We Are Cpp

Bianca Ornelas

Chalk Artist and CPP Alumna Creates Community Impact

Bianca Ornelas


Class of 2017

Cal Poly Pomona alumna Bianca Ornelas’ father loves to tell the story about how she was able to hold a pencil perfectly when she was a few months old. 

That baby in the crib grew up and followed her destiny, and at 32, is now using chalk to create colorful, large-scale murals and winning art competitions. Her first win was in 2013 at the Pasadena Chalk Festival, an international street painting event where she beat more than 200 experienced artists and realized her potential as a professional artist. 

“I was in disbelief when I won, I never thought I could win,” said Ornelas (‘17, communication). “It was the moment I realized I’m actually good at chalk art, and I’m one of the best ones at this festival.” 

Ornelas credits her time at Cal Poly Pomona and her communications major for helping her become a   successful chalk artist, entrepreneur, teacher and community leader.


Finding Inspiration 

Ornelas was inspired by her mom, who earned her master’s in education at Cal Poly Pomona in 2004 and was the first in her family to graduate from college, to transfer to the university in 2015. Ornelas worked as a multimedia developer for Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), where she filmed campus events, edited videos and animated graphics. While at Cal Poly Pomona, she also started freelance work as a chalk artist throughout Los Angeles and in the Pomona area. 

“I think the reason why people commission chalk murals is because it's a temporary medium which makes the artwork more precious,” Ornelas said. “I began to favor chalk because I love interacting with spectators – the energy of the onlookers makes the experience of creating a chalk mural worth it. Out of all the mediums I work with, my chalk pieces are the most colorful.”

After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, she continued working as a freelance artist and launched her own brand, Bianca Ornelas Art. Ornelas said she learned how to sharpen her interpersonal skills as a communications student, which helped her launch her brand, develop lasting relationships with her clients and get comfortable with doing local news interviews. 

“I wouldn’t be the same person or the same artist I am today if I didn’t go to Cal Poly Pomona,” Ornelas said. “I’m really grateful I made the choice to go here.” 

Most of her artwork is inspired by history, southern California, feminism and her Mexican roots. Over the past few years, it has addressed political and social issues while featuring emotional elements, something that is personal to her as a second-generation Mexican-American woman.

“There are a lot of issues in this country that affect me and my community, whether it is a targeted attack against my people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, or the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, so it is crucial to fight against injustice,” Ornelas said. “I am fortunate to have been born here, but it is my duty as a citizen to speak up for those who don't have a voice and my responsibility as an artist to show the world that I am not going to be silent. I am not going to allow myself to be numb to all these terrible events.”


Making an Impact 

She is proud of the impact her chalk art has on others. During the 2020 Pasadena Chalk Art Festival, when participating artists created their murals at their homes due to COVID-19, she created a 4-feet-by- 5-feet chalk mural dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement on her driveway. “Madonna and Her Child” featured an African American woman resembling a Madonna figure, wearing traditional African patterned clothing and carrying her child in her arms. The woman was surrounded by purple cotton candy clouds and behind her was blue sky with a bright and shining sun. 

“I have a few African American neighbors who saw my mural and thought it was amazing,” Ornelas said. “One started crying because he said the mural reminded him of his mom who had passed because he remembered being that young and how his mother used to hold him that way.” 

Ornelas is grateful to Cal Poly Pomona professors for guiding and helping her find a career with her art. Although she was a communications major, she still took courses that helped strengthen her art skills and found mentors in the subject. Anthony Acock, chair of the department of art and associate professor of visual communication design, still shares advice and opportunities with Ornelas on being a teacher and freelance artist, from tech support for scanning artwork to teaching art to individuals with Down syndrome through the non-profit Inland Valley Down Syndrome Association 

“As an alumna, Bianca’s come back to work with students on special zine projects and teach through Zoom,” Acock said. “She’s lovely to be around, and people gravitate towards that positivity.”


Artful Education 

Before the Pomona-born native was winning art competitions, Ornelas used her artistic skills to help her community. While earning her Associate of Arts degree in public speaking at Mt. SAC, she was helping her mother, a kindergarten teacher at Philadelphia Elementary School in South Pomona, with creating artistic, engaging ways to help students learn the alphabet.                                          

The kindergarten students typically came from low-income families and did not attend preschool, which set them behind in learning letters and sounds. To make learning fun and easy, Ornelas created characters and their voice overs in an entertaining video, and her best friend created alphabet flashcards and workbooks with colorful images to help visual learners. Her mom still uses it to teach her students each year. 

“I have volunteered at Philadelphia Elementary School for multiple years and watching my mother work with this community inspired me to achieve a teaching position,” said Ornelas. “It’s important to help students by providing a space where they can feel safe and encouraged to strive for better prospects.” 

Even now, Ornelas continues to work with children as an art teacher and freelance designer for the Light Bringer Project, a nonprofit organization that provides art and writing programs to underserved youth in Pasadena and Los Angeles, which helps them to express their emotions, connect with global student artists and apply their skills through work opportunities. 

Communities have taken notice of Ornelas’ artwork and invited her to create chalk murals in multiple areas, including one of the Cincinnati Bengals in the SoFi Stadium parking lot during the Super Bowl; three on the set CBS’ “The Talk” featuring the show’s logo and guest names; and her first school mural at Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy, now renamed as Octavia E. Butler Magnet after the science fiction author. 

You can follow Ornelas’ work on her webpage or Instagram. Sign up for Cal Poly Pomona’s monthly enewsletter, PolyAlumni, to read more about alumni highlights.