Come Together

Mr. Mario explains the anatomy of a guitar. Now you can learn ukulele and illustration for free at Artists Ink Creative Studio in Salinas – and there are other workshops to come.

In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec, “cepanoa” is a verb that means “to unite, to join together,” explains Athena Ereno, the program director of a new initiative at Artists Ink in Salinas. Ereno and Artists Ink’s Program Director Carlos Cortez met with the Weekly on the third week of the new five-week rotational program – CEPANOA ARTS – that kicked off Nov. 8. Local youth can come to the studio on Tuesday, Wednesday and/or Thursday and spend two hours (4:30-6:30pm) honing their arts – ukulele on Tuesday, open studio on Wednesday and illustration on Thursday.

“We chose it as a name so that young artists can join and come together for the love of art and the community,” Ereno says. This first iteration of the program is dominated by ukulele and illustration workshops, but there is a lot of flexibility in the plans ahead, the organizers say.

It’s all based on “what the youth want,” says Cortez. With ukulele, taught by Mr. Mario, “we already had a couple of students practicing.” Also, the ukulele is a small instrument, which makes it more accessible for younger children and easier to accommodate in the workshop setting. “It’s also a good starting point, even if someone plans to then move to a guitar,” Cortez adds.

Education in digital illustration also seems to be in demand. Salinas artist Leo Rangel starts young artists with paper and pencil, but then moves to iPads to design things they can share on social media.

“Anybody can come in,” Cortez says, emphasizing that the Artists Ink Creative Studio is always open to local teens. They don’t have to be interested in ukulele or illustration – the reason might be as simple as having nothing better to do. “If someone wants to treat our classes as stand-alone workshops, we are fine with that,” Cortez says. “Come take a lesson or two.”

To Artists Ink, a multidisciplinary arts nonprofit born in East Salinas in 2013, CEPANOA is a beginning of a new, bigger wave of projects. Like with every beginning, they are starting small but envision the program growing.

There will be space for everything, Cortez says, from poetry to basket-making and continuing to celebrate local history, such as that of the Indigenous Esselen people. The organizers hope the classes will turn into friendships and true community.

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