Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Ward 3 Gem

 Ward 3 Gem

by Ernesto Portillo, Ward 3 Council Aide

There is a large, colorful mural on the wall of S&K Market in the Miracle Manor neighborhood. It is a 10-year-old iconic mural with various representative images of the rich history of this small niche in Ward 3. But more than a mural, it was a seed that helped launch Tucson’s mural movement over the recent years.
“This mural...initiated the city-wide mural movement. When we started almost nobody wanted murals,” said Michael Schwartz, the mural artist whose name is painted in the lower left corner on the north-facing wall of the market at 2520 N. 15th Ave. But really, he added, the mural’s creators were many people, young and old, from the neighborhood. The mural emerged from an extensive intergenerational, after-school series of workshops and interviews.
“People voted on every single element in that mural. The neighbors literally cast ballots,” he said. “I acted as the lead artist and painted their mural.”
At the core of the mural is more than paint on a brick wall. It is about community engagement and cultural development, and building community identity in the neighborhood bounded by Miracle Mile on the north, Grant Road on the south, Oracle on the east and Fairview on the west.
The mural project began in early September 2009. It was one of five demonstration art projects sponsored by the Tucson Arts Brigade. The Miracle Manor Neighborhood Association proposed the mural and it was developed and created in collaboration with the Youth Empowerment Services Network. It was completed in April 2010.
The images in the mural include the sign for the Ghost Ranch and Lodge Restaurant, whose sign was designed by artist Georgia O’Keefe and El Rey, both which represent the smattering of small motor lodges that had sprung up on Miracle Mile and Oracle Road, the northern entrance to Tucson, before the coming of the freeway. There is John Wayne on the big screen of the now-gone Biltmore/Miracle Mile Drive-in theater and E. C. Nash Elementary School, opened in 1960 and named after the first superintendent of the Amphitheater School District. And there is a neighbor looking out from her window admiring the birds, a rabbit, oranges on a tree, flowers. The image is reflective of the area’s early rural character. The mural is topped off with fluffy bunny-shaped clouds soaring above purple mountains and a radiating sky.
"Back in the late 1940s and early '50s when the neighborhood was being developed, residents who still lived here from that time offered up information for the history of the neighborhood," said Marsha Quinn, in a story in the Arizona Daily Star, published on Oct. 22, 2012. Quinn, a neighborhood resident who was involved in the mural project, added, "We really wanted to have the mural be meaningful to the neighborhood, and the seniors really had a lot of input."
Some of those neighbors involved in the project were Henry and Alicia Garcia, Sandi Mittelstaedt, Mickey Ethington, Dee Brunner, Gene Dickens, Mario Gonzalez, Oscar Bojorquez, Kathy Johnson, according to the Daily Star story.
The project’s history and creation is collected in this internet site.
For Chankiry Chhang, owner of the S&K Market for the past 17 years, the mural has been nothing but positive.
“It was better than a blank wall,” he said as he admired the mural Thursday afternoon. He has had no problems with graffiti on the mural. He said that people from outside the neighborhood come to the store to admire it and take photos of the mural. “Everybody comes,” he said. “It makes me feel proud.”

Saturday, August 22, 2020

What ever hapened to Tucson Arts Brigade?


Sometimes it’s difficult to explain why a cherished non-profit vanishes. 

The Tucson Arts Brigade Mural Program emerged from a Nov. 11, 1995 Arts and Social Change Gathering. It was a popular idea that emphasized a collective voice and hands on action. For 24 years we designed and produced murals, workshops, gatherings, festivals and theater using a consensus based practice. Thousands of people from all walks of life participated.

The core of the organization was a vibrant year round after school program. Each of the sites emerged from a needs assessment process, often initiated by neighborhood organizations who had come upon resources to improve the places they lived. TAB offered arts based solutions to these needs.

TAB joined a national constellation of arts engagement organizations. The after-school programs produced works of art with visiting and resident artist. The participants selected an endless array of subjects; civil rights, border issues, gender equality, climate change, eco-justice, poverty, houslessness and anti war themes. TAB was a practice, a container - the participants created the content. The public enjoyed the end product.

The second part of our program was the community curated City Wide Outdoor Gallery that hired artists to paint murals. We encouraged visiting and collaborating artists to offer some sort of community engagement opportunity. This part of the program grew exponentially when we produced a series of murals downtown in collaboration with the city. We put our best practices in place, and the project was a success, as was the second round of downtown murals.

