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A street artist’s passion for mental health

Artist LeBA on the healing power of art

LeBA lives in his warehouse studio on the edge of downtown LA, surrounded by his unfinished sculptures and neon paintings. LeBA and his friend Stephen Ziegler were the lead artists for the mural at Burlington Family Apartments (pictured). “My brother is schizophrenic,” says LeBA, “so painting that mural at Burlington was close to my heart. Art speaks to the struggle of the spirit. That mural is about re-joining community, and having a home where people love you and nourish you. I hope that that mural gives people a sense of belonging.”

“I want to make art that helps people value themselves,” LeBA says. “I grew up poor, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities. Right now I work with Oasis, a nonprofit in Santa Ana. We’re building a class for the public schools, to put a portfolio together with kids so they can apply to art schools and get funding.”

LeBA also believes in the role art plays in helping people heal. “If you can be given a new purpose, that can be huge. Art is freeing. I’ve seen art give people a new life.” But, he says, “We need to keep a spotlight on mental health, and keep improving the resources for it. For everything that humankind explores, we know almost nothing about the mind.”

In addition to his work with Oasis and the Santa Ana school district, LeBA currently has a sculpture installation in Barnsdall Art Park in Hollywood (pictured). Last year, LeBA was a featured artist on the Oxygen TV show Street Art Throwdown.

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