A new mural in North Fair Oaks proclaiming to the community — and especially the North Fair Oaks Community School students who helped paint it — that “I am Somebody/Soy Alguien” was unveiled this afternoon during a lively celebration.

The brightly colored mural, dotted with poppies and bearing the positive message in both English and Spanish, was created by artist Nico Berry on the previously empty wall at 2890 Fair Oaks Avenue. The piece is the latest art installation commissioned by the North Fair Oaks Public Art Workgroup which previously spearheaded the painting of utility boxes and life-size welcome signs. The mural is meant to not only beautify the area but also speak to those who call it home.

“My hope for the mural is that it is a message of inspiration, as well as a reaffirmation of the strength and value of the community and its members here in North Fair Oaks. I also hope the mural serves as a reminder that we stand for each other, even in times of political and economic instability,” Berry said.

Berry began painting the mural in mid-January and last month invited students to pick up a paint brush alongside him. The student involvement didn’t end there; fifth-graders were asked to pen essays about what the mural means to them and four were chosen to read their work at the March 3, 2017, celebration.

The student’s words were as powerful as the art that inspired them: “The mural is the best thing that has ever happened here.” “I think the mural is important because some people get bullied and need something or someone to remind them that they are someone.” “I think this mural is very important for the community.” “It is important to the school and the neighborhood because they want people to know that they can be what they want and the students can be a vet or whatever they want to be.”

The mural and other projects in that community are spearheaded by North Fair Oaks Forward, an effort coordinated by the San Mateo County Manager’s Office in partnership with the North Fair Oaks Community Council and several community-based organizations. Initiated by Supervisor Warren Slocum whose District Four includes the neighborhood, NFO Forward is dedicated to involving residents with initiatives to enhance the quality of life.

Assistant County Manager Mike Callagy, speaking at the celebration, said that the mural is an important piece of that goal.

“This art is as unique and amazing as this community and these students. I’m proud to be among the first to see it and I hope everybody in our county can visit it themselves because its message is one that should resonate with each of us,” Callagy said.