Call me exaggerative, call me a wishful thinker, paint me in the image of a wide-eyed youth with hopes of grandeur things—but whatever you do, don’t deny the social change taking place in the artistic community of San Bernardino.

Through my watchful eye and close examination of social trends, through my equally labored, Ed Tessier inspired research on community renewal, I feel it’s finally safe to say we are on a current communal shift that will further patronize, or iconize the arts culture of San Bernardino.

Like Sant Khalsa, visual artist and Treasurer of Arts Connection, mentioned at the City of San Bernardino Arts Groups Connect meeting on Oct. 10, downtown Pomona in the early ‘90s was a mirror image of San Bernardino’s current status. Stricken by the unfortunate burden of an economic downfall, the city was condensed to being seen as seemingly absent of art, vibrancy or bravado – sound familiar?

However, all it took was one venue, The Haven, and passionate kindred spirits were summoned, the community was granted a melting pot for artistic political activism, and the spark that brought attention to the active underground community of Pomona was ignited, later birthing the Pomona Arts Colony.

As the idea of lush art bars and vibrantly colored galleries lining San Bernardino streets resonates in your mind, let us look at the true availability of this supposed pipe dream and examine the pieces of this renovation we currently have, and identify the ones we are missing. That is what the many representatives of the San Bernardino County arts community did at their recent Group Connect.

Ernie Garcia, with seasoned work as the President of the San Bernardino Valley Concert Association (which sponsored the evening) and the National Orange Show Art Gallery, sat amongst representative of the new era of art enthusiasts, Brandon Aguilera, Coordinator of art collective Zealous Lyfe and guiding force behind San Bernardino Generation Now, a political collective working to bridge the gap between age and voter participation.

The impressive pool of individuals, led by Arts Connection’s Andy Woods, specializing in differing sectors of the arts community examined ideas to rejuvenate San Bernardino such as monthly art tours highlighting historic San Bernardino cites, a city mural project, art in the park, the implementation of artist lofts for housing and work space, and the notion of a television broadcasting endeavor to chronicle the existing art community with the intention of attracting an even larger one.

My view from the back of the room, notepad in hand, listening to muralist Phil Yeh speak on his current mural of San Bernardino County at the historic McDonald’s inception site, following my conversation with Maria Saenz, President of Sinfonia Mexicana, which has a music academy giving youth the opportunity to learn and play instruments as well as adding the extra value of creativity to their development of self-awareness, dually inspired me to believe that the conversation starts here and now.

The demand is present—knowledgeable individuals with the resources to instill real change are waiting for the arts community to make its presence known. Splash paint on canvas in a way that demands attention, write prose to rival Hunter S. Thompson on his best day—San Bernardino is not an eye sore, nor is it a burden—it is a community, an opportunity, and an investment towards an enlightened future for this community and neighboring communities alike.



Many businesses talk about giving back to their communities. Cardenas Markets actually does so.  Every year, the San Bernardino County-based grocery chain thanks the community for its patronage by inviting them, gratis, to Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway to enjoy a day filled with music and food at “Festival Cardenas.”

Entering the seventh annual festival on Sunday, attendees were greeted by workers serving generous portions of traditional Mexican pastries from elaborate displays, including a Día de los Muertos altar; a Rosca de Reyes so large it spanned several tables; and a monstrous Halloween cake decorated to look like a graveyard. The grandiosity of the food offerings matched the caliber of the entertainment lineup, which transitioned from up-and-coming artists to some of the most illustrious stars in the regional Mexican music world.

A cartoonish singing rooster called “El Chichicuilote” opened the stage. Next up were: Torres Musical, an energetic norteño group comprised of siblings from Ontario; Daisy Sanchez, an elegant ranchera singer; and the popular banda singer El Chalinillo.

Between performers, local personalities made cameo appearances while “DJ Virtual” of San Bernardino threw hundreds of CD’s into the audience. There was never a boring moment.

Lunch was served in the form of large pieces of a 1,000-foot burrito created by Cardenas employees.

