The Face of Love: Meet Brian Peterson

Meet Brian Peterson, the artist-founder of Faces of Santa Ana

You might think that as its artist-founder, Brian Peterson, is the face behind Faces of Santa Ana, a passion project to honor the homeless in his city. But you’d only be half right.

Peterson, a native of Miami working as an auto designer at Kia Motors in Irvine, Calif., created the nonprofit Faces of Santa Ana in 2015 after meeting a homeless neighbor and asking to paint his portrait. It was then he discovered the impact that art and creativity – especially in the form of a portrait – can have in restoring hope.

Since then, Brian’s labor of love, inspired by the parable Matthew 25:34-40, has grown wings. Beyond the 25 portraits he has painted himself, he has recruited other local artists to use their gifts to dignify those living on the margins in Santa Ana. He sells the portraits for $1,500 and deposits $1,000 of the proceeds into bank accounts – or "love accounts" as he calls them – to give them a future. Thanks to other fundraising efforts, he has been able to provide wheelchairs, train tickets, army cots and local motel rooms for residents in need.

The movement has spread throughout the community. Through a teaching partnership with Santa Ana High School, Peterson led a Faces of Santa Ana oil-painting class that encouraged 27 local students to honor one of their homeless neighbors with a portrait. The students presented their final work at a community art show, where the paintings were listed for sale to further benefit the subjects.

Peterson also recently completed a 300-square-foot Faces of Santa Ana mural to commemorate the opening of a local permanent shelter that houses several residents honored by his program. The public response to the completed work at The Orchid at Mercy House, located at 2151 East First Street, has led to other projects designed to dignify and celebrate the underserved population in Santa Ana and beyond. Other murals are planned.

Inspired by the response, Peterson has expanded the mission of Faces of Santa Ana to help those in need in cities around the world while activating other creatives to further the movement.

Meanwhile, he and his growing family of artists continue to model the true face of sacrifice and unconditional love – both locally and beyond.

To see more of Brian’s work or follow him on social media, go to