|"Where the many colors bleed into one..."|
|Barrio Centro Neighborhood Mural, 2011 © 2011, Tucson Arts Brigade, Images by Bob Torrez|
The Barrio Centro Community Mural Project is sponsored by the Tucson Arts Brigade and is the latest release of the Tucson Mural Arts Program. This beautiful and colorful mural depicts the stories and memories of Barrio Centro neighbors that were gathered over the past year and a half.
Many scenes of neighborhood social life and history including music, baseball and the railroad are on a cement block wall that spans 176 feet long, and varies in height from 4 to 6 feet.
A mural planning and design team included Barrio Centro area residents, Howenstine Magnet High School students and their art teacher, Tempest Alabi-Isama, and Josh Jacobsen, owner of the Lucky Wishbone restaurant who worked with Michael Schwartz, Executive Director of the Tucson Arts Brigade and Lead Artist/Educator in a year-long series of workshops that included presentations, field trips and lessons on mural making and history.
“This mural reinforces our commonalities,” said German Quiroga, President of the Barrio Centro Association. The workshops included Elder Shares, meetings, and Community Paint Days which involved more than 100 neighborhood residents, and created a sense of pride, ownership, and a personal connection to the mural.
“Graffiti abatement has always been one of our goals and it is my belief that we as a community must engage our youth in worthwhile activities to steer them away from non-productive ones. Each life we touch makes our community a better place,” said Quiroga.
The Barrio Centro Community Mural Project has been a great way to engage local youth in a positive neighborhood beautification project that can be admired by all of Tucson.
This Project is part of a new Tucson Arts Brigade anti-tagging initiative entitled “Beautify and Unify” that offers arts based solutions to pressing community needs.
Economic Literacy isn’t the most exciting subject on the planet, and you might wonder what it has to do with community art. The bottom line is that either we learn to control our finances, or they will control us. Most of the work of Tucson Arts Brigade is in areas where poverty is a stress factor, and a barrier to comfortably developing one’s creative voice. For that reason we felt it important to incorporate economic literacy into our overall curriculum.
For this project we were fortunate enough (thanks to Kresge in Tucson/Tucson Pima Arts Council, Pro Neighborhoods, Union Pacific and members of the Tucson Arts Brigade) to be able to provide stipends for 13 youth. We broke the news to them late in the project to insure cash wasn’t an incentive, rather a reward for putting in well over 100 hours of community service.
In a moment of synchronicity Evelyn Madrid of the Bank of America had recently contacted TAB. We were able to arrange a training complete with gifts. It was a great training covering the basics of creating a basic budget, savings and checking accounts.
There are a variety of resources available for people seeing financial literacy training opportunities the Jump Start Coalition and the National Endowment for Financial Education and locally at Hughes Federal Credit Union and the Credit Wise Cats at the University of Arizona.
The youth in this project are extraordinary, and are really a beacon of hope. Part of that bright future means expanding financial learning and literacy opportunities.
On Thursday February 17 youth presented our final mural design to the Barrio Centro Neighborhood Association. There were several suggestions for minor changes, and students were asked questions about the content and process. The design was unanimously approved.
The following week we started the process of cleaning and priming the wall. After we measured out our grid we began to transfer our design to the wall using charcoal. Over the next few weeks we will be preparing for Community Paint Day. We are inviting residents of Barrio Centro to join us as we paint in the first layers of this 176 foot long mural. There will be a planning meeting for community paint day Thursday March 24, 7pm at the Potter House.
Community Paint Day will be Saturday April 2 from 10 am - 2pm at Lucky Wishbone 2712 E. 22nd Street. Please bring a hat water bottle and sun screen, we will provide the paint, directions and refreshments.
We were thrilled to have Tucson rail historian and author William D. Kalt III present to attentive neighbors, youth and staff at Howenstine High School on February 15. His presentation was fascinating and cast a new light on Tucson from 1850 to the present. He is author of a fascinating account of Tucson history entitled “Tucson Was A Rail Town” that is published by and available from VTD Rail Publishing.
“The grandson of a Tucson SP accountant, William Kalt, grew up in a proud pioneer Arizona family. History lessons began early for the career public educator, as relatives shared tales of the rough and tumble days of their youth. Smitten with stories of life in the southwest, Kalt began his studies of the SP in pursuit of family history. The quest soon evolved into a broader search for the railroad's role in Tucson during the steam era. Proficient in Spanish and imbued with a passion for history, Kalt sought out people of every heritage, who lived the glory days of steam. Capturing oral histories of Tucson 's railroad men and women, in combination with archival research across the southwest, he found deep and lasting friendships, amusing accounts, and a cherished understanding of the people who called themselves “rails.” Kalt's “I'll Meet You In the Cornfield: the Tragic Train Wreck of 1903” appeared in the winter 2004 issue of the Journal of Arizona History . That journal also ran his story, “ Epes Randolph : Railroad Man of the Southwest,” in its summer 2006 issue.” - From "Tucson Was a Railroad Town"
“This profusely illustrated history is more than just another train catlogue: it is a flesh-and-blood book about railroaders themselves. It narrates how the railroad affected the lives of its employees as well as local citizens. For example, several locomotives engineers who had lost vision in one eye could no long make regular runs, but they were allowed to keep their jobs and work the spur line that ran from Tucson to Nogales betwseen about 1910 and 1950. The book is filled with human faces and interesting stories about those who proudly served the railroad. To understand Tucson, you must know the railroad, and this book is a fascinating place to start.”- Bill Broyles.
We learned that parts of Barrio Centro and Julia Keen neighborhoods were stockyards for cattle. These yards had been closer to downtown Tucson, but residents took exception to the stench and they were moved far out of town. The second important development in early Barrio Centro history was the development of pumps powerful enough to direct water uphill, and out of Tucson to what is today Barrio Centro. The rail yards were where many original BC residents worked. It was a short walk and allowed workers to return home for lunch. On paydays workers would frequent the local pub, such as the Cactus Saloon pictured here.
Bill’s presentation really helped answer some of the pressing questions we had about early Tucson history, and the development of our city. You can see many of his influences in our mural design.
Youth Artists Prepare for the Mural design review,
with support and praise from neighborhood elders.
Mr. Kalt, a teacher for many years, spent the rest of the session working with us on the design, and prepping youth for the upcoming presentation of our design to the Barrio Centro Association.
We hope to work with him often as we learn more about the history of our area, he is truly a Tucson gem.
Bill Rose and Eddie