By Dave Schwab
New Chicano Park mural will honor the spirit of local indigenous people
A new work of art by a native El Salvadoran muralist, with the help of local artists, will soon join the other iconic murals of Chicano Park; but this one will epitomize the cultural and historical spirit of indigenous people.
The new mural will emerge in the spring of 2018, next to the Chicano Park Herb Garden, located at 2060 Logan Ave. in Barrio Logan.
Thanks to the cooperation of the Chicano Park Steering Committee (CPSC), the Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) and Barrio Logan residents participating in community brainstorming workshops, the mural-to-be will express the collective will of the people and the neighborhood.
“What we’re trying to do here is create a community mural that has a long view, with elements designed by Mexican-American residents really thinking of this neighborhood before it became part of San Diego,” said Jorge Gonzalez, a Barrio Logan organizer and EHC member. “Existing Chicano Park murals remind us that we live in a place of cultural and historical significance. Keeping that in our hearts, the community feels ready to add another mural — one that represents a healthy chapter for Barrio Logan and our people who live here.”
EHC is a grassroots group that since 1980, has been campaigning against the unjust consequences of toxic pollution, discriminatory land use and unsustainable energy policies.
Of the 70 or so hand-painted murals already gracing Chicano Park, Gonzalez pointed out that none of them depict early Kumeyaay history.
“This mural will do that for the first time,” he said, adding it will complement the park’s artistic and cultural mix. He further described it as being “very educational” and “a piece of history.”
Initial discussions for a collective mural began at community meetings in the fall of 2016. EHC retained neighborhood artist Alicia Maria Siu and students from the Barrio Logan College Institute (BLCI) to collaborate and bring the project to life.
At a series of local workshops, more than 70 neighbors contributed ideas to guide the unfolding of the mural concept. The community described the mural-to-be as an empowering memoir of past visionaries mixed with its vision for the future of the neighborhood.
After more than a year of collaboration, the CPSC approved the mural’s design on Oct. 29. With this approval, the team of local artists can now begin blending the new concept with the unfinished, existing mural that currently resides on the wall.
“We want a tall, proud and community-curated mural that inspires the next generation in Barrio Logan to continue the legacy of those that fought for a healthy neighborhood before us,” said Panchito Martinez, a Barrio Logan resident, BLCI student and mural participant. “Art has always been our community’s way of healing and it’s also our way to capture our community’s vision for the future.”
Siu was chosen to do the new public art project because of her stylized impressionistic and thematic approaches to mural painting.
“My art expresses the vitality, strength and tenacity of Indigenous peoples, all those who share the vision of a healthy Mother Earth,” Siu said. “With art, I offer visual affirmations of our inherent rights as caretakers of this earth. I offer visual remedies from attempted termination, war, displacement and the resulting traumas.”
Noting she’s never been involved in painting a mural with a theme that has had so much public involvement, Siu noted the “skeleton of the imagery” for the new art project will come from “the prophetic story of the good snake and bad snake.”
“The bad snake creates havoc and is a metaphor for climate change,” she said. “The snakes [will] tell an intergenerational story within the mural [about] passing traditional knowledge on to the next generation.”
Siu said she selected the best elements from the ideas presented by Barrio Logan residents at each of the mural workshops.
“The challenge for me as an artist is to incorporate most of what people said into the mural; to make sure that everything was included,” she said, adding that some of the suggestions that came out of the workshop were more literal, while others more symbolic in nature.
Funding for the mural is being provided by the Barrio Logan Maintenance Assessment District; Barrio Logan College Institute; the city of San Diego’s City Council Community Projects, Programs, and Services; and the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative.
A sneak peek of the mural’s design will be unveiled by the artist to the Barrio Logan community on Wednesday, Dec. 6, from 5–7 p.m. in the second floor community room of the Estrella del Mercado Apartments, located at 1985 National Ave., near Chicano Park.
— Dave Schwab can be reached at email@example.com.