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People in Your Neighborhood: OB painter helps ‘brighten people’s days’ with murals at Father Joe’s Villages

Ocean Beach resident Diane Lehman works on a history timeline mural she painted for Father Joe's Villages' 70th anniversary.
Ocean Beach resident Diane Lehman works on a history timeline mural she painted last year for Father Joe’s Villages’ 70th anniversary.
(Courtesy)

Diane Lehman, who grew up in Point Loma, livens up the homeless services organization’s walls.

Diane Lehman is working to brighten San Diego one mural at a time.

Lehman, who lives in Ocean Beach, grew up in Point Loma and attended the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in North Park. After going to college for art and architecture — as well as obtaining a master’s degree in Barcelona, Spain — she returned to her alma mater to teach art and art history classes.

In 2017, Lehman painted a mural for Our Lady of Peace in honor of its 135th anniversary. She painted OLP’s history timeline as well as a family tree, both of which were on display at the school’s celebratory gala.

A portion of the history timeline mural that Diane Lehman painted for the Academy of Our Lady of Peace.
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Once she got married and had her first child, Rosie, Lehman decided to step away from teaching and shift her focus to creating murals.

She now paints custom murals for local clients and has been invited inside the homes of many San Diegans to paint bedrooms, nurseries and even kitchen floors. Lehman also has completed outdoor murals at places like Westminster Presbyterian Church in Point Loma.

Diane Lehman's daughter, Rosie, sits on the steps that Lehman painted at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Point Loma.
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“I just love to take spaces and make them prettier, and really just a quick, easy way is putting loud colors on a huge wall,” Lehman said.

“Murals have very conveniently become very trendy all of a sudden; everybody’s very into that,” she said. “As a kid, I always was painting my walls different colors — putting stripes and using painter’s tape and making weird designs on the wall — but that wasn’t really a common thing to do.”

Diane Lehman sits in front of one of her custom murals, titled "Lily Pads and Willows."
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Kristin Wiggins, senior director of development at San Diego homeless services nonprofit Father Joe’s Villages, met Lehman about five years ago when they were both working at Our Lady of Peace. She was impressed with Lehman’s work, particularly OLP’s timeline, and decided to bring her in to brighten up Father Joe’s Villages’ facility.

“Diane had done some beautiful projects at OLP,” Wiggins said. “As we were looking at how to memorialize our 70th anniversary at Father Joe’s Villages, I brought up the idea of a mural in a community space within the Joan Kroc Center — a room that is often used for special events that we have and our community meetings.”

In February 2020, Lehman painted a history timeline for Father Joe’s Villages for its anniversary gala scheduled for the end of March. Lehman finished the artwork, though the COVID-19 pandemic caused the gala to be canceled.

Diane Lehman's timeline mural honoring Father Joe's Villages' 70th anniversary was her first project for the organization.
(Courtesy)

Her work caught the eye of the Father Joe’s Villages health center team, which wanted her to also brighten up the spaces in its department.

“It just kind of morphed from there, and I’ve got a long list of things I hope she’ll do for us over the coming months because it’s such beautiful work,” Wiggins said.

Lehman is compensated for her murals but charges the organization a discount rate. So far, she has painted five murals for Father Joe’s Villages in its public spaces, including the clinic waiting room, dentist’s office and multipurpose room.

For Father Joe's Villages' dentist's office, Diane Lehman painted teeth in various bright colors around the doorway.
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In the children’s clinic, a wall is decorated with sketches and names of doctor’s tools and health-related items. Lehman said the mural “makes the room look less scary and more fun” and encourages kids to learn vocabulary words while they wait.

Diane Lehman holds her sketch of the mural for the Father Joe's Villages children's clinic next to the finished product.
Diane Lehman holds her original sketch of the mural she did for the Father Joe’s Villages children’s clinic next to the finished product.
(Courtesy)

For both the multipurpose and clinic waiting rooms, Lehman used color blocking to mimic rays of light, resembling stained-glass windows of a church and tying the spaces to Father Joe’s Villages’ Catholic identity. The designs also incorporated Father Joe’s colors, logo and CREED (compassion, respect, empathy, empowerment and dignity).

“Father Joe’s is a great facility … they have great programs that are clearly helping out San Diegans,” Lehman said. “Their campus just really needed a facelift. So I’m really just adding bright colors to walls, which is very simple, but it really can brighten people’s days.”

Diane Lehman's mural in the Father Joe's Villages clinic waiting room features the organization's colors, logo and CREED.
Diane Lehman’s mural in the Father Joe’s Villages clinic waiting room features the organization’s colors, logo and CREED (compassion, respect, empathy, empowerment and dignity).
(Courtesy)

“Our village is a place that’s filled with hope as clients try to make positive change in their life, so it’s a way for her artwork to make the space beautiful and have it visually [convey] hope as well,” Wiggins said.

Though the mural collaboration began last year, Lehman was involved with Father Joe’s Villages when she was younger. She and her mother volunteered as tutors and helped kids with their homework after school.

“I’d love to work there one day, but my talent is definitely painting,” Lehman said. “So if I can just paint at these places and that’s my way to give back ... I feel like that’s my calling.”

“[Diane] has brought such joy and energized life to the space,” Wiggins said. “Her connection to our mission made this project even more meaningful.”

For more information about Father Joe’s Villages, visit my.neighbor.org. See Lehman’s painting portfolio, including the five murals at Father Joe’s, at muralsbydiane.com and instagram.com/muralsbydiane.

People in Your Neighborhood shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send an email to robert.vardon@lajollalight.com.


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