Already historically a scenic neighborhood, Oleander is taking on a little more pizazz this Saturday at Oleander Pride.
Now in its third year, the community event invites residents to decorate their backyards with demonstrations of LGBTQ community inclusion and support. Attendees can see these exhibits and the art created by Creative Crossing Co-Create artists on the neighborhood walk and guide.
As with many events, especially those resulting from the pandemic, Oleander Pride has continued to grow, not only in the number of attendees, but also in the number of attendees, including neighbors and 23 artists and community members.
“I think one of the biggest ways this event has grown and changed is its reach,” said Olivia Garrison, Oleander’s neighbor and one of the event’s founders. “It started out as a small community neighborhood event and has grown more and more.
“It’s still a community event, but many volunteer groups are coming to show love and support to the community. Some are volunteering to give water to walkers, others are coming and putting up a booth to provide information.”
Girl Scouts and teenagers from the local high schools Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) and Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) will provide water to the walkers, as will representatives from The Empty Space.
The Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity will be present in the park, and will also host a booth for people to flag their pride.
Garrison and neighborhood volunteers were busy on Tuesday evening carrying signs to the park on Saturday and showing them off.
“It’s a special place,” he said of Oleander. “There are a lot of communities here and not just a community that needs to look at it in a certain way.”
Attendees are welcome from anywhere to feel part of the neighborhood on Saturday.
“A lot of people want to be in a space that feels famous. They’re excited that there is a neighborhood in their city and region that does that.”
This message of inclusion and support keeps Mario Gonzalez involved in the event. The artist is helping to coordinate his members for the art part of the event.
“Oleander Pride started in a pandemic,” he said. “Organizers and Creative Crossing found a community suffering from isolation and depression.”
Kei Deragon, one of the founders of the basic art group, lives in the neighborhood and helped organize the permanent murals that are now part of the Oleander landscape (and can be seen as part of Saturday’s event walk).
“We have the opportunity to continue the art in the neighborhood because of the residents (the space given to them on their property),” Gonzalez said. “Oleander and Creative Crossing are creating a safe space through art and inclusion.”
Event sponsors also contributed to the cause, starting with the Kern Arts Council, which was able to secure a grant for participating artists. Art supplies and event promotion were supported by grants from Dignity Health Bakersfield, Atlas Financial Solutions and Howie’s Micheladas.
Saturday’s artwork will consist of 12 pieces of chalk artwork and 11 posters on display in the neighborhood and six canvases from Beale Park.
Of the pieces that will end Friday night, Gonzalez said: “Many artists are showing their pride through self-identification, be it an ally of the LGBTQ community or any lyrics. Many children are showing that. Phrases and quotes, others are shown through heart and rainbow.”
For her piece, she will represent Spice Girls, one of her favorite growing bands.
“As a young queer Latino, I grew up in Spice Girls and ‘Days of Our Lives.’ These beautiful eccentric stories inspire my music and my art.”
Related to pop culture, bright colors, or a sense of community, attendees at Saturday’s event will be included whether or not they live by ZIP code 93304.
It’s not going to be hard to figure out where it all starts, Garrison said of the initial reunion at Beale Park.
“It’s a park where you can see everything. It’s very clear where we are, just look for a rainbow.”
Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow him on Twitter at @realstefanidias.