New Elsie Allen High School mural honors Pomo culture

The idea for the “Spirit of Healing” mural that promotes cultural awareness was thought up a decade ago.|

A colorful student-made mural honoring Pomo culture and history was unveiled at Elsie Allen High School Thursday evening.

The approximately 25-by-100-foot mural, called “Spirit of Healing,” depicts traditional dancing, singing and Pomo way of life amid a radiant sunset and crashing waves.

“Community murals offer a small slice of an opportunity to better understand people, culture and their stories,” said Jennifer Tatum, the creative director at ArtStart, a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit focused on educational arts.

She said the mural unveiling, which featured Pomo and Aztec dancers, was more of a prayer and a celebration of cultures, rather than a performance. The dancers blessed the mural and Elsie Allen High School Principal Gabe Albavera spoke to those gathered.

Murals like the “Spirit of Healing” lead students to become more self-confident and part of the community, while providing the public with a way to further understand the cultures that make up Sonoma County’s diverse community, Tatum said.

“This was truly, truly a community-oriented project,” said Barbara Ihde, the vice board president of ArtStart.

Ihde said the mural project was a collaboration between the school’s art students and art teacher, the Pomo Project, an organization that honors and celebrates Pomo culture and ArtStart.

The artist, Joe Salinas, a Kashia Pomo member and founder of the Pomo Dancers of Sonoma County, came up with the idea for the mural 10 years ago.

Over 50 volunteers, apprentices, students and local artists spanning three generations worked together to make Salinas’s vision come to life, according to an ArtStart news release.

“There was representation from so many walks of life and multiple generations,” Tatum said. “It was lovely,”

You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or On Twitter @alana_minkler.

Alana Minkler

Breaking news & general assignment reporter, The Press Democrat

The world is filled with stories that inspire compassion, wonder, laughs and even tears. As a Press Democrat reporter covering breaking news, tribes and youth, it’s my goal to give others a voice to share these stories.

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