We interrupt this Guatemala Service Project with… Murals!

By Morgan Bricca August 30, 2019

Unveiling 15 New Murals at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds

This year, the Santa Clara County Fair turns 75. To celebrate the big event, which starts today, the fairgrounds has commissioned fifteen local artists to create fifteen 20’ wide murals, each celebrating a town in Santa Clara County. I am honored to represent Los Altos! As a whole, we are retro folk, happy to retain our “small town” feel. Combined with top-notch schools, Los Altos is famous as “A great place to raise a family.” I wanted to capture the feeling of a carefree childhood in the mural. Our family is blessed to have an enormous pecan tree in our backyard. When we moved in 12 years ago, we attached a looooong rope swing. With a few strong pushes, the arc of the swing covers the entire width of the backyard. Since T.V. and junk food were banned in our house (I would have changed our last name to “Ingalls” to honor my ideal family from Little House on the Prairie if I could have), it was the big attraction of our house. Besides, what fun is a childhood that doesn’t involve risking life and limb for a thrill? I found a photo of Allie on the swing when she was about six years old. I layered that on top of a vintage “Lots for Sale” map of the city. When I showed my next-door neighbor, and longtime resident the design she said, “Where’s the apricots?” A mural of Los Altos wouldn’t be complete without apricots.

The new murals will become a permanent part of the fairgrounds. The event runs through the weekend, and the daily schedule is here. Come for the animals, the music, and the murals. Tonight the entry fee is only 75¢. I will be hanging out in front of the mural tonight, Thursday 8/1, from 5:30-7 pm. Stop by and say hello!

Murals in Vuelta Grande, Guatemala

My daughter Allie is now 15. The big smile persists but the rope swing has been replaced by a trampoline, which our danger bunny uses to perfect her gymnastics stunts. Allie and I recently spent a week together in Guatemala on a service trip organized through Dream Volunteers. During a video conference call shortly before we left, they let us know that on this trip volunteers would be working on laying the floor for a new classroom, so we would be shoveling dirt to level up the floor, and also mixing and spreading concrete. In a thinly veiled attempt to evade hard labor, I offered to paint a mural in the classroom. They were skeptical; I am probably not the first volunteer to make a fast calculation of the bugs, the heat and dirt in my lungs and offer myself up for an easier task. To help persuade them, I sent them to my website. They got back to me that a mural would be awesome for the new classroom.

In Vuelta Grande, a half hour drive from Antigua, nearly every female child stops going to school after sixth grade, if they make it that far. When girls stop going to school, they usually help with household chores, look after younger siblings or begin working as domestic servants, or are arranged to be married, starting families of their own at very young ages. We visited a typical home in Vuelta Grande and met Manuela, who gave us a “house tour”. Manuela didn’t receive and education and married young. She was warm and full of smiles, and a shy six-year-old daughter was wrapped around her leg, her fifth child. Her daughter stayed home alone when she went to work at a nearby orchard a few hours each morning, but Manuela said maybe next year she would send her daughter to school. Manuela’s kitchen was a windowless dirt floor hut with no running water, the air thick with smoke from the wood fire she tended all day long for cooking. The second structure had a mostly dirt floor and three mattresses for the family of 7. The new classroom Dream Volunteers built at the school sits in stark contrast to the primitive dwellings of the families that surround it. It is large and flooded with natural light, and features concrete floors, desks, schools supplies and now, the colorful mural. The physical environment can influence culture. In this case, to coax otherwise reticent parents to value education and send their kids to school. A beautiful, cared for space is a natural pull for children and parents alike.

Here is video footage of the classroom we worked on finishing during our time in Vuelta Grande. The artwork was inspired by a hand-stitched design on a traditional blouse. The Quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala. One of the two volcanoes featured in the mural is active, and the lava flows can be seen at night – from a distance.

The painting crew, the students, and a view of the newly built classroom from the outside.

