Written by Ashley Johnson, '13
Writing Intern for the Office of Communications

Now on display this spring at the Kellogg Library, Oceanside native Saul Figueroa’s “Incarceration, Liberation, Imagination” exhibit offers CSUSM students and community an unflinching and intimate look into one man's perseverance through poverty, crime and imprisonment. The exhibit highlights Figueroa’s embrace of change told through his compelling story of gang violence, prison life and ultimately his belief in second chances.

Figueroa’s involvement with gangs in Oceanside from a young age resulted in the loss of many opportunities that he says could have been beneficial in his life. Too deeply entrenched in gang violence and unable to break free, he was arrested and sent to prison. There he faced a new and completely different world of struggles that would eventually lead to clarity and inspiration.

Through art Figueroa was able to find peace and purpose. And through his work he dedicated himself to reshaping his life and sharing with others the pain and suffering he endured so that they might not follow in his footsteps.

“All the pieces came together during his struggles in prison, and art was the medium through which Saul found hope,” said Melanie Chu, outreach librarian at CSUSM. “Art gave insight into the hard times he was going through and provided him with an avenue  to look at the world in a positive way, empowering him to reach out to others. Art saved his life.”

Figueroa’s second chance at life plays a significant role in his artwork. While his paintings tell the compelling story of his involvement in gang violence and the hardships of prison life, they ultimately focus on the vibrancy of faith and forgiveness and how second chances have the power to change a life.

Through mixed media he is able to create colorful and detailed works of art, often on a larger scale, that depict his journey and transformation.

“Saul's story of being arrested for his gang involvement and how he used art to find a better path was so inspiring,” said Samantha Carr, outreach specialist for CSUSM’s Civility Campaign and student representative on the CSUSM Foundation Board. “We thought an art exhibit would be a great way to share his story with the CSUSM community. Saul really shows his journey and how we can all be reminded of the impacts of bullying, and that treating each other with civility is always a better path. We also have coordinated with the academic side, as many classes will be visiting the library display and using Saul's work for their semester projects."

The art exhibit will be on display through May 10, 2013 on the 3rd floor of Kellogg Library.

“We hope that through this exhibit, students will learn about different perspectives that will challenge them and spark conversation,” added Chu. “Art that stimulates you and grabs your attention compels you to ask questions and think critically about the world around you.

“We hope that through this exhibit, students will learn about different perspectives that will challenge them and spark conversation,” added Chu. “Art that stimulates you and grabs your attention compels you to ask questions and think critically about the world around you.