Shelter, Safety, and Being Seen

By Morgan Bricca February 28, 2019

Mural Art Transforms a LifeMoves Shelter in San Jose

I spent the past week painting with a team of professional mural artists painting at The Julian Inn, a facility run by the Bay Area based non-profit LifeMoves. The Julian Inn has a month-long waitlist for one of its 80 beds and offers 90-day shelter to those who are homeless. Although about half of the 750 individuals that LiveMoves serves in all its bay area locations on a given night are children, The Julian Inn location serves adults only and provides 3 meals a day and programming to support the resident’s transition to stable lives and long term self-sufficiency.

The LifeMoves management impressed me with their wholehearted enthusiasm for this beautification project. We started out with a facilities walk-through with the center director, Lindsy, the facilities manager, Antonio, and the Vice President of Real Estate and Operations for Life Moves, Joanne. We identified the dining room and entryway courtyard area as places that could benefit from art.

I was also seeking shelter myself, in a way. I had scheduled a mural painting workshop for the week, but all of the walls I had lined up for the event were exterior exposed walls, and the forecast threatened rain all week. LifeMoves organized all the logistics for me in short order with trusting in my process and the team I would bring to execute the work.

My students and I sat down with the center director Monday morning and learned about the history of the space, how it was used, and what her hope was for the artwork. The words that came up the most were “safety”, “sanctuary” and “welcome”. My students and I spent an hour sketching and batting around different ideas before we came up with our design. We pitched it to Lindsy and she loved it and we were at our brushes the same day.

The sunset idea was an opportunity to bring a warm panoply of color into the room, a simple expression of a new beginning and also be interpreted as a refuge at the end of the day. The wheat around the sides and the fruit blossoms alluded to the purpose of the room, providing three meals a day. Give us this day our daily bread.

A week spent in good company is never a week wasted. My awesome team included:

Jordi Cardenas hails from the Netherlands and received a scholarship from the Reynolds Foundation to take the class. He has worked in restoration while developing his fine art. He had only painted 6 murals before the class but realized that mural painting perfectly fused his skills and interests, so that is now his creative focus.

Miguel de la Rosa is a bay area chalk art specialist, mostly signs for businesses, but now branching out into larger scale mural work. He is king with the lettering, so this week I stretched his comfort zone and kept him on flowers and balloons. 😉   Find him on Instagram at miguelchalksigns.

Toni Miraldi hails from Connecticut where she runs Mural Envy , which creates clean and colorful illustrative style murals in, predominantly in public and commercial spaces. She spent a career in interior design before switching over the fun of mural art.

Jorge Juarez is based in San Jose and runs Koichi Arts with his partner Mark Marquez. They specialize in murals with a modern, pop-art style as well as graffiti art.

The team was rounded out by Lane Pianta , who contributed substantially to the artwork but by profession is a grant writer. He is developing a curriculum for a mural painting program for at-risk youth in Redwood City. He provided great insights to the group about the grant writing process, and the opportunities available there, and we made sure he got some paint on his clothes.

I am so proud of these artists for investing in their careers, to learn new techniques and business ideas. I am also proud of the legacy we left as a team, the dining room and courtyard transformed with art.

Left to right: Lane Pianta, Miguel de la Rosa, Jordi Cardenas, Toni Miraldi, Morgan Bricca and Jorge Juarez

Each morning we spent an hour talking about how to better share our art and make a living doing it, and then we would launch into the painting. Each student already has a well developed individual style, but was willing to embrace the loose, painterly style I favor; leveraging a large brush and great enthusiasm, and letting the work emerge from the layering of colors.

The Julian Inn serves the members of our community facing life’s most difficult challenges, Many of the residents are struggling with addiction or mental illness, and all are struggling to find a foothold of stability in life.

I would like to dedicate these murals to the center director, Lindsy, who shows up with clear integrity to support the residents to feel seen, welcome, and to get the support they need. She is a jewel who is not jaded. There are lots of cushy job to be had with someone with Lindsy’s skills, and instead she has chosen to make a difference in a part of our world most of us would prefer to not see.

Putting color on the concrete columns made a big difference.

Last year, 89% of families and 73% of individuals completing LifeMoves interim shelter programs successfully returned to stable housing, equipped with the life skills and competencies needed to maintain long-term self-sufficiency.


I was reminded on this project that my comfort zone could use a little expanding. I felt ashamed when I realized I am frequently guilty of not making an effort to reach out to individuals who have low visibility in the community. The discomfort, inconvenience of me noticing the edge of my comfort zone, is robbing another human being of experiencing the dignity of being seen. A smile, a hello, being seen, is oxygen for our humanity. I am reminded of how I used to avoid eye contact and interacting with teenagers in public spaces. Crazy makers, fear of being teased, a bundle of biases, all very subtle but enough to deter me from making a connection with teenagers I didn’t know. Now that I have teenagers, and l now know them to be complicated and amazing and sensitive to how they are seen and treated by adults. The familiarity of their struggle is there. These days when I see a teenager, I am more likely to offer a smile, an “I see you, and you’re alright” nod.

I have a family member I love dearly who has struggled with homelessness. It is my love for that person, the familiarity, that gave me a foothold to expand my comfort zone last week. It took a few days, but I started making better eye contact, learned a few names, handed out more high fives. Our brains get short-circuted by shame. If we are gentle on ourselves, and remember it is more likely just a small case of the unfamiliar, we can stop being part of the problem, and instead become part of the solution.

