The emcee cut the music but hands continued to clap on beat. Rapper Rocky Angelini breathed heavily and smiled, his short set complete. The sky was getting darker, with hues of blue and a hint of blazing orange sunlight peeking out from over the top of the Nealley Library. The air was crisp and cold; the crowd’s claps gradually grew stronger in anticipation of the next act. They huddled around three rappers: ALäZ, Brian to Earth and Rocky Angelini, all members of The Coollab Project.
“Santa Ana, are you ready?” ALäZ yelled before launching into a series of improvised verses, rapped over the beat kept by the crowd.
ALäZ’s rhymes closed out Santa Ana College’s first Art Festival, which transformed the amphitheater into a much-needed space for live art and music. As some attendees said later that night, “it was lit.”
Kayla Walker, Associated Student Government Vice President of Inter-Club Council, organized the open festival in collaboration with The Coollab Project to bring culture to our Santa Ana community and unite our college through art.
“[Santa Ana College is] not represented for what it could be. It’s always looked at for what it has been and it hasn’t always been great,” Walker says. “We aren’t all criminals, we aren’t all lost. Some people are lost but in a good way and they find themselves through art. Their outlet is art.”
The Coollab Project is a collective of young Santa Ana artists, musicians, poets, and dancers that has hosted an open-mic night every Thursday at Fourth Street Market since 2016. Although Coollab has recruited musicians from Santa Ana College before, the Art Festival was the first time the team performed a full-scale show on campus.
After attending one of these open-mic nights, Walker contacted Vinson “ALäZ” Muhammad, the executive director of The Coollab Project.
In addition to rapping from ALäZ and other Coollab artists, the event included live painting by art students, live music by the SAC Jazz Ensemble and a performance from Apollo Bebop — the Coollab’s jazzy, hip-hop influenced house band — as well as a dance performance by students Mary Leopo and Ricky Vazquez.
With the many flips and graceful synchronized movements, Leopo and Vazquez’s duet was one of the highlights of the event. The two dance students described how they franticly rearranged the performance to be a duet that morning, but were pleased with the results.
Andre Cerros, an Orange Coast College student, and Monique Hernandez, from Costa Mesa, heard about the event at a community group. They came down to check things out and enjoyed their time at SAC.
“Honestly, I really loved it. The instant we walked in, [we] felt more diversity here,” Hernandez said. “And it’s because I felt like…it was more of a family here. We all felt it, we’re all vibin’ with each other.”
ALäZ and Walker found success with the inaugural Art Festival and want to continue to grow the partnership to bring more events like this to SAC.
“If you open a space up, and give people no limits, to be themselves, be creative, be free, and express, something beautiful can come about,” Walker said.