Already a historically scenic neighborhood, Oleander is getting a little livelier this Saturday during Oleander Pride.
Now in its third year, the community event invites residents to decorate their backyards with manifestations of inclusion and support for the LGBTQ community. Attendees can view these displays and artworks created by Creative Crossing Co-Create artists while strolling and driving around the neighborhood.
Like many events, especially emerging from a pandemic, Oleander Pride continued to grow, not only in the number of attendees, but also among attendees, including neighbors and 23 artists, as well as community partners.
“I think one of the biggest ways this event has grown and changed is its scope,” said Olivia Garrison, Oleander resident and one of the event’s founders. “It started out as a really small neighborhood event and has grown into something more.
“It’s still a community event, but many groups of volunteers come to show love and support for the community. Some volunteer to provide water for hikers, others come and set up a booth to provide information.”
Girl Scouts and Teenagers from the Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) and Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) from local high schools will offer water to hikers, as will reps from The Empty Space.
The Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity will be present at the park, which will also host a stand where people can make their own pride flag.
The neighborhood garrison and volunteers were busy on Tuesday evening in the park making signs to carry and display on Saturday.
“It’s a very special place,” he said of Oleander. “There is a lot of community here and not just a community that has to look a certain way.”
On Saturday, participants are welcome from anywhere to feel part of the neighborhood.
“Many people want to be in a space where they feel celebrated. They are thrilled that there is a neighborhood in their city and county that does this.”
That message of inclusion and support is what keeps Mario Gonzalez involved in the event. The artist is helping coordinate his peers for the artistic part of the event.
“Oleander Pride started with the pandemic,” he said. “The organizers and Creative Crossing have found a community suffering from isolation and depression.”
Kei Deragon, one of the founders of the grassroots art group, lives in the neighborhood and helped organize the permanent murals that are now part of the oleander landscape (and will be visible during the walk part of the event on Saturday).
“We are able to continue the art in the neighborhood only thanks to the residents (donated space on their property),” said Gonzalez. “Oleander and Creative Crossing are creating a safe space through art and inclusion.”
Sponsors of the event also helped the cause, starting with the Kern Arts Council, which was able to secure a salary for the participating artists. Art supplies and event promotion were aided by financial support from Dignity Health Bakersfield, Atlas Financial Solutions and Howie’s Micheladas.
The art for Saturday’s event will consist of 12 plaster works of art and 11 posters on display in the neighborhood and six large canvases, which will be in Beale Park.
Of the pieces, all of which will be completed by Friday night, Gonzalez said: “Many artists are showing their pride through self-identification, whether they are an ally or any other letter from the LGBTQ community. Many children are demonstrating this through phrases and quotes. , others that show themselves through hearts and rainbows “.
For her piece, she will play the Spice Girls, one of her growing favorite bands.
“As a young Latin queer, I grew up with the Spice Girls and ‘Days of our Lives’. These beautiful quirky storylines inspire my music and my art.”
Whether it’s pop culture ties, bright colors, or a sense of community, attendees at Saturday’s event will feel included whether or not they live in zip code 93304.
It won’t be hard to pinpoint where it all starts, Garrison said of the initial rally in Beale Park.
“It’s the kind of park where you can see everything. It’s very obvious where we are: look for the rainbow.”
Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.