A different kind of tree will be installed in front of Arroyo Grande High School next month, one that the Five Cities Diversity Coalition hopes will serve as an important reminder of the community’s diversity.
The 11-foot fiberglass and metal statue — shaped to look like a tree, with the leaves and branches forming a globe and the words “heritage,” “individuality,” “culture,” “unity,” “community,” “education,” “diversity” and “peace” stamped across the base — will be unveiled June 1.
Coalition secretary Rudy Xavier said the statue will “serve as a prominent public symbol of the need for an understanding and acceptance of the equality of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and all the physical and mental abilities, comprising our individual identities, as well as a constant reminder that this equality is an essential component of any proud, peaceful and prosperous community.”
The statue has been in the works since 2014. It was designed by three now former Arroyo Grande High School students with the help of local sculptor Jim Trask.
When it was first proposed, the coalition envisioned a piece of public art partly in response to a 2011 incident in which four people placed a burning cross in the yard next to the home of a biracial family, which was then seen by the family’s teenage daughter through her window. Four people, three men and one woman, were later convicted of arson, terrorism and committing a hate crime.
The statue was entirely funded by the coalition and donations from the community, including the Central Coast Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Tranz Central Coast.
If you go:
The statue will be unveiled in front of Arroyo Grande High School, 495 Valley Road, at 12:30 p.m.