Paint Encinitas column: Farm Lab reaps more than art appreciation

The process of beautification is exhilarating.

For Paint Encinitas, this process starts with an untraditional canvas: a stark wall, a termite-ridden fence, or in this case, a sentry-like electrical box.

The box is part of the Encinitas Union School District Farm Lab at 441 Quail Gardens Drive. The lab will educate visiting students and adults about food, nutrition, science and agriculture using a unique large-scale visual format — the mural.

It’s as though the electrical box was put there for the very purpose of beautification and transformation. And Paint Encinitas has more plans to adorn the EUSD Farm Lab with artwork.

A wall first must undergo a study. How’s the condition of the surface? Will it need to be cleaned? What’s around it that may obstruct its view? What will it take in resources to produce this project? How much time will an artist and crew need to carry out the vision?

Depending on the artwork, sometimes the artist will masterfully apply the first layer of primer, other times the apprentice will be put to the task, and sometimes it is the custodians of the wall who get their hands on the brush.

This time it was Healthy Day Partners, a nonprofit that sponsored the box beautification project. Paint Encinitas teamed up with the nonprofit, selecting Taylor Gallegos from a pool of talented artists to kick off a series of educational murals at the site.

“If you don’t get paint on you,” Taylor Gallegos chuckled, “then you are definitely not doing it right.”

Gallegos unveiled the new farm feature during a soft opening on Sept. 27 for the EUSD Farm Lab.

An eager group of students, Green Team moms, neighbors, Lima Bean enthusiasts, city and education board officials threw cover crop on the land in hope of enriching the soil for future plants, made seed balls, ran around with goats and posed in front of the first mural for pictures in kid-awe.

“I wanted to capture human interaction with the natural world,” declared Gallegos modestly, “containing elements of the natural occurring water cycle and our daily transition from light to dark and back again. Things we oftentimes take for granted.”

His mural, titled “Natural Rhythms and Cycles,” is located on the entryway electrical box and took three days to complete.

Lots of organic fruits were consumed in the making.

When people get involved in a mural, they commit themselves to arguably one of the most collaborative forms of healing arts.

By the end, the people involved can be just as transformed as the surface itself.

From its 10 acres of undeveloped desert to its four rectangular portable classrooms that sit together like old friends, EUSD Farm Lab is a canvas for much more than paint.

These portable classrooms will be home to the hottest and newest forms of interactive education. Students will experience agriculture, science, nutrition and food outside of traditional learning.

Two portables will be devoted to classrooms. The other two will be devoted to a science and a nutritional lab.

Additionally, there will be a dedicated student growing area, composting area and approximately seven acres of farming space to be used to grow organic produce for the school district’s lunch program.

“Where’s the principal’s office going to go?” piped a student who had the sneak-peek tour of the facility.

The student is the son of Mim Michelove, co-founder of Healthy Day Partners and a huge part of bringing the vision of EUSD Farm Lab alive.

“I don’t know yet. Do you think we need one?” Michelove replied sweetly.

“EUSD Farm Lab will be home to interdisciplinary learning experiences that integrate into the District’s comprehensive Health & Wellness Program aimed at educating the whole child,” she told the artist and me on day one.

The farm site neighbors the San Diego Botanic Garden, the Leichtag Foundation and the San Dieguito Heritage Museum.

This area is a growing hotbed for educational and agricultural learning that is weaving the story of food agriculture back into Encinitas’ history.

Meanwhile, these education-agriculture hubs understand the importance of art. And Paint Encinitas knows all too well that partnering education-agriculture-art is a movement in Encinitas that will positively transform spaces and touch individual lives.

Which is why Paint Encinitas is working closely with the EUSD Farm Lab to paint four more educational murals, each measuring 40 feet by 15 feet, at prominent locations at the site.

But not without help from the community.

Paint Encinitas relies on generous sponsorships and community funding to complete our projects. We encourage you to be a part of our mural arts movement and help us raise funds so that we can defray project costs, apply and attain nonprofit status and bring together our community in progressive and creative ways.

Please e-mail me at jax@paintencinitas.org for leads, advice, donations, sponsorship opportunities or to volunteer your time.

It is an impressive era for culture in Encinitas. We have one mural up and cover crop seeds down bringing the farm site one step closer to becoming an Encinitas landmark.

Save the date for EUSD Farm Lab’s grand opening from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, October 26. More information can be found at PaintEncinitas.org.

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