Irvine’s Oldest Hotel Provides Canvas for Young Artist

By John Fredricks
John Fredricks
John Fredricks
John Fredricks is a California-based journalist for The Epoch Times. His reportage and photojournalism features have been published in a variety of award-winning publications around the world.
September 16, 2021 Updated: September 21, 2021

While looking at a blank white wall near the John Wayne Airport, 18-year-old University High School student Roy Kim from Irvine, California, saw the possibility to create a masterpiece.

He took his vision a step further by incorporating the involvement of younger students and contemplating how he could guide them on their artistic journey through the nonprofit organization Access to Art.

“I feel like the arts isn’t necessarily a priority in schools budget-wise,” Kim told The Epoch Times.

“At Access to Art, we offer to go to schools and create after-school art lessons. It offers an opportunity to creatively express themselves, and any exposure they have with the arts can help them broaden their future and basically see what they can do with it.”

Epoch Times Photo
Roy Kim and Tracy Newton shake hands in front of the New Wave mural at the Atrium Hotel in Irvine, Calif. on Sept. 8, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Sharing a Passion

Kim, who comes from a family of artists, often tosses around the idea with them that art is in his blood. He serves on the board at Access to Art, which originally started as a club at University High School with two basic goals:

“[It] provides volunteer opportunities for high school students, and it provides art education for the younger children. Our volunteers choose an art theme for each month, and then we create,” he said.

While growing up in the suburbs of Orange County, Kim never considered art as a professional career. It was during his sophomore year of high school while taking his first art class when his passions as an artist developed into something he knew he wanted to pursue in the years ahead of him.

“I realized that is something I want to do during that class. Now, I’m applying to colleges and universities as an art major.”

When the 2020 coronavirus pandemic sent him and his fellow students home to learn in a quarantined environment, Kim soon found that the volunteer art opportunities decreased. This ignited within him the desire to continue to serve his community with his passion for art.

Epoch Times Photo
Tracy Newton stands at the front desk of the Atrium Hotel in Irvine, Calif., on Sept. 8, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

An Unlikely Partnership

When The Atrium Hotel’s new director of sales and marketing, Tracy Newton, started her role during the middle of the pandemic, the idea to beautify the property of Irvine’s oldest hotel came following a conversation with her supervisor, after she noticed the hotel’s blank walls could pave the way for artistic creations.

“It’s really interesting because when I first started the search for an artist, I had a few already skilled professionals that were introduced to me, but I felt that this would be a huge opportunity to let some students shine with their work!” Newton told The Epoch Times.

“I felt it was important to bring the community into the fold and give the youth a chance to really showcase what they have. They were already cut short because of the pandemic and there were a lot of social things that they’ll never get back as part of their developmental stage of life.”

With both parties seeking a mutual means of bringing creativity to their community during the hardships of the pandemic, City of Irvine officials connected The Atrium Hotel with Kim’s request to volunteer the skills of Access to Art.

“His proposal was so professional, and he knocked it out of the park,” Newton said.

“Roy and his students couldn’t have been a better match, and you’ll see it for yourself in how this mural turned out.”

Newton then connected Kim with The Atrium Hotel management team to present his proposal and the vision he had for the art piece ahead.

“He put together his costs and really handled himself. The arts are kind of seen as not a career by many, and I love the fact he really professionally took the initiative and made this work with the team. My hat’s off to him!”

Epoch Times Photo
The New Wave mural at the Atrium Hotel in Irvine, Calif. on Sept. 8, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A Mural Like None Other

After finding the right spot to begin painting the mural on a highly visible wall near the hotel’s parking area, Kim, whose vision for the piece was stimulated by complications he and his community faced during the pandemic, added cool-based colors to a dreamy visual that started with the center subject of a home. The home appears to be unable to contain the ideas and dreams that flow throughout the environment around it.

“I think during the pandemic, a lot of people felt this uncomfortableness, and very confining. There were a lot of confining situations in which people couldn’t go out and do simple things in life. So part of this mural, it talks about, or it kind of celebrates how we’re kind of transitioning from that period of confinement into a more normalized lifestyle,” Kim shared.

“But as we do that, we should still reconsider our relationship with nature and how we’ve become so dependent on mechanical processes over it.”

Flowing from the colors of the home, Kim and children in the Access to Art program created the symbolism of growth through a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, and becoming one with nature again.

“When Tracy first connected me to create a mural, I didn’t want it just to be a simple decoration on the wall. I still wanted it to have a meaning and impact, because I think that’s the most important aspect of art.”

Epoch Times Photo
Roy Kim stands in front of the New Wave mural at the Atrium Hotel in Irvine, Calif. on Sept. 8, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The final piece, finished in the first week of September, is roughly 9-by-15 feet and perfectly bordered by two narrow palm trees. Arriving within the month is a metallic plaque that will display the title of the painting, “New Wave – Let Your Dreams Take Flight,” and a description:

“Like a new wave, we flow from the recent confines; we find ourselves experiencing an exciting cultural metamorphosis. While the world around us is transforming, so are we.

“It is important to reflect on the simple pleasures of life, the pursuit of our dreams, celebration of nature and the need for personal growth, while keeping a close eye on the balance between nature and the mechanical components in life.

“The subtle undertones of  New Wave display nature delicately intertwined with the mechanical modernization of our environment.

“Greeted with the beauty and rhythm of nature, we flow organically into a new and exciting wave of adventure, by simply letting our dreams take flight.”

Newton said with a smile, “For me, I just hope that the arts continue this nonprofit and that any other students out there stay involved and have an opportunity to shine their artistic and creative outlets, because it really is important.”

“I hope this is the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship.”

John Fredricks is a California-based journalist for The Epoch Times. His reportage and photojournalism features have been published in a variety of award-winning publications around the world.