For local muralists, art can serve as a powerful medium for bringing strength back to the people in times of great division and disenfranchisement. With this knowledge, mural artists here in New Mexico have created a means of revitalizing community strength through collaborative art.
“What we’re really trying to do is show that art really isn’t the enemy. It’s a tool that some people can use to gentrify a community, but we choose to use it as a tool to collaborate with the community and to be a reflection of the beauty that is already there. So, it’s not place-making, it’s place-keeping,” Vanessa Alvarado, lead artist at Apprenticeships for Leaders in Mosaic Arts and UNM Art alum, said.
ALMA s a women-led Albuquerque mosaic arts group that takes on apprentices in the community to create mosaic art; everything down to the individual tiles is handmade by ALMA apprentice artists. For Alvarado, one big purpose of ALMA is to represent women of color and those who have historically received inequitable treatment in the community.
Nani Chacon is a muralist and UNM alum who has worked in communities across the country. She works with community members in the area she is working in to create murals. For Chacon, murals are a form of free speech unto themselves: “A message made by the people, for the people.” One of her projects in Albuquerque was made in collaboration with Working Classroom, a local organization focused on teaching art to youth with a special focus on social justice. Much of their work is located in Albuquerque’s downtown area, according to Madalena Salazar, executive director of Working Classroom.
Alvarado, Chacon, and Salazar agreed on one thing: murals are a tool to provide communities with a sense of ownership — not only to the mural itself but to their own stories and identities.
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