If you walk into our Summer Search office in Oakland, one thing you’ll see, along with our mentors and students buzzing around, is a large, colorful mural that adorns the wall of our glass-enclosed conference room.

Not only a beautiful addition to our office space, this work of art has significant meaning behind it — it was conceived of and painted specifically for Summer Search by Bay Area alumnus, and local artist, Ivan Lopez.

Ivan shared his inspiration for the mural, explaining, “This art piece tells the story of my experience from the beginning of my time with Summer Search, to becoming an alum and supporter.”

“I envisioned this mural with hands of different colors, ages, sizes, and shapes, depicting the variety of social demographics that are impacted by Summer Search’s mentorship. The hands are placed in a circle to show the receiving and giving back of support. The two hands at the bottom are open and reaching out to signify inclusion and space for the community to grow.”

Ivan continued: “The mountains represent the strongest identifying factor of Summer Search — the wilderness program that students participate in during their first year. Through the presence of nature, I have seen the transformation it can bring to the life of a young person. As we hike valleys and peaks we build confidence to push forward in our everyday struggles.

“The night sky is a symbol for a space to create dreams. The birds connect the mural to Summer Search’s logo. It is an element that represents soaring and learning to fly, keeping with the same mission that Summer Search upholds.”

Art has always been a huge part of Ivan’s life, since he came to the United States from Colombia when he was three years old.

Today, he owns the Artillery Apparel Gallery in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, a venue he created as a platform for Bay Area artists and designers to showcase their work, including his own.

Ivan hopes that his gallery — which hosts workshops, bi-monthly events, and currently features the work of more than 80 local artists — will one day become an international network of creatives influencing innovative solutions to life’s ongoing challenges. He says, “we want to create art that inspires and heals.”

“Summer Search has supported my art work and I am thankful for all the years that I have been able to be involved with such a stupendous program,” Ivan said, reflecting on this mural project.

“I am very happy to have art as a vehicle through which I am able to stay connected with Summer Search. Giving back and being involved is the best part. I love placing my art in places that make a difference.”

By the way, Ivan’s mural is also the centerpiece of Summer Search’s 2016 Annual Report!