather with the paint color he wanted to use there.

It took him five days to complete the mural. A couple of days into the project, Nygren invited some of the Mountain High students to meet with Abarca, listen to his story and do some painting themselves.

“I’ve always liked art,” Abarca told the students. When he saw graffiti, he thought it was cool and “started messing around” with spray paint when he was in high school.

“It’s a good thing you’re here,” Abarca said. “I hated school. I failed my tests and got kicked out my sophomore year.” Then, he told the students, he got kicked out of two more high schools, after which he tried and failed to get into a continuation high school.

“I was mad at everyone,” he said. His uncle, a former Marine, took him to Utah to live. “I got into high school there but continued the same pattern. I did graffiti at night.” He ended up being sent back to Los Angeles.

Fortunately for Abarca, a friend suggested he join him at an adult school where he could get his GED. “That was the last stop for me. I got it done. That was a cool boost for me.”

He tried junior college but had no accountability. Instead of going to class, he hung out at the beach. He took a number of jobs but was always quitting or getting fired. Then he became friends with a girl attending USC who asked if he had thought about learning a trade.

Abarca got a job at an airport, throwing bags. When he wasn’t working, he said, “things got crazy with graffiti and gang life.” When a friend was stabbed and died, “it woke me up. My buddy was going to school and told me there is more to life than graffiti.”

He stopped painting for two years and stepped away from the people he thought were his friends. He went to school to become an aircraft mechanic technician. He wanted to quit the two-year program after the first year but a friend told him to “push through.” He did and walked with his graduating class.

“I had never finished anything but my GED,” Abarca said.

But that was not the end. In order to get a job, he had to get an FAA license, which involved two days of testing and projects. He got his license and got a job first with the airport in Palm Springs, then with American Airlines in Los Angeles.

Along the way, Abarca got married and moved to the mountains. He got a job with the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District, working at their teen center. When he spotted blank walls there, he resumed his painting, having some of the teens work with him on those murals. He has also created a number of murals on the walls of businesses and a residence in Crestline.

A year ago, Abarca talked with his wife about starting a company, Genesis Mural Co. Through his company, he will be painting murals at a skate shop in Nevada and in Utah. He will be attending a mural festival in Montana. And, when Goodwin & Son’s Market’s exterior has been repainted, Abarca will be painting a new mural there.

His suggestion to the Mountain High students was to take marketing classes, small business classes and communications classes

Abarca then got to work, showing the students how to use the spray paint cans to fill in the eagle’s feathers. “Go back and forth slowly,” he advised.

The students quickly got the hang of painting the mural and filled in a number of the feathers. Even Principal Nygren took a turn with the paint.

“The students did a great job,” Abarca said. “I just outlined the feathers they painted in black.”



groundwerks quarter page ad page 0001
rim bowling center generic 7 11 22 web
Fatal collision on State Route 189 – CHP seeks public help

Fatal collision on State Route 189 – CHP seeks public help

March 17, 2023 - California Highway Patrol Blue Jay, California On March 16, 2023, at approximately 7:38 p.m., a pedestrian was walking on State Route 189, east of Blue Jay Cutoff. A motorist was driving an unknown type of vehicle, westbound on State Route 189, east...

The power of one

The power of one

After a neighbor had his driveway plowed, creating a berm that blocked the street, Cedar Glen resident Steve Valentine took action to remedy the situation. (Photos: Steve Valentine) Steve Valentine with his neighbors Sue and Nadeen. The power of one Cedar Glen man...

Sheriff’s volunteers help restore communities

Sheriff’s volunteers help restore communities

By DOUGLAS W. MOTLEY Senior Writer When it comes to restoring peace and tranquility to storm-ravaged mountain communities and local residents following the destructive blizzard in late February that laid waste to dozens of homes and businesses, one organization that...