Headliners dominated the afternoon. Graciela Beltrán’s spectacular performance proved why many consider her “The Queen of Banda Music.” Roberto Tapia charmed audience members with a mix of his hit love ballads and narcocorridos.

The legendary Los Tigres del Norte concluded the festival, singing as many hits as possible from their 45-year career. Their dynamism was evident onstage in their creative rhythms, socially critical lyrics, and venerable bearing, making it easy to see why they remain at the top of their genre.

By five o’clock, I couldn’t believe eight hours had passed so quickly. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.



The youth of San Bernardino have taken the anger and frustration created by stifled opportunities and misguided leadership of entrusted politicians, and are now fueling and fine-tuning the plan of attack that will be used in regaining control of the city.

“I’ve lived in cockroach-infested homes, lived day to day on welfare, and you have the audacity to tell me at 14 years old I had not seen enough of the world to know what I believe in?”

18-year-old San Bernardino resident Erika Ruiz opened the October 20th Turn Up the Vote event with a descriptive and emotional poem.

Hosted by political arts activist group San Bernardino Generation Now, the event was a family friendly art and music festival that also offered an open invitation for city council candidates to address their community on some of the very apparent and pressing needs of the people.

The above words by Ruiz are just a small excerpt of her emotionally fueled poem, which included several choice words for the “you” she mentions in her elegantly written ode to the city council.

Of the current 11 mayoral candidates, Karmel Roe, Rikke Van Johnson, Richard T. Castro and Concepcion Powell, were present for the event. Each addressed the audience in short, informal speeches with information on their political platforms and main goals. (To review speeches from all 11 mayoral candidates and better aid in making an informed decision come Election Day, please go to

Intertwined in the political activity, several of the community’s finest graffiti artists attracted some major foot traffic. With their own stylized interpretation of themes relating to San Bernardino and the efforts involved in its renewal, they documented several words of not only encouragement, but of accountability. “Educate the Youth,” writes artist Stain as he finishes off the last addition to his piece. Behind him, artists Luigi Valarezo and Chris Garcia discuss the finishing touches to their visually demanding mini mural denoting the word, “CREATE,” as Gilbert G909 gives one last touch to the word “VOTE.” Farthest left of the group, artist BEHVSE is hard at work on his monochrome rendition of the words “SAN BERDOO.” “It’s a community given name and term of endearment almost,” responds BEHVSE.

As the crowd grows wider around them and the reminiscent hum of aerosol cans fill my ears, it is made achingly apparent that here and now is where change will occur if it is to take place—with those who will in follow in Erika Ruiz’s vocal lead, and those who will champion for accountable demands like Stain and his peers.



It was obvious the day would be one to remember as the dunk tank was shuffled in over the rolling green lawn. Over 200 attendees tuned in as music rang from bass filled speakers while visitors extended beach towels in preparation of what one attendee referred to as, “San Bernardino’s own mini Coachella Festival.”

The stage, haloed by a field of iconically California-esque palm trees, hosted 10 hours of non-stop performances for the crowd to dance to—and that they did.

The second annual End of Summer Festival (EOSF), which took place in San Bernardino at the historic Wigwam Motels, showcased some of our community’s most determined young talents. Live artistry ranging from breakers, taggers, painters, and everything in between, met alongside innovative clothing vendors and merged with a fist full of some of the hottest music performances around.

Black Rosette, photographed above, shared the stage with new talents to grace this year’s lineup including What Hands Are For, Ramone Jones, and Zentonic. Returning highlighted artists include VCR Monster, Gatsby, and several performances from Inland Empire based music label, Black Cloud Music.

The inspired thinkers behind End of Summer Festival are dedicated to making the arts scene of our community as inclusive as possible. By presenting events that combine ingenuity into our culture, they are finding new ways to independently bridge the gap between what their talents can do, and what they will do to affect our community for years to come. Keep a watchful eye out for the next wave of bright ideas to come out of this batch of creative collectives.