Spring is an uplifting time to rejoice and watch how the “garden” grows. A true time of renaissance.

During Downtown Gilroy’s Art Walk, I had the pleasure of seeing how the seeds of my teaching years blossomed. Like climbing roses with the right support coupled with hope in rays of light, these young people have become pillars of our community. True complements in all ways.

Teachers plant seeds, but never know if they have come to fruition. I was fortunate to see students from my middle school years (two different decades) and another student from my high school instruction showcase their talents for all to see and hear.

Elodia Benitez read from her newly published poetry book, “Love In Many Places,” with heartfelt tales of her life and family experiences. Armando Franco officially unveiled his 6th Street Studios mural with beautiful colors providing a gateway to Downtown Gilroy and the artwalk experience. In addition, Earl “EJ” McDonald, a young high school student who faced tremendous adversity in life, got his time to shine as an apprentice to Franco revealing his artist within as well. 

People have told me, “They got a second chance in life.” I respond, “If you really know their roots, they never had a chance to begin with.” Their ascension to such artistic levels is beyond words, just heartfelt joy. 

Harnessing our youth’s energy is needed and vital to a “Gilroy Strong.” Our youth want to belong; they want to contribute—to be seen and heard—take ownership. From my experiences and conversations with a plethora of youth over the years, they wanted to showcase their talents, but there was no venue for them. 

It’s fortunate to have our arts community harnessing the film talents of Mattie Scariot of the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival alongside mentors like Jason Franks of Digital NEST and Gilroy City Councilmember Zach Hilton, to embrace these challenges. Plus, Gilroy Unified School District is looking for volunteers to share their time, treasures and talents with our young people. Invest in our youth!

That’s why the efforts of more than 14 of our downtown businesses that opened their doors to the Gilroy Art Walk is paramount for all creatives. As catalysts, Toni Bowles of The Neon Exchange, Emily McEwan-Upright of 6th Street Studios, and The Gilroy Arts Alliance played a huge part in creating venues for our youth to participate in our community. It just takes people with unconditional “Agape” love for our youth to nurture them yielding a cornucopia of treasures.  

Gilroy is ripe for potential and if you get the chance, take a moment to see how the garden is growing through community events and creative endeavors. Moreover, there are community champions vying to include Deanna Pittsey’s Gilroy High culinary students to partner with chefs like Chef Carlos Pineda (RCS Kneaded Academy) to demonstrate their talents as well.

From San Luis Obispo to Placerville to Gilroy, communities with a healthy arts presence organically produce a more engaging environment for all. We do reap what we sow. And with your participation it grows confidence in not only our youth, but the entire community as well. If we all work together, the harvest will be grand. The Gilroy renaissance is real.

Rick Charvet is a Gilroy resident and teacher.

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