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Calle 16 Mural Project: Building communities through art at ASU West

People paint a mural on the West campus on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015.
People paint a mural on the West campus on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015.

The Calle 16 Mural project at ASU West, a mural with vivid imagery celebrating Central and South American culture, brought people from all walks of life together.

The project first came to be in 2010 as a result of the controversial Arizona immigration law, SB1070, which was argued by many to be a discriminatory piece of legislation toward Mexican-Americans, immigrants and people of color as a whole. 

Today, many artists from around the Valley have turned 16th Street and Van Buren Road into a gallery full of murals. Lead by artist Hugo Medina, the project first came to ASU in 2012 where it has taken place every year since.

Medina is an art instructor at both ASU and Phoenix College.  Every year, he brings out many guest artists to come participate in the project with him. This year, many of these guests were his fellow art students. One of his students,  Gavin Takara, reflected about his experiences. 

Because it's Hispanic heritage month, Medina wanted to make sure that all of South American culture was represented properly in the mural.

“The project is really intriguing and colorful." he said. "I love how it is incorporating many different cultures, particularly that of Ecuador and Peru. One of the most prominent aspects of South American culture is soccer and it is nice to see that being portrayed in the mural." 

This was a four day that become increasingly more complex throughout the week. On day one, guests helped themselves to painting the entirety of the mural white. The next day was when guests were able to test their artistic abilities by drawing a complete sketch of the mural under the direction of Medina. The third day was when the actual painting took place and the final day marked the finishing touches to the mural.

“It was amazing seeing the mural project completely evolve from where it started, to where it is now,” Takara said.  

“We wanted to showcase the diversity and beauty in all of South America” Medina said. “We feel that it is important to show that there is a lot more to Hispanic heritage than just Mexico”

If Medina's plan was to represent all of South America and not just Mexico, he succeeded. The final product of the mural was astonishing; it featured flags of South America's most populated countries, Brazil and Argentina. It also paid homage to many iconic features of South American culture, such as the Tango and the Christ of the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.

Medina also noticed how well the project worked to the bond guests made with one another.

“I saw this as an opportunity for students to get out of their comfort zones” he said. “This allows people to participate in something for the community and not just for themselves." 

Many people, particularly Medina's art students, seemed to enjoy the process as well, including Phoenix College veterinarian studies student Connor Pritchett. Medina wants to eventually spread this mural project to other ASU locations, particularly in Tempe.

“This is my first day here and I love how everyone is working together, putting their ideas in," she said. "One of the things I helped contribute to the mural was helping paint the mountains."

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