Arts & Life, Events

‘Determination’ mural dedication celebrates public art and community


That was the buzzword Saturday during the dedication ceremony for mural “DETERMINATION LB,” a component of a public art project integrated with youth workshops that teach wellness and community connection.

The project was a partnership between The Arts Council for Long Beach, artist David ‘Big Sleeps’ Velasquez, Long Beach Transit and Centro CHA.

“We named it ‘DETERMINATION’ because it is an important word,” said Big Sleeps, who painted the mural last November. “Never quit and just stay determined in anything you do and you will see results…I applied [this] to my lifestyle when I had tough times as a youngster in and out of institutions.” 

The project was possible because of grants contributed from the California Arts Council, Munzer Foundation and support from Long Beach Transit. 

“The DETERMINATION mural not only beautifies the neighborhoods through public art but more importantly it engages youth and community activities,” said LBT Board Chair Colleen Bentley.


Dancers with the Homeland Cultural Center, perform to the beat of djembe and doundoun drums at the 'Determination' mural dedication ceremony Saturday, Feb. 1.

Celine Ortega/Daily Forty-Niner

Led by Big Sleeps, the youth workshops taught members of Centro CHA that art can be used as a tool to engage Latinx residents, a medium to share stories of hope and identity and an alternative to violence.

Centro CHA is a non-profit Hispanic/Latino social service agency advocating for the overall well-being of underrepresented, low-income Latinx children, youth, and communities in Long Beach. 

Growing up in Pico-Union, Velasquez understood that bringing colorful art to low-income neighborhoods could inspire others to have a positive outlook on life. 

“To be able to inspire kids and do this for a living is a big change,” Velasquez said. 

Stylized script spelling “DETERMINATION,” stands out against the mural’s bright shades of blue and yellow. Velasquez understood the writing style stemmed from graffiti but intended on celebrating its art as opposed to shaming it. 

“The writing in itself evolved from gangs, but I try to make it into colorful art,” Velasquez said. “For the neighborhood as a whole, I thought it was the perfect colors.” 

Outside of community work, Big Sleeps is a worldwide mural and tattoo artist. His murals cover the walls in countries such as China, Brazil and Colombia. 

The DETERMINATION LB mural can be found at 1340 Cherry Ave.

“The mural kind of brightens up your day a little bit, even when it’s cloudy,” Big Sleeps said. “You can look at my mural and smile.” 

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