Last fall I was fortunate to be able to spend some time at Artpace in San Antonio, Texas. I really enjoyed spending time with all the folks there and feel I made some great friends. I met  Ruth and Rico at the first art opening I attended there and both were working with an organization called San Anto Cultural Arts. SACA is a small but prolific organization that has been operating out an office on the west side of town. For more details about SACA check them out at this link.

http://www.sananto.org/about.html

Ruth had just received her BFA from the Chicago Art Institute and Rico has been a volunteer artist with the organization. They are involved with the mural program and offered to give me a tour of their work. I was excited to see what they had been working on so I made my way to their office. They showed me around the head quarters and told me that their founder Manny Castillo had recently passed away from cancer and that the organization was just recovering from the great loss. This was a surprise for me seeing how young this leader was, about 40 years old. The legacy he left with the staff and artists at SACA is definitely one he would be proud of.

Rico keeps a job as a taxi driver so our tour bus was a yellow cab mini van. Awesome! We started out by looking at the murals closest to the office and moved further and further out into the West Side. Ruth explained to me how each mural is lead by different artists in residence. Each of those artists spend time working up themes and ideas that are then presented to the community and the collaborating team. The teams and community members then work together with the resident artist to produce a mural.

Working with several different lead artist keeps the approach fresh and unique for every mural. Ruth recounted how with each mural they had improved not only with ideas but also with materials. She showed me her first mural painted with house paint and how it was already showing fading from the sun. In comparison the mural next to it was painted with a professional grade acrylic paint that was holding up much better. Some of the murals they have produced even include some glasswork and sculptural relief elements. Each mural they showed seemed to get better and better.

As the afternoon went on I was exposed all sorts of murals that they had produced with all sorts of themes such as domestic abuse, health, community leaders, historical musicians and much more. Rico even treated us to a poem that he wrote for the inauguration of one their murals. SACA holds public blessings of their murals that consist of a prayer by a catholic priest, Aztec dancers and  Conjunto groups. I feel really honored to have gone on this tour thanks to both Ruth and Rico. Keep up the good work!

-Mario

Steve Delatorre is one of the artists that will be featured in our next exhibition at Slanguage called

“The Monster Inside Me….” opens May 8th 2010

Monday mornings are not a time that I usually like to leave the house. It is a time I spend alone taking care of household chores and getting things done. This Monday morning was different I received a phone call from Slanguage artists and long time friend Steve Delatorre around 9:00 am. He told me he wanted to have an adventure.  I told him to come over and we should try and do something fun.

He skateboarded to my house with his fourteen year old son Eris. I didn’t have a skateboard so they left their decks at my pad and we rode the dash bus from L Street and Avalon Blvd. around to Wilmington Blvd and Pacific Coast Highway. The KROQ radio station van was at the AM/PM gas station giving out freebies. Steve and I got a couple of key chains and stickers and Eris scored a Foo Fighters t-shirt. The Tecate Lite girls were there too but they wouldn’t let us take a picture of them unless we bought a 12 pack at 11:00am.

We made our way to the Mayhem Graff shop a little spot in an indoor swap meet that sells spray paint and aerosol art supplies. We checked out what they had for sell and I ran into my tall as hell little stepbrother Josh G. and his crew. The guys at the shop were pretty cool and answered all our questions. if you need something check them out. Steve and I were having too much fun taking pictures with the crazy mannequins they had around the indoor so we had to move on. As we crossed the street I caught a flick of David “Bellz” Salas’ rendition of La Virgen that has been running for a while.

We stopped at Agua Verde Mexican food to check out the mural painted by the local master mariscos painter Chuy Vasquez no relation to our own Raul “Spew” Vasquez. What an imagination Chuy has. His mural that runs about 80 feet long and 5 feet tall is full of amazing images like dolphins, killer whales and giant manta rays flying out of the ocean. There are also a lot of images of pastoral Mexico and quaint fisherman enjoying cooking the catch of the day. The parking lot garden is also home to what I believe is Wilmington’s only topiary sculpture of a Teddy Bear.

We crossed the street to have lunch at Red West Pizza where we discussed ideas about life and art and what he was planning for the show at Slanguage. He was excited to tell me he is working on some new paintings and said I was going to have to see them soon. That was all the info he would give me for now so I will keep you posted. We finished our lunch and walked the rest of the way back to my house making a few other pit stops, one of which Eris lost his freebie shirt to a puddle of rain water. Check out all the pictures of our walk down P.C.H.

-Mario

What We Eat, Who We Are
This was a two-day art residency with teenagers at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA in the Fall of 2009. Led by Karla Diaz and assisted by Raul Vasquez, this workshops were inspired by Wayne Thiebaud’s exhibition.  Teenagers contemplated ideas about design, color and their historical importance as they learned to produce their own food-based  hat sculptures from recycled materials such as wrappers, napkins, and cardboard paper.  The teens examined  hidden, cultural histories through urban design in food products.
Photos by Michael Ano