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Several artists and community members attended a meeting Thursday at Mission Branch Library to discuss ideas for a mural that will soon grace the walls of the Southeast Military underpass on Mission Parkway.
The city’s Department of Arts & Culture, in tandem with the World Heritage Office, is currently working with local arts organizations and artists to create a series of 10 public art murals along the World Heritage Trail. The goal of the project is to improve the visual character and perceived safety, comfort, and function of the corridor.
“To date, we’ve had 13 opportunities for public input, with six additional meetings scheduled for the coming weeks,” said Javier Flores, assistant marketing manager for the city’s Department of Arts and Culture. “The feedback received has been helpful in setting goals for the project. The community, for example, asked that we feature artists from the neighborhood, engage the community, specifically the neighborhood youth, and use art to promote neighborhood identity.”
The first mural to be completed thus far is located at the Stinson Municipal Airport outside Hangar 3 and celebrates the achievements by women in aviation. The mural was created by local artists Joe De La Cruz, Chris Montoya, and José Cosme, and led by Andy and Yvette Benavides with SMART (Support Multiple Art Resources Together).
“We were originally working on a mural that would reflect the history at the airfield but through the community meeting it became apparent that the story of interest was the story of the Stinson sisters – Katherine and Marjorie Stinson – and people wanted to highlight the achievement of women in aviation,” said Sara Farwell, who works as public art project manager for the City. “This an example of how we’ve changed our course based on community feedback.”
In addition to the murals at Stinson and Mission Parkway, four murals will be located at the Loop 410 underpass on Villamain Road, and four more at the U.S. Hwy. 90 underpasses at Steves Avenue, Mission Road, Roosevelt Avenue, and Presa Street. To look at an overview and map of all the locations for the 10 murals, click here.
The community also has expressed the desire for art that can serve as a teaching tool, Flores said, so featuring art that can be interpreted through educational curriculum.
“The community also wants art that addresses community needs, like a shade structure at Roosevelt Park, and art that is multisensory that offers opportunities for interaction,” Flores said. “These are all things that have been taken into account in the development of the project.”
Thursday’s community meeting included a presentation by Jason Eric Gonzales Martinez, the local artist selected to spearhead the vision and creation of the mural on Mission Parkway.
Martinez, who prides himself in his work with ceramics and steel, said he was inspired by the barn swallows that reside under the underpass for this particular project and wants to add ceramic nests on the mural so that it becomes “a living piece of art.” Throughout his piece, he wants the focus to be on indigenous symbols, an homage to the native people who used to live around the missions.
“I believe the motifs of indigenous symbols are very important and I love the idea of the barn swallows,” said Terry Ybañez, who has attended several other meetings about murals on the World Heritage Trails.
Most of the attendees at the meeting told Martinez that they would like to see more flora and fauna from the river on the mural and vibrant colors throughout.
“I like the clay, but I think it would be a nice change from the other murals to have flora and fauna from the river in this one,” said Zet Baer.
Martinez told attendees that he appreciated their ideas and would work to update his plan before the next meeting in late July to reflect the feedback from the community.
“It’s been a really inclusive process and it’s very important to get that information and historical background [from the community] so the artists can take that feedback and use it for their work,” Flores said.
Farwell said the City is still working on final concepts for eight of the murals, but that community feedback will help define the guiding principles for the artwork and will help reflect the unique culture and heritage of each site.
So far, the last community meetings have proven to be quite fruitful, she added.
“We worked with the American Indians in Texas of the Spanish colonial missions for the four murals at the 410 underpass,” Farwell said. “They advised historians on that project and guided what the content should be. The mural will include the four seasons and four indigenous plants that have sustained people in that area for hundreds of years.”