What do the CSUN Arts Council, Bad Bunny, and Cheetos have in common? 2022 Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication Commencement Speaker Laura Medrano credits all with collectively amplifying her voice and jumpstarting her career as a visual artist.
Medrano, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts, will take the stage at this year’s commencement celebration with a heart full of gratitude and a challenge to her fellow grads to dream big and make the world better, just as she did when she envisioned empowering new vistas for her Lennox community, a small unincorporated town in the city of Inglewood. Over the years she had watched as signs of poverty and gang activity crept across the landscape of her hometown, threatening to drown out the voices of its hardworking core residents. As a lifelong painter and artist she imagined someday contributing a mural, a community landmark that her neighbors could take pride in. She never expected that opportunity to arrive at age 21, in the thick of her last semester of college, but when opportunity knocks you have to open that door.
Medrano had submitted an application back in Fall 2021 to the CSUN Arts Council requesting funds for a project beyond her financial reach and was surprised when she was asked to pitch her idea to the board. The formal proposal process was outside her comfort zone, but with the support and confidence of painting professor Tim Forcum behind her she gathered the skills and resolve to make her case. When the Arts Council chose her project for funding through the Matador Credit Union Award she was delighted and a bit overwhelmed. It was time to deliver!
She had her proposed design, emphasizing the roots of community residents and the universal desires for peace and love. Then she found a site—a 12- x 33-foot cinderblock wall covered in layers of drab gray paint meant to obscure the territorial graffiti that finds blank slates irresistible; fresh graffiti already marred its most recent coat. Her CSUN graphic arts training guided her in choosing a minimal but impactful color palette and composing in a grid design that would keep her scale and perspective in check. Then she set out alone with durable outdoor primer-housepaint to take on the enormous task.
Medrano can hardly believe how far she’s come since she arrived as an undeclared major at CSUN straight out of high school in Fall 2018. She tried to convince herself to pursue at-need professions—nursing, early childhood development—but she had watched her mom relegate her own artistic talents to “hobby” status, indulged only when she had energy leftover from her 9-to-5 job. Medrano declared her major in Visual Arts for herself and her mom, too, choosing to concentrate in painting—her comfort zone—and graphic arts, where she could stretch her skills and explore more diverse career options. She’s grateful for the flexibility of CSUN’s Department of Art, where she was encouraged to pursue interests even when they weren’t laser-focused on her concentration. CSUN allowed her the time and space to discover hidden talents, develop fresh skills, and become a truly well-rounded artist. Along the way she took terrific inspiration from Professor Steven Hampton’s preternatural talent for reference-free figure drawing, from graphic design professor Nick Longo’s professional development training, and from painting professor Tim Forcum’s lessons in process and color perception as well as his aforementioned unyielding faith in her mural dreams.
But without those Arts Council project funds Medrano’s mural could not have happened—at least not so soon—and its execution serendipitously coincided with Puerto Rican–born singer-songwriter-rapper Bad Bunny’s launch of the Deja Tu Huella Estudiante Fund with the Cheetos snack brand. Bad Bunny’s Good Bunny Foundation teamed with Cheetos to award scholarships to 10 young adults who were using their voice to stand out and advocate for something they believe in. On hearing about the fund, Medrano made a 60-second TikTok post about her project to show how she was working to change her world, hashtagged #DejatuHuella (English translation: leave your mark). And heck yeah, she won a $50,000 scholarship!
Without hesitation, Medrano credits the CSUN Arts Council award for jumpstarting her project and giving her the courage to dream big; she sees the Deja Tu Huella Estudiante award as a domino effect of that initial confidence in her creative ideas. With the Good Bunny–Cheetos funding she plans to acquire equipment and supplies necessary to grow her career, and she might travel some, as she’s never been on an airplane and would like to see the crystal blue waters of Cancún, Mexico. As for furthering her education, she’s applied to a few graphic design internships in hopes of building her experience portfolio, and she sees graduate studies in her future—in visual arts naturally, but also perhaps in business. She’d like to learn about the business of art so that she can continue leaving her mark on her terms.