If homelessness in the bay area is an issue that concerns you, something you can do is volunteer or donate to LifeMoves.

Wishing for you shelter. Wishing for you safety. Wishing for you to feel seen.

With love,

P.S. Check out my latest podcast with Chris Beth , Director of Parks and Rec in Redwood City about how public art has helped to transform that community.

Morgan Bricca

Morgan Bricca

Morgan Bricca is a mural artist living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her clients run the gamut from professional creatives, including architects and designers to building owners, school administrators and community advocates. When she is not making art, Morgan enjoys sipping boba tea with her kids and taking naps on the couch.


Our entire staff enthusiastically appreciates the artistic transformation of our clinic. The kids here for medical services LOVE the murals as well. One of our young patients returned from emergency psychiatric services for a self-harm issue and when she came into our office she had a huge smile upon seeing the mural. It is amazing to all of us how immediately a depressed patient responded to the mural art.

It has been a pleasure to work with you. We love both your work and the positive environment and spirit you have instilled in our kids.  Once again Morgan, thank you so very much from the bottom of my heart.

Warm regards,

Chia-Chen Lee
Juvenile Hall Medical Clinic Pediatrics

Review for Juvenile Hall Mural Project by Chia-Chen Lee

Morgan blew it out of the water.  As a general contractor, I would say my decision to hire Morgan for this mural is one of the best decisions I have made in terms of impact of my work.  Every kid will remember this mural as long as he or she shall live. Watching a child see the mural for the first time is an experience words can’t describe. It’s mesmerizing to them. Adults too, for that matter. It’s a show stopper.  So much better than I could have ever imagined.

I would go out of my very busy way to recommend Ms. Morgan Bricca on every possible level, with no hesitation. Please feel free to call me if you are considering hiring Morgan but can’t quite take the leap. I will be glad to push you in.

Chris Carver
Aquatic Management Group
Raleigh, North Carolina

Mural artist review by Chris Carver

Morgan offers a unique collaborative approach with her clients. On our project, she struck the perfect balance; she listened to our ideas and feedback but very much maintained her role as the creative expert, making us feel comfortable the entire time.

I would absolutely recommend Morgan with no hesitation. With all that she has done, she is going to find the right approach for just about any client.

Jonathan Meyer
VP, Marketing and Community Relations
San Mateo Credit Union

Mural painter review by Jonathan Meyer

We absolutely love our mural! I anticipated that it would add beauty and a much-needed “nature element” onto our campus, I never could have imagined what a huge impact this would have on our school. I have seen countless children, parents, and teachers walk by in awe, totally captivated. Not only does it make our campus a brighter, more beautiful place to learn and play, it reminds our entire community of the tremendous importance of art. This is a gift beyond measure, especially in tech-obsessed silicon valley. Once again, you have exceeded my (already high) expectations!

You are so fun, inspiring and professional to work with and your projects in our kinder yard and now this mural have been my most satisfying collaborations on PTA.


Christy Flahavan
PTA President
Springer Elementary School

Mural Artist Review for Springer Elementary School by Christy Flahavan

The real value and pleasure of working with Morgan was that we connected with her. She was very personable, very sincere, very collaborative, but not one to sit back and let us lead it in a wrong direction. We trusted her completely from the past work she had done for us, and told her, “here is a wall, do something with it – surprise us.” It’s like dealing with a friend.

The murals she has created for us make our home more intimate, warm, and personal. I was surprised at how quickly she worked, how easily it got done, and how watching the process was enlightening. It just flowed; it was like watching a very large masterpiece being created before our very eyes. It was especially interesting when she got into the tonality and the tints. For us, it turned out better than we could have expected. I absolutely recommend her without a doubt.

Mural Painter Review by Sandy Bland

Morgan, the mural you created for our building has been a major attraction for both locals and visitors in Downtown Napa. The transformation of an eye sore, to a work of art, has been nothing short of amazing. I feel a little guilty receiving so many compliments for your work, however that doesn’t stop me from stealing part of your credit. Your attention to detail and sensitivity, bringing the Wappo tribe into the process, unified Napa’s residents with its history. This public recognition of the Wappo Indians is long overdue, reminding us all of a different time in the Napa Valley when nature and people could live harmoniously.

Every day, as I watch children and adults transported to an earlier time in the Napa Valley, I appreciate your ability to be the vehicle for their journey. I hope soon you will return to sprinkle some more fairy dust on another wall, so I can watch your magic talented creations at work.

Thank You,
Michael L Holcomb

Mural Artist Review by Michael L Holcomb

Hi Morgan,

We had an end of the school year party at our house and everyone raved about your mural. I see your name and date, 2012, on it and can’t believe it was 4 years ago.

Just wanted you to know it brings me joy every day.

Josh Weinstock

Mural Artist Review by Josh Weinstock

I have worked with Morgan on five mural projects at our house over the past six years. I love her work and she is a pleasure to work with. Once you see how transformed your space is by the first mural, it is easy to start seeing other rooms that could benefit from a “Morgan”.

Susan Wojicki
CEO, YouTube

Mural Painter Review by Susan Wojicki

Morgan’s work is exquisite. She loves what she does, works extremely fast, and is a true pleasure to work with.

David DaPonte
Architect, HKS

Mural Painter Review by David DaPonte

Without fail, anytime someone comes to our house who hasn’t seen the painting, they comment on it and how much they like it.

Adam King
Director, Intel Corporation


Mural Painter Review by Adam King