Photographic/Banner
Public Display and Installation
Associated Students, UCSB

In honor and in loving memory of..

George Chen (19)
Katherine Breann Cooper (22)
Cheng Yuan “James” Hong (20)
Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez (20)
Weihan “David” Wang (20)
Veronika Elizabeth Weiss (19)

Viewing this display allows one to see a composite of a community building effort created by and for the communities of Isla Vista and the University of California, Santa Barbara in the wake of the May 23, 2014 tragic events by Associated Students’ staff and student leadership. The banners displayed here are created from photographs of a display of memorial boards containing expressions by the community to the UCSB students who lost their lives on May 23rd. Photographs were primarily taken by Sean Lieberman, AS Assistant Director for Technology, as the memorial boards were written on, and “small notes and gifts” were pinned by community members at large walking by 6550 Pardall (what we now call the Pardall Center) with additional photographs donated to the Associated Students photographic gallery from around the entire community in the days following.

As the events of May 23rd unfolded, the community was left in its wake and the newly elected student leaders for the UCSB campus wanted to provide something in Isla Vista–at the epicenter of the events–for a way to express all that was being felt in that moment. The 2014-2015 AS student leadership of Ali Guthy (President), Angela Lau (IVP), Bailey Loverin (SAG), Beatrice Contreras(EVPLA) and Melvin Singh (EVPSA), elected only a few days prior, were called upon to lead the campus through this moment. At an emergency meeting with Marisela Marquez, the AS Executive Director, these student leaders, gathered to mourn and process the horrific events of the immediately preceding days. They deliberated how best to give something back to the bereaved community and they emerged with two decisions, visions.

The first was that students and the entire UCSB campus should not convene classes during the next regularly scheduled school day, and instead gather in a campus wide public memorial — which was, in fact, agreed upon by the UCSB administration and faculty. The memorial was held at Harder Stadium. Their second hope was for a safe space where students could grieve and express their emotions by students and for students. This safe space became the site of what was identified as the “memorial boards” at the Pardall Center. What I recall them sharing with each other and with me was that the energy and emotion needed to be expressed in various ways–and conveyed in various ways. That is, given that some people are able to share a public expression of grief, a written and public
space would allow for that expression. However, many, many folks knew these students personally and therefore needed to have a private space to grieve. They collectively decided that sharing this potentially contradictory vision of how this safe space was to be materialized with AS staff to see what could be developed.

The following is Aaron Jones’, then the AS Assistant Director for Community Affairs, Civic
Engagement and Advocacy, account of exactly how the memorial boards came into existence:

It had only been a few months since AS opened the Pardall Center (PC). The AS IV Tenants Union and Legal Resource Center occupied the second floor for several years, but with the closing of Grafik Art on the first floor and subsequent negotiations with the property owner, we secured the entire building and accomplished a years-long goal of providing Isla Vista with a de facto community center offering free access to computers, printing, tenant rights self help materials, meeting/study space and more. It was a slow start, but we were getting into the groove by May 23rd, 2014.

 

It was a Friday night. I was already home and the PC was still open. The student staff knew to contact me directly if need be. Sometimes there were issues setting the security alarm, or restocking certain supplies. So when Alex, who was working the front desk that evening, called, I was not necessarily surprised. Upon answering the phone, his very first words to me were “I’ve never been that close to gunfire before.” The Pardall Center is perhaps thirty-forty feet from the IV Market where shots were fired and one young man, Christopher Martinez, lost his life.

 

Sunday afternoon I received a call from AS Executive Director, Dr. Marisela Marquez, and the five newly sworn-in AS Executive Officers. With all of them on the phone, Marisela conveyed the students idea to create something to memorialize the tragedy that had just taken place. AS President, Ali Guthy, described their vision to erect large boards with a chalkboard-like surface on one side for the community to leave messages and a more private and personal corkboard-like backside where people could leave individualized notes. We discussed it a bit further as I wanted to make sure I understood their vision accurately. Marisela asked me to reach out to our fellow AS staff member, Kathleen “Kat” Versola and work together to make this a reality.

 

I hung up with Marisela and the Exec’s and immediately called Kat to convey what we had been asked to help manifest. We talked about the logistics of creating such boards and she suggested we call a local business like Home Depot to see what they could possibly do to advance this effort. I got off the phone with Kat, and called Home Depot in Goleta. I asked to speak with a manager, and the gentleman on the line informed me that he was one of the supervisors. I told him who I was, that I was calling at the request of the AS student leadership and shared the vision that was imparted to me. I asked if this was something they could help us create. The man, whose name I have forgotten, said “Short of everything in the store, whatever you need.”

