Martin Luther King, Jr. Nelson Mandela. Dalai Lama. They are just three of history’s peacemakers whose images adorn the revitalized mural on the corner of 32nd and Imperial Avenue. World-renowned muralist, sculptor and activist Mario Torero, whose works are displayed throughout the world, including Chicano Park in San Diego, Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Czechoslovakia and Japan, will unveil the restored mural to the public at a community block party held on Saturday, November 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the mural’s site on 32nd and Imperial.
The mural was first erected in 1986 in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., but over the years fell to disrepair and graffiti damage. Torero and his team of artists and local residents spent several weeks this summer and fall starting at square one - re-sketching and re-painting the images to restore the community mural to its former glory and adding new faces including Cesar Chavez and the Dalai Lama.
“This mural was born during the anti-apartheid movement of the ’80s,” explained Torero. “The theme is still relevant today because although South Africa has resolved their apartheid problems there is still a gap in this world between rich and poor and people of different nations. Through the re-birth of this mural, we want to emphasize that we can reinvent our relationships with others, ultimately creating peace and uniting the world.”
The Bronze Triangle Community Development Corporation (BTCDC), which encompasses the Grant Hill, Logan Heights and Stockton neighborhoods, and St. Luke’s Church partnered in hosting the restoration and unveiling, where a group of children from Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and Children of the Rainbow Child Care Centers will leave their handprints in bright colors among the portraits before Torero unveils the completed mural to the community.
“Over the years the mural has fallen to disrepair and I thought that it reflected the mood of the community . neglected, old and tarnished,” explains Torero. “I wanted to instill hope, spirit and pride back into the community and with the Bronze Triangle community working toward revitalization, I wanted to help by reviving this mural as a peace cornerstone and as a visual representation of what is to come for residents.”
“The Bronze Triangle is working diligently to restore these neighborhoods to their former glory and having Mario Torero, who is a world renowned artist, share his gift with our community is an unbelievable asset,” said Gale Walker, board president and resident of the Bronze Triangle. “I know that a partnership between Mario and the Bronze Triangle will not only lead to instilling a sense of pride among residents through art but the development of Imperial Avenue as a cultural corridor to the East Village.”
Torero will also reveal plans to partner with the BTCDC regarding a “street school of art” program, with this mural being the inaugural project. The program will include 10 mural sites along the Imperial Avenue corridor; three “point of entry” sites that will announce entrances into the BTCDC neighborhoods of Grant Hill, Logan Heights and Stockton; a mural project inside of a tunnel at 33rd and L Streets as well as murals on electrical boxes throughout the BTCDC neighborhoods. All projects will be listed on an updated schedule and distributed throughout the community to encourage residents to participate with artists on the projects.
Torero is also part of a professional group of artists called FUERZA that volunteered for this project as well as being committed to doing other projects together in the Bronze Triangle. FUERZA volunteer artists include Elizabeth Washburn, Christopher Oleata, Ricardo Netzahualcoyotl and Nuvia Guerra.
“I want to create a school of art without walls,” Torero said. “I will bring in renowned artists to work alongside residents to create murals that will reflect the energy and spirit of those who live and work here. The community’s spirit and sense of pride can be revitalized using art as a tool; once these projects are completed they will provide the greater San Diego community with a valuable artistic and cultural showcase.”
“We are very lucky that Mario has adopted this community,” Walker said. “Not only will he engage residents - from young to old - to help with the murals, but we want to send a message out to the community that these murals are art and graffiti is not. We hope by encouraging residents to work with Mario and several artists, that this will also serve as an anti-graffiti campaign.”
Following Saturday’s unveiling presentation, community members can enjoy a variety of refreshments and entertainment as the BTCDC and St. Luke’s Church will be marking the occasion with a community block party. Children will enjoy activities including face painting, balloon art and chalk painting while adults will enjoy art displays, jazz and reggae music and African drums by the World Beat Center.