Before Dream Volunteers became involved with education in the community, secondary education was not offered in the small hill town of Vuelta Grande. Paying for uniforms, books, tuition, and transportation for girls to go to secondary school in Antigua, a thirty minute drive, was a substantial hurdle for the families. Dream Volunteers provided scholarships for the school expenses, and arranged a bus to take the students there. They slowly recruited girls into the program. One graduate of the Young Dreamers School, Amarilis, went on a few afternoon outings with the volunteers, and I learned more about her story. She was raised in a primitive home to parents without formal education. She graduated from high school 2 years ago through a Dream Volunteers scholarship. She is now in the middle of her second year of law school, with a focus on women’s rights. Wow! What an accomplishment. But that’s not all:  what Amarilis accomplishes is a singular data point for all the families who have girls younger than her, who are weighing whether to let their daughters receive an education or not. Her accomplishments inspire the other “young dreamers” to puruse their own dreams as well.

She is breaking new ground for her entire community. Her accomplishment, and similar stories of other young women I met, would not be possible without the efforts of Dream Volunteers.

Young Dreamers School in Antigua

We spent the last part of our trip at the Young Dreamers school in Antigua. They had a beautiful wall prepared for a mural. The mural was completed by our five person crew in just seven hours!

Team Effort: Christian and Christopher, Guatemalan artists, painted the Mayan calendar element. My daughter, Allie, painted the girls huipil. The lettering was painted by Jessica, a fellow volunteer and a grade school teacher. Right, a view of the ‘Young Dreamers’ campus.

Christian, the English teacher at Young Dreamers School, is a talented artist and wordsmith who came up with the words for the mural, “Tus sus suenos enriquezan a los míos…” which translates roughly as: “Your dreams enrich my own…”

If you are interested a service trip for your family or teenager, I highly recommend Dream Volunteers! They run trips in six different countries. Next summer Allie wants to go on the teen trip to Vietnam. My danger bunny is ready to travel without me. Sigh.

Educating Girls and Climate Change

A few months ago I watched a TED Talk by Greta Thunberg, a young climate change activist from Sweden. I was deeply moved by the urgency of her message. What I realized from her talk is that doing something (as opposed to occasional hand wringing followed by doing nothing) is a moral obligation, even if I am only selfishly motivated, because it will create a significant negative impact on the lives of my children and grandchildren. It is that immediate. Her talk was enough to transform me into a climate change activist. After a few weeks of panic, I have settled into a fired up soldier, ready to help the cause however I can.

I was surprised to learn in the book Drawdown, (edited by Paul Hawken, read it.) that out of 100 existing solutions to mitigate climate change, educating girls ranks as the sixth largest impact. If you combine educating girls with increased adoption of reproductive healthcare and family planning (they correlate closely), together they would create THE LARGEST potential carbon offset, by far. It turn outs that when girls recieve a secondary education, it delays motherhood, lowers infant mortality, enables entire families to become more resilient to economic, medical and environmental calamity, and gives women more voice in family structure, including in number of children they will have. Educating girls in low and low-middle income countries should be a top priority if we want to slow climate change. It turns out it is also one of the least expensive solutions.

Our futures are intertwined. Truly, your dreams enrich my own.

Back to the TED talk : I am so moved by Greta Thunberg’s urgent message, I would like to paint a mural of that features her wit a quote somewhere in the Bay Area. I have found a sponsor but have not yet found the right wall. If you know of a street-facing wall where I might be able to paint a mural of Greta, please let me know.


“Greta Mural” mock-up

If These Walls Could Talk: Two New Podcasts

It’s been a big month of murals, of learning and teamwork. Thank you for reading this far, and letting me share everything I am excited about. I know it’s a lot! But wait, there is more…

Listen Up!

In this interview I ask the San Jose Director of Public Art, Michael Ogilvie to ask, “How do you craft a successful public art program for one of the fastest growing cities in the country?” Listen and learn!

Juan Carlos Araujo, artist, owner of Empire Seven Studios, and coordinator of three Pow Wow mural festivals in San Jose, has the pulse on street art in San Jose. We dive into the complicated matter of making a living vs. art as community service, discuss all things Pow Wow, as well as the art of winning over mural skeptics.

I am super excited to share these interviews with you. Just like my murals, I feel like each effort, each episode gets better. These interviews are both honest and unpredictable. Let me know what you think!

See you at the fair tonight?

Warm regards,


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