Art in the Park shines different light on Beachwood-Franklin neighborhood

09/15/2013 7:38 PM

09/16/2013 3:32 AM

There’s not much to do in Beachwood-Franklin if you’re a youngster, according to 17-year-old Abran Aguilar.

“People are indoors. You hardly see anyone out,” Aguilar said. “There’s nothing to do.”

But Saturday’s Art in the Park was a pleasant change of pace for him.

“This is unusual,” Aguilar said. “This actually creates something to come and check out.”

The Beachwood-Franklin Committee for Improvement joined Building Healthy Communities to put on Art in the Park, a meeting of musicians, artists, nonprofits and members of the community. The day was a teaching tool and a way to bring a community together, according to Connie Farris, the committee’s coordinator.

The Beachwood-Franklin community dates back to the 1950s, Farris said.

“The demographics have changed a lot over the years,” Farris said. “There’s a lot of ‘us and them’ mentality that we’re trying to get past.”

Saturday’s event was the fourth of its kind, with a few upgrades. A stage gave performers from the area and beyond a chance to show what they could do.

Farris said one focus of the event was to educate residents about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which begins enrollment in October through the state’s implementation of the program, called Covered California.

Dennis Haines, a member of the Municipal Advisory Council in Beachwood-Franklin, said bringing nonprofits to the area is vital for residents who are unaware of the services available to them. Many of those residents are English learners.

“We’re spread pretty thin when it comes to the availability of resources,” he said. “It makes it challenging.”

More than 6,000 people live in the unincorporated area. That’s more than live in Dos Palos or Gustine.

Haines said the area has seen its share of graffiti and gang violence, but no more than any other unincorporated community. Events such as Art in the Park could help with improvements, he said.

“This gets the word out that we want to do something different,” he said. “We want to make it a better place for the families.”

The other focus of the day was art, such as that of 46-year-old Craig Ruiz.

For some, Beachwood-Franklin has a rough reputation, Ruiz said. But residents in the area don’t necessarily see it that way, he said.

“Every neighborhood has their problems, but it’s not a bad place to be.” he said. “I don’t have any tags on my fence, I don’t hear gunshots on a daily basis, none of that.”

To make his his art, Ruiz finds pieces of discarded wood or metal and “reclaims” them, similar to what many residents would like to do with Beachwood-Franklin’s reputation. Ruiz said he’s used a table leg, an air duct and many other objects in creating his work.

Ruiz said people who look around will see the neighborhood can be a nice place.

“This ain’t such a bad place,” Ruiz said. “See? Everybody’s smiling.”

The committee meets the first Monday of each month from 6 to 8p.m. at Franklin Elementary, 2936 Franklin Road. Meetings are open to the public.

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