Graduates evoke the struggle of Chicanos

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Salena Barcenas Staff Reporter

The mixing of colors to form shapes and images that evoke emotions and feelings can leave a lasting impression.

The new mural at the Chicano/a House on North University Drive ?captures the perspective of the oppression (Chicanos have had to face over) time,? said artist Wenceslao Quiroz.

Day and Quiroz and Raudel De La Riva started the mural last July in Highland Park on Avenue 57 at its temporary site.

The three friends started the process after Day and De La Riva took a public art class with Professor Kim Abeles last year. After taking this class the three came up with the idea for doing the mural.

?The original idea to do a mural was mine, but I could not have done it without Wen and Donald,? De La Riva said. ?With them being in the class, we had a better foundation.?

?We all hung out together. We came up with a concept, put our thoughts in process and for a couple of weeks presented the idea to the Chicano Department and the community,? Quiroz said. ?I always wanted to pursue public arts and Raudel with East Los Streetscapers got experience working in public arts.?

East Los Streetscapers is a public art studio that creates and installs 2-D and 3-D pieces of artwork.

Before the three artists could start painting the mural, they had to complete their paperwork and make a proposal for approval.

?They liked it,? Quiroz said. ?It went before a committee. The art and Chicano department and M.E.Ch.A. formed the committee directed by Professor Yreina Cervantes,? who teaches a painting class at the Chicano House.

?Murals are considered artwork,? said Tom Brown, executive director of Physical Plant Management. ?Artwork ends up getting a life of its own. Any artwork the school (receives, we need to) make sure to make them portable, that way the artists can salvage them.?

The mural is composed of nine 4 feet by 8 feet pieces of plywood that are screwed to the west side of the annex located behind Chicana/o House.

?We (Quiroz and Day) were working for a non-profit organization, and they set up a wall,? Day said. ?It was becoming a part of the community, but it had to come down and it did.?

After they removed the mural from its temporary site at Arts C.O.L.A., a non-profit organization in Highland Park, it was kept at the house of Day?s parents until April, when they attached it to the annex.

?We worked there so we were able to work on it everyday,? Day said.

Day and Quiroz were art instructors in not the best of areas. With gang proliferation and fear that their hard work might be disfigured by local teens, the artists decided to involve the kids.

?I saw it as a good opportunity, and as a kid I remember helping paint a mural,? Quiroz said. ?They did a lot of the background, the floor where it?s mostly brown. It was fairly simple stuff but they got a kick out of it,? Quiroz said.

The kids ranged from fifth graders to 16-year-olds. By letting them help, Day and Quiroz gave them a sense of ownership and pride. The kids tagged their names on the back of the mural.

?I told them, that is your signature. I?m not going to remove it,? Quiroz said.

The mural was designed south to north, moving from right to left, and every section is distinguished by a main color.

The south takes place in South Mexico and Central America, and historically moves left. The right of the mural starts with the pyramids of the south and ?Avenue of the Dead.? At the bottom right is an altar for ?Day of the Dead.?

The artists plan to paint portraits on the altar of people who have died from cancer, such as professor Lorenzo Flores of the Department of Chicana/o Studies, who was a ?very good professor,? Quiroz said.

Moving left is the first mission in California, Mission San Diego de Alcal?, with slaves in chains. The center of the mural is a triangle and features a family. It reflects agriculture and provides an interpretation of the working class. The top center of the mural is a unique version of the Aztec calendar. With each section having its own story and color, the calendar is also broken down by time and color and corresponds with each section.

Moving left, to the burgundy section, is a scene from last year?s MacArthur Park incident where police beat peaceful protesters. Next to it is a mother with her child on her back reaching over a fence, which represents Mexico?s U.S. border. The end of the mural portrays the May Day March, a tradition that started in 2006 in which people across the country march for immigration reform. Los Angeles City Hall stands proud in the background with a crowd of people in front. The bottom left of the mural is a white face with the colors of the American flag sweeping across it, which represents ?freedom and a better future,? Quiroz said.

?What this mural is trying to show is (what is and what was) directly affecting our people,? Quiroz said. ?We wanted to counteract the opposite end of the wall that represents freedom and life, and also pay our respect to past ancestors.?

?It?s not that important what it means to me, but what it means to the public,? De La Riva said. ?It?s just a historical mural with present day context. Ultimately, it revolves around struggle.?

The artists wanted ?to give the Chicano community a sense of who they are and where they come from, to make them more conscious of their roots,? De La Riva said.

?The biggest thing is, as long as it invokes people to think, as long as it makes them think,? Day said. ?It has been a labor of love for us. What is more important than the actual piece is being able to communicate the meaning behind it.?