Santa Barbara teens organize living sculpture for disaster relief

David Sjostedt, Staff Writer

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Hundreds of community members gathered on City College’s West Campus Lawn on Saturday to form a living art piece in the shape of a dove rising out of flames.   

The event, called “Rising Together,” was a commemorative celebration of unity that brought 25 different businesses together to collaborate in their relief efforts following the natural disasters earlier this year.

The festivities were overseen by teenagers from the Attitude Harmony Achievement Program, a youth program promoting community and teen empowerment. The students came up with the idea during an after-school meeting as a response to the fires and floods.

Everyone that attended was given a free white t-shirt with the image of a dove rising out of flames on the front. Then, by squeezing together, the crowd was able to create a human sculpture of the same image on the lawn.

“It’s such a heart rush,” said Alexa Sisney, a junior at Middle College High School who emceed the event.

Jennifer Freed, the executive director of the youth program, said the intention for the event was to have people share positive things they are doing in the community.

“My partner heard about Daniel Dancer, who does these art sculptures all over the world. So we said why not bring it here,” Freed said.

Freed started the AHA organization with her partner Wendy Freedman back in 1999 after the Columbine Massacre.

“We never wanted that kind of hatred and violence to happen in our community,” she said.

Freed emphasized that helping teenagers make connections and celebrate diversity would make them more likely to have happier lives.  

The event featured performances from the Rent Party Blues band as well as singer/songwriter Rob Write, who showcased his song “State of Emergency.” Write wrote the song in his hotel room after being evacuated from his home in Ventura.  

The ceremony was funded by the SBCC Foundation and Katy Perry’s Firework Foundation.  

Perry, who grew up in Santa Barbara, promoted the event on Facebook and Twitter this past week. Perry will also return to Santa Barbara on May 19 to put on a benefit concert supporting local charities assisted by the Thomas fire and subsequent mudslides.

“This isn’t a fundraiser, this is for community,” Freed said. “This is a demonstration that we’re all stronger together.”

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