Artist, students envision world without police or prisons
A recently unveiled, brightly colored mural of people smiling around a broken police car is on display this fall in the Porter Study Center at the University of California Santa Cruz.
A project of students, faculty and alumni, the mural depicts protesters, including one group gathered on a sunny day, with signs that read “Stop calling police: Keep cops off campus,” “Defund the police” and “Abolish prisons.”
Scrolled across the bottom is a phrase that describes artist and UC Santa Cruz alumnus Irene Juarez-O’Connell’s vision: “Safety without police.”
“It’s telling a story of something that is possible. Envisioning a future without police —I think that’s radical,” she told the UC Santa Cruz Newscenter earlier this month.
Juarez-O’Connell worked with students and Professor John Jota Leaños, who teaches film and digital media at UCSC, to create the mural based on the recommendations of the UCSC Campus Safety Community Advisory Board, according to the report.
The board provides advice and recommendations to the university chancellor about campus and community safety. Its members include three university DEI administrators, the Black Student Union, Asian Pacific Islander Student Alliance, Student Alliance of North American Indians and about 30 other individuals and groups.
Only two members of the campus safety board appear to have law enforcement-related roles: the associate vice chancellor of risk and safety services and the local chief of police. Both serve as ex-officio members, although a note emphasizes the police chief only participates in meetings “as requested by” the board.
Juarez-O’Connell told the university news that the board wanted the mural to focus on community safety and policing. Together with Leaños, his students and her partner, Victor Cervantes, she said they brainstormed ideas for the mural on butcher paper and then created its subjects from their research of campus protests in recent history.
Juarez-O’Connell said the middle of the mural depicts a campus without police, including an old, broken police car with vines growing over it and a group of people around a large yellow banner that reads, “We take care of us.”
After the recent unveiling of the piece, Juarez-O’Connell commented, “I can’t quite believe it’s up because there’s not a lot of murals on campus like it.”
The university describes the mural as a project that “uses the arts as a catalyst to consider the terms of justice within our campus community.”
Main image: UCSC; inside image: Instagram @_xirenita screenshot