History of SOL Club and story of "The Painted Chairs"

Learn about the SOL Club History

The Story

It was 1994. A gang problem had emerged at Lawrence Cook Junior high School in the Roseland neighborhood of Santa Rosa.

At first, the staff and administration were unaware of the extent of the problem.
Adele herself, a “perfectly assimilated Mexican American”, did not have experience with gang culture.

Walking to her classroom in late September, Adele noticed the "colors" for the first time.

She saw groups of students wearing bright red clothes and other groups of students wearing blue. These kids stood in silent tension in the quad near her art room.

Fights began erupting on campus, but there were no strategies or resources to resolve the problem.

Adele had a creative idea to unite the opposing groups with an art project. 

One day, during her art class, Adele offered an old wooden chair to Alicia and another one to Gustavo, two popular student leaders, and asked them to “paint their culture” on these chairs.

They both agreed to take on the project... together. As they continued to paint the chairs during lunch, their friends started hanging out in the art room, watching the creations unfold. Soon the art room was filled with students at lunch, where students peacefully painted, but the fighting outside continued.

During one of these lunchtime gatherings, another student, Omar, came to Adele and suggested starting a club. A club that would honor culture, promote harmony and continue to create art.

Omar suggested the name: SOL : "Socially Organized Latinos" (also the Spanish word for sun).

That’s how it began. 

The students created art throughout the school. Adele invited local community leaders and former gang members as guest speakers. They traveled to other schools and educational forums to share their story. They had little fiestas, lowrider bike shows, fundraisers, canned food drives, art shows, dances, and Cinco de Mayo celebrations. 

Working on all these projects together, the colors of their clothing started to fade.

The one rule of the SOL Club was that there would be absolutely no gang related fights on campus or else the SOL Club would be dissolved... and the fighting stopped. 

SOL Club became a flourishing, thriving community filled with cultural pride, art and celebration.

The dream of combining art and culture as a way of establishing harmony and violence prevention had become reality. 

Two student leaders of the original SOL Club are now local community leaders. Omar Medina is a Santa Rosa City Schools Trustee and Gustavo Mendoza is the Outreach Specialist for the City of  Santa Rosa.

A year ago, we had an idea. What if we created SOL Club again for a new generation of kids? This time, including performing arts as well as visual arts. The goal would be to create community, honor culture and encourage a lifelong interest in the arts. 

Now here we are. We are very grateful for your support today and for the enthusiasm and encouragement we have received from the community.

Let's build a new SOL Club Community Arts program!