Amid acoustic tunes and the poignant smell of acrylic paint, Black, Indigenous and People of Color from the San Marcos community gathered around the Hays County Historic Courthouse Sept. 26 to express themselves through art and share stories at STAND’s Love Canvas Event.

STAND is a new San Marcos organization that promotes standing up for and unifying with people whose voices need to be heard. It was founded this summer by Kerry Martin, a special education teacher in the San Marcos community.

“As soon as the riots started happening,” Martin said. “It gave me a flashback to when I was a kid, to the Rodney King riots, and I thought—this has been going on for such a long time, and when is this going to end?”

Love Canvas Group

Attendees work on painting their canvases while their respective trained volunteers sit with them and offer support during the Love Canvas event, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, outside the Hays County Historic Courthouse.

Martin wanted a solution, and for her, the place to start was broadening her own community.

“We don’t realize just how small our communities can get,” she said.

Martin grew up in a segregated school system and recognizes the ill effects of a community that separates people on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, or social and economic standing. Her own community was small, and she hopes to establish a larger community through events like Love Canvas. 

Chelsea Bourgeois and volunteer Love Canvas

Texas State criminal justice freshman Chelsea Bourgeois and trained volunteer Sue Verster converse closely with one another while Bourgeois paints during the Love Canvas event, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, outside the Hays County Historic Courthouse.

Love Canvas created a space for underrepresented voices to build community through art. As guests painted, they talked one-on-one with a trained volunteer, sharing their stories and having a moment to be heard. Madison Ware, a visual arts sophomore, felt the event very much accomplished its goal.

“It was really great. You just get to talk and share your feelings and nobody’s judging you,” Ware said. “I think this is a good opportunity because, you know, we’re college students, and we don’t have much of a voice or get to talk about what’s stressing us out.”

The painting she worked on Sept. 26, a profile view of a stunning Black woman, along with the paintings of the other guests, will be hung throughout local businesses in San Marcos to allow underrepresented voices to be seen and heard in the community.

“I honestly would do it again,” Ware said, smiling through her mask. “I would bring my sister.”

Across the street, in a wonderful coincidence, participants could hear the chants of Black Lives Matter protesters, some of whom even joined the art event, such as Shawn Rosales and Rebecca Aquino.

“I really enjoyed it,” Aquino said. “I never really paint, so it was very relaxing.”

Jessica Chavis Love Canvas

Texas State nursing freshman Jessica Chavis paints a blue border around her canvas during the Love Canvas event, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, outside the Hays County Historic Courthouse.

The guests were pleasantly surprised to see the event took place outside under a Texas sunset.

Although Martin expected only a few guests to attend, at least nine local businesses should expect a new painting on their walls.

Martin says the organization plans to do future events like this one, and after having a great turnout, both guests and staff are excited for the next. Regardless of the number of people who attended, Martin says Love Canvas accomplished its goal. 

“All we wanted was for it to be a place people can feel safe,” she said. “To say whatever they need to say in order to be heard. I think we all need to be heard. To be seen.”

For more information about STAND visit its Facebook page.

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