The Semilla Center for Healing and the Arts grew out of the Semilla Arts Program developed by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Semilla means seed in Spanish, and the goal of the program was to plant seeds of hope in the community. This took place in many forms: planting pollinator-attracting gardens, preparing youth for leadership and employment, and above all, engaging people in creating art to transform the neighborhood. In 2006, we painted our first “Guerrilla Garage” mural as a response to graffiti in the neighborhood. That has grown to 25 murals in Phillips and beyond. We also began a partnership with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, co-producing La Natividad, a bilingual telling of the Christmas story from the point of view of an immigrant family in the neighborhood.
Soon the program expanded to teaching mosaics and developing a working studio at St. Paul’s. We started the “God’s Backyard” youth photography project. We began to partner with neighborhood groups and schools.