TAB's partners amplified the work by matching dollars raised. The burden fell on TAB to navigate a complicated and time consuming bureaucratic process that resulted in a work of public art. The lack of a clear local policy or road map for producing murals (let alone social practice projects) meant every step we took was an epic, repetative and costly series of tasks. We learned how to make it work. We had demonstrated the value of a well organized professional mural arts program with metrics. We hosted what was intended to be the first in a series of Community Mural Forums, unaware of the challenges that lay ahead.

"The Mural program changed Tucson..."

But it wasn’t enough.

The vibrant process, curriculum, management or sense of ownership and participatory process that was the TAB hallmark is difficult to recreate. Neighbors were engaged in community design meetings, and approval of designs and many public calls for artists issued.

Critics argue we should let the free market work, the shark tank. Hey it works for advertising - why not murals? This perspective ignores the cultural impact of public art and ability of murals to shape our landscape. These murals are reflective of who we are as a community, it's not just about a pretty postcard, it's an expression of community identity.

When we remove public engagement process we also remove the, voices, history, ownership and pride. This idea of winner take all is framed as "competition" and fosters a monolithic image of our cultural landscape. People see bright beautiful colors and ask what's the problem? Never considering the thousand of voices left out, a peoples history white washed, the streets perfumed for your enjoyment.  The critics of Cultural equity and democracy frame the debate in personal terms, avoiding the tough policy and socio-cultural implications of installing works of public art. Those with the most resources, and connections, and least morals, win, and will use their privilege to silence those who dissent.

Towards the end of 2019 the daily hoop jumping ritual became overbearing. It had been 288 months of this, almost to the day. Then our studio at Citizens mysteriously flooded causing a huge amount of damage, coupled with mounting administrative bills. We had to make the difficult decision to pay what bills we could for as long as possible, but essentially fade away. It felt, as one board member described “like a dark cloud was approaching”.

By March of 2020, that cloud had arrived for the entire planet.

At a time when we needed it the most, TAB was gone. It's important to emphasize our deep impact, in providing artist jobs, redistributing over $350,000. to artist of all ages and walks of life,  elevating the status and visibility of a diversity of artists, celebrating a peoples history and advancing the role of the arts in our community. The ripple effects will be felt for years. The community that TAB embodied is a healthy one, with many branches, deep roots, colorful flowers and nutritious fruits. Something new will rise from the ashes. 


"Meeting of minds

A collective history

of human experience 


Like seeds grown in rich soil

Many lives, same truth."

(TAB Participant)

The original and only website expired in March 2020 

here is where we left it off...

Saturday, August 8, 2020

No Justice No Peace Poster Series

Black Lives Matter

These posters are from a series done for an AFSC traveling exhibit. They are all free to download and copy, give away, share. These were inspired by the protests in Ferguson, MO, the now historic seven day march entitled, “Journey for Justice: Ferguson to Jefferson City” and continued pattern of killings.

There are more topical posters in the AFSC Poster Series


Trayvon Martin
Tamir Rice
Michael Brown
Eric Garner
Philando Castile
Breonna Taylor
George Floyd


Friday, May 22, 2020

Art Meals Tucson

Art Meals Tucson is a program that adds art activity sheets in with the school bus meals in the brainchild of Andrew Tegarden, a Teaching Artist earning his PhD in Art Education at the University of Arizona, School of Art & Visual Culture Education.

Andrew had been doing after-school art classes, and he and the rest us We knew that the digital divide in Pima County had exposed itself, and many youth were not getting the arts education support they deserved. Andrew thought that the simplicity and equity of old-school printed paper with a focus
on reuse and sustainability, along with our traditions here in the Tucson area, on healthy
foods—on resiliency.

Andrew shopped the idea to the UA, his colleagues and TUSD, spending countless hours getting the permissions and support needed. Amidst this pandemic he managed to pull together a curriculum
development team and put in several more weeks of hard work editing, researching and
organizing to produce these four issues of Art Meals.

“Art Meals” issue 1-4 Contributors: Andrew P Tegarden, Delbert Antone, Michael B Schwartz, Mia Ione Garcia, Alyssa Jasmine Thomas, Benjamin Pawlowski and Dianna Taylor.

This first series is free! You can download, copy and share. Please Use Hashtag #ArtMealsTucson

(Click to enlarge)

Issue 1:  Healing Natural (Art) World—Living Giving by Animals, Plants, and People

Issue 3:  Home within Home—Exploring and Enlivening Where Your At

Issue 2:  Nothing’s Trash—Reusing What You Got in Artistic Ways

Issue 4:  Recipes for