Irvine high school students put their art activism on display during a student-driven, “Paint For No Hate” art contest, created to show support for the Stop AAPI Hate and the Black Lives Matter movement in Irvine.

In an interview with Irvine Weekly, Haruka Noda, 17, a soon-to-be senior at Portola High School, said she created the contest with the help of Portola High School visual arts instructor Kearci Moir.

“I really want this to be a project that the youth can connect to and for high schoolers who are passionate about what’s happening around us and in our society,” Noda said. “I think art is a really great way to direct your energy.”

For Noda, her passion for art history led her to discover both classical and Renaissance artists, but her interests transitioned into art activism after recent protests around the world – and locally in Irvine. Last summer, Noda said she was inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests and became concerned with the recent rise of hate crimes against Asians.

“[I wanted] something that was a response to those hate crimes, that the public can see – and I thought art is such a great way to do that. It’s a very peaceful form of expression,” she said. “I’ve been taking art courses at Portola [High School] since my freshman year, but I am focused on art activism and art history, rather than being an artist myself.”

Photo by Yoko Noda

Through Noda’s call to action, high school students from Irvine submitted their designs. Noda explained that while a number of designs were submitted, the piece submitted by Zilin Jin, a high school student in Irvine, was selected for a variety of reasons, including its clear message for social justice.

“We were having trouble choosing between two designs, but we went with Zilin’s design because we loved the horizontal composition and the dynamic coloring,” Noda explained. “Also, it’s breathtaking – a mural has to be really eye-catching, and it’s also better if the mural is a landscape format so everything checked the boxes.”

While only one was selected, Noda still found a way for Irvine students to contribute their artistic talents. By splitting the mural into grids, and incorporating a “paint by numbers” concept to Jin’s design, Noda explained that high school students from Irvine were able to work in shifts to help complete the massive 16-foot mural.

Photo by Yoko Noda

“Once it’s done, it’ll be displayed at the Great Park Palm Courts at the Irvine Summer Art Market on June 20,” Noda explained. “After that event, that mural will rotate around all of the IUSD schools during the school year.”

On Saturday, June 11, Irvine high schoolers signed up to work in shifts to help create Jin’s design.

“We painted from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., basically in groups, so we could stay socially distanced,” Noda said. “We split the mural into squares, then drew with pencil the design of the mural, with the help of the designer,” Noda explained.

While her passion for art has materialized in multiple ways, Noda is also preparing to become an art history major, currently enrolled in courses at Sotheby’s Art Institute. From her perspective, she said she is witnessing more of a willingness from her peers to become outspoken about these causes by using the resources available to them.

“It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe how fast everything moved. I started this project maybe mid-March, and it’s come so far, and I think it will hit me all at once, once I see everyone painting it and seeing it displayed,” she said. “From my point of view, the high schoolers in Irvine are super passionate about protests, Black Lives Matter, and everything.”