Movable mural paints picture of social transformation

Latino Cultural Center; mural

Students contribute their artwork to a movable mural at the Latino Cultural Center, which will be displayed outside the building. — Photo: R. Glass

The UIC community showed what issues are at the heart of national, immigrant and undocumented populations’ struggles with brushes that bled for social, cultural and environmental justice.

Students, faculty, staff and alumni created a movable mural last month at the Latino Cultural Center to inspire dialogue on the effects of legislation, beliefs or national events on different communities. Contributors visualized topics such as man-made borders, socially constructed concepts of citizenship, access to quality education, the importance of clean and safe environments, job security, sufficient healthcare and a secure future for everyone.

“Students wanted to have a public mural that was going to serve to mobilize people to talk about these issues,” said Rosa Cabrera, director of the Latino Cultural Center.

The mural, part of an event titled “Mobilizing with Art for Social Transformation,” was spearheaded by the Fearless Undocumented Alliance, a student organization on campus, along with the LCC and the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center. The event was part of the UIC Peace Project, an initiative of the Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change that strives to create dialogue and shift language and actions to put peacemaking into practice.

The mural will be on display in April outside the Latino Cultural Center before being moved to another location — possible places include the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen or the Chicago Field Museum.

Students from Fearless Undocumented Alliance were inspired to start the project because of support for legislation like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Deferred Action for Parental Accountability and the Student ACCESS Bill, or Access to College and Career-Education for Statewide Success.

“We’re using it as a space where students can really come and express themselves and then to really get to talking about these things, the things that you don’t really get to hear in class,” said Ana Ruiz, vice president of the Fearless Undocumented Alliance. “So this [mural] actually changes every day. We’re creating new ideas.”

Participants were under the direction of renowned muralist Hector Duarte, a Mexican muralist who studied mural painting at the workshop of David Alfaro Siqueiros in 1977.

Duarte has created more than 50 murals — his work has been featured in places like the National Museum of Mexican Art, the School of the Art Institute and the Chicago Historical Society. He also created the Latino Cultural Center’s series of indoor murals, which were completed in 1996. Known as “El Despertar de las Americas,” it’s one of the largest indoor murals in Chicago.

But this mural, he says, is unique.

“We’re reinventing the wheel. This generation, they’re looking for change. People need to be receptive to catch this message with the lines, color and beautiful images.”

“Mobilizing Art” took more than 30 hours to complete — from Feb. 3 to 19 — with the help of nearly 800 people.

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