 

We talked further about the vision for the boards, and he stated that they could create them and would do so at no cost. We agreed to meet the following day to look over materials and decide on the size and other details.

 

Monday morning I met with two supervisors at Home Depot. After some discussion, we
agreed that 8×4 foot slabs of dry-wall, spray painted with a chalkboard surface would be ideal. We also agreed that making A-frames to attach the dry-wall on one side would allow for them to stand alone. The Home Depot staff suggested attaching casters so they could also be moved easily. Then for the backs of the A-frames, they suggested 8×4 foot cork boards affixed to plywood. We finally agreed that eight of these A-frames would be more than sufficient. They had to assemble the A-frames and spray paint the dry-wall which I was told would take 24 hours to dry, thus they expected to complete the project by Wednesday or Thursday. Again, all at no cost.

 

The following morning (Tuesday), I received a call from the manager of Home Depot who
informed me that several employees, some of whom were current UCSB students, all chipped in their time and energy to construct the A-frames. He said once the word got out, everyone lent a hand to help and even some employees who were not scheduled to work came in on their day off. Due to this collective effort, the A-frames were completed and ready to be delivered. About 10 employees from Home Depot, including the store manager and the regional vice president arrived within an hour with all eight A-framed boards, as well as potted flowers and several buckets of sidewalk chalk. We arranged them in a straight row in front of the PC, interspersed the flowers and sidewalk chalk, took some pictures, hugged and gave thanks to one another before they returned to Home Depot.

 

With the chalkboard surface facing the street and the cork boards facing the PC, we set up tables between the A-frames and the PC with slips of paper, pens and other materials for community members to leave notes in a more private setting. We left no instructions, gave no direction. We just left it there and gradually, within minutes, people began writing or drawing on the front of the boards and leaving notes pinned to the back. Throughout that day and over the next several days, it burst with community expression.

 

And that’s how it began.

 

Later that day, a young lady wrote the names of the six students across the top of the boards; one each. It literally took off from there. In the evenings, we brought the eight boards inside the Pardall Center to preserve what had birthed on both sides of each board. Our concern was less about possible vandalism, but more on the possibility of evening/early morning fog and mist causing the chalk to run. We returned early every morning to bring the boards back outside, in front of the PC, sometimes adjusting their placement attempting to best respond to the vibe of the community that particular day.

 

In less than seven days, every conceivable square inch of the chalkboard surface was covered with expressions from the community. Additionally, it was clearly apparent moving the memorial boards twice every day was inflicting wear and tear, particularly on the edges of the dry-wall. Thus, two important decisions were made to help preserve the eight pieces of community expression (art): first, do something to preserve and protect the chalkboard surface from being rubbed off and, second, have the fragile dry-wall boards affixed to plywood. While discussing this with Marisela and outgoing AS Internal VIce President, Kyley Scarlet, Kyley phoned her mother who works in interior design. She suggested we see about having the chalkboard surface painted with a clear coat to seal and protect the chalk expressions from being rubbed off and from UV rays should we keep the board outdoors. To accomplish this, we contacted a local painter who agreed to apply a clear coat to the boards. We also got back in touch with our friends at Home Depot, who brought eight 8×4 foot pieces of plywood to the Pardall Center and attached the dry-wall on the spot. Again, all at no cost.

 

Although ultimately stored off-site for safe-keeping, the memorial boards were displayed as part of “We Remember Them: Acts of Love and Compassion in Isla Vista” in 2015,
Exhibition Project Manager & Curator: Melissa Barthelemy, PhD candidate, History
Curator – May 23, 2014 Isla Vista Memorial Archive : Annie Platoff

This display/installation, now, in May 2019 is sponsored by the 2018-2919 External Vice President, Jeike Meijer for the community along with many events to commemorate the communities of Isla Vista and UCSB. As staff for the Associated Students we continue to endeavor to bring to fruition the vision of leadership embodied by each student leader. This, once again, is the product of the work of Jeike, current AS staff and community members who continue to share in the work of community building–and remembering that we are stronger together. Always.

Then and now…thank you to Kathleen Versola, AS’ Assistant Publications Coordinator, Phil Pinedo AS’ Publications Coordinator, Sean Lieberman and Aaron Jones (now UCSB EOP Director), Diana Collins Puente, Isla Vista Community Advisor, JudyAnn Dutcher, AS WebDeveloper and Chelsea Lyon-Hayden, AS’ Art Director and to all of the AS staff who then and now, continue to facilitate the materialization of student’s visions and dreams on a daily basis. Thank you to the hearts and souls of the staff of Home Depot who stepped up on a moment’s notice and made the physical manifestation of the “memorial boards” come true.

Marisela Marquez