Yolo County Juvenile Detention Center, Woodland, CA
2880 East Gibson Road, Woodland, CA
Designed by Maceo Montoya and Malaquias Montoya
Painted by Maceo Montoya, Assisted by Malaquias Montoya
Status: Good condition
Photographer: Maceo Montoya
Narrative for Yolo County Juvenile Detention Center Mural – Fall 2013
The mural is grounded in the central figure of a young man lying on the bed in his cell. His face is contemplative. The surrounding imagery emerges from his thoughts and imagination. In other words, the cinderblock walls do not bind him. Above is an image of a small boy wearing a backpack who gazes at the central figure, sadly or longingly. Maybe it is the young man himself as a child, maybe it is a younger sibling; either way the connection is to a childhood and innocence not so far away. Behind the young boy is another young man with a shaved head and facial hair. He is not necessarily a gang member, but certainly hardened. He too stares at the central figure. Is he the central figure on the outside before his mistakes led to incarceration? Or is it another young man simply coming to terms with what might be his fate? On his shoulder another figure rests his hand and he is pointing, as are others, to an open sky and a bright sun breaking through dark clouds. The landscape, a snaking river flanked by fields, and the breaking sun represent several ideas: literally, the outside, the Yolo agricultural valley, but more figuratively it represents openness, vastness, a break in the storm, and the possibility of a new beginning. A father holds his child and points toward the breaking sun, as do two members of the juvenile detention center staff as they encourage the burdened youth with heads bowed to look toward the bright light. Before developing the design we spoke with two incarcerated youth and both of them talked about hope and dreams in very general terms. In a way, we wanted to embrace that ambiguity. Instead of insisting on a specific hope or dream, the sky, which is carried throughout the mural, represents, simply, the possibilities for a better tomorrow. To the right of the landscape three youth are engaged in activities that also liberate the mind and the soul. Out of the book emerges light, just as it does from the artist’s brush, and the singer or poet’s voice.
The youth also spoke about missing their families. One young man even mentioned how he wanted to break through the glass when his mother visited and embrace her. We’ve depicted a young woman reaching out to touch her mother’s hand on the other side of the glass. Above them, morphing out of the scene, the young woman hugs her mother, reflecting their desire for more meaningful contact. Similarly, to the right another youth speaks to his father, their posture and profile mirror one another, as the boy is clearly almost a man. Here too an image hovers above them, as the father remembers the boy as a newborn with his entire life ahead of him. Behind these vignettes are the detention center walls and the cell doors. One of youths we spoke to mentioned that when he was on the outside he remembered looking at doors and marveling to himself that he could “just open it.” Here we’ve adopted that idea, the cell doors are open but instead of revealing an enclosed space we have the open bright sky.
On the left side we represent life’s hardships, the difficulties the youth must endure, and the obstacles that they must overcome. Just as we haven’t specified what hope looks like we also represent this darkness more abstractly. Grimacing figures, outstretched hands, a mother cradling her baby offering what little protection she can, and the thorny vine that weaves throughout. These thorns connect to the roses on the other side of the mural representing the idea that the blooming flowers, the beauty of life, and the thorns, the difficulties, are not separate but one. Lastly, above the roses, two doves, their wings outstretched, fly off into the sky, almost moving off the mural and departing the confines of the pod.