The Pasadena Chamber of Commerce hosts a grand-opening celebration and mural unveiling at Olive Tree Mediterranean Grill. The mural was painted by Rayburn students involved in the ACE after school program.
Angela Alfaro, Rayburn freshman, talks to community members about the positive impact the art project had on her.
Each time patrons dine at the new Olive Tree Mediterranean Grill at the corner of Burke and Fairmont, they will be greeted by a sprawling wall mural painted by a talented group of Rayburn students.
“I have not had a lot of experiences outside of Pasadena, but this opened up many new opportunities for me that allowed me to learn about Lebanese culture,” Angela Alfaro, Rayburn freshman said. “Working on this mural with my friends and with the owner makes me feel good because I'm doing something that matters.”
The painting was unveiled during the restaurant’s grand opening ceremony, March 23. The event welcomed local dignitaries Mayor Johnny Isbell, Board Member Kenny Fernandez, School Superintendent Dr. DeeAnn Powell, Rayburn Principal Robert Stock, along with other district administration and city officials, who gathered in support of the collaborative effort.
The design, featuring a man sitting on a hillside that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, gives individuals a taste of restaurant owner Domenique Hermez’ Lebanese culture.
“This is where my aunts and grandparents lived; right there is a Roman monument and this is the place where they make wine,” Hermez said while pointing to the mural.
In 1970, Hermez made a new home in Pasadena after leaving Beirut, Lebanon, bringing with him recipes passed down from his family and friends.
Hermez’ passion for cooking became the foundation for a long career in catering and restaurant ownership that he now shares with the Pasadena community. His interest in serving the community and desire to create a true Lebanese experience for residents, prompted him to collaborate with Pasadena ISD.
“I want to thank the school district and the Rayburn students for this,” Hermez said. “I told them my vision and, my God, here it is. It’s beautiful.”
The team was comprised of six ACE Afterschool students, who spent Christmas break working on the mural. They incorporated images of various locations depicted in photos taken when Hermez lived in Lebanon.
“The great thing about this opportunity is the students got to work directly with Mr. Hermez and get a taste of what it is like to collaborate on a project in the business world,” Victor Raygoza, Rayburn art teacher said.
Working on a wall in the winter came with several challenges. The paint did not stick properly at first and the students had to repaint some of the mural. The students also faced the challenge of painting on cold cement. Through this experience, the students learned how to use various techniques to blend colors and work under difficult circumstances.
“I think this opportunity helped us trust our artistic instincts because I was hesitant about creating certain art pieces, and now it is easier for me to accomplish my work,” Alfaro said.
“This opportunity was about more than the mural itself. It was about working as a team and incorporating your own style to create something more.”
Sarai Aguilar, Rayburn senior, talks about the significance of the artwork.
Pictured: Noel Boggs, Rayburn assistant principal; Dr. Rhonda Parmer, associate superintendent; Emilio Recio, tenth grader; Kenny Fernandez, board member; Angela Alfaro, ninth grader; Sarai Aguilar, senior; Victor Raygoza, art teacher; Andrea Contreas, senior; Arlene Garcia eleventh grader; Dr. DeeAnn Powell, school superintendent; Shannon Raygoza, director of Fine Arts; and Robert Stock, Rayburn principal. Not pictured: Denisse Molina, Rayburn graduate.
Pictured: Sarai Aguilar, Andrea Contreas, Olive Tree Owner Domenique Hermez, Angela Alfaro and Arlene Garcia.
The mural is a depiction of various Lebanese locations. The students collaborated with the restaurant owner to design the painting.