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Barrio Logan artivists say ¡Basta! to pollution

May 30, 2014

By Pablo J. Sáinz

Artist Stephanie Cecilia Cervantes paints her piece for the Barrio Logan exhibition, Until Our Last Breath, where artivists say no to the contamination of the Logan Heights area. Photo Credit: Valerie Johnson/Multimedia Diva.

Artist Stephanie Cecilia Cervantes paints her piece for the Barrio Logan exhibition, Until Our Last Breath, where artivists say no to the contamination of the Logan Heights area. Photo Credit: Valerie Johnson/Multimedia Diva.

Now that Barrio Logan is facing what many consider another show of discrimination that has historically been prevalent in this area, an army of artivists, socially conscious artists, is coming together through its art to say Basta! Enough is enough!

“Art is such an integral part of Barrio Logan”, said Brent Beltrán, a local resident and curator of Until Our Last Breath: Barrio Artistas Contra San Diego’s Toxic Maritime Industry, a one-night exhibition that takes place on Saturday, May 31st, at Chicano Art Gallery, in Barrio Logan. “Art and activism are ways that this community has been able to express itself through the years”.

In Until Our Last Breath, some 20 local artists express their opposition to pollution and declare themselves in favor of Propositions B and C, which, if approved in the June 3rd primary elections, would place restrictions in the maritime industry at the same time they would reduce the number of industrial pollutants in the area.

“This exhibition goes hand in hand with those artivists who came before,” Beltran said. “It is part of Barrio Logan’s tradition of resistance. When something is wrong this community stands up and demands justice. And the artists have always been at the forefront of that.”

In Barrio Logan, there’s a long tradition of artivists: Artists that use their art to improve the quality of life in their community.

The murals in Chicano Park are the greatest testimony of political and social activism in this barrio, considered the heart of the Mexican community in San Diego.

While those opposing the propositions and are in favor of more industrial presence in the area have been able to raise thousands of dollars, the environmental activists supporting the propositions have only raised a bit more than $10,000.

“We can’t begin the fight with money, we don’t have any”, said Patricia Aguayo, a Chicano Park muralist who is participating in the exhibition with a painting of a little boy wearing a anti gas mask and holding a soccer ball. “The current events need to be shared, talked about and remembered. This fight isn’t over until justice prevails for a healthier San Diego not only for today but for tomorrow. It is not unfamiliar for this community to rise and fight against a system such as the maritime industry.”

For Cesar Castañeda, owner of Chicano Park Gallery, the gallery hosting the exhibition, it is important for the public to know what the artists have to say.

“By following the tradition of protesting via art, Barrio Logan has overcome many obstacles,” Castañeda said. “It is a testament that movements can be very affective by being non-violent. Art has a way of reaching out to people and making them think deep thoughts.”

Until Our Last Breath includes the work of some of the most active Chicano artists and muralists in San Diego, among them Victor Ochoa and Mario Torero, Chicano Movement pioneers in the city and two of the first Chicano Park muralists.

Beltran said that the exhibition reunites generations of artists with one purpose.

“This exhibit is a solid mix of veterano Chicano artists and newer generation artists,” Brent said. “The issue of maritime industry pollution transcends generations and this exhibition is a reflection of that.”

Music and a presentation by Georgette Gómez of Environmental Health Coalition will complement the one-of-a-kind evening.

“With inimitable work, Logan artists have painted a neighborhood over-burdened with social and environmental injustices for decades,” Gómez said. “The people of Barrio Logan took resistance by creating beauty both with murals and now the development of a new community plan – a different kind of community art.”

Until Our Last Breath opens its doors four days before the June 3rd elections, when artists encourage the public to vote Yes on Propositions B and C.

The free exhibition will be this Saturday, May 31st, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Chicano Art Gallery, 2117 Logan Ave. #1, Barrio Logan. More information: desdelalogan@gmail.com or www.environmentalhealth.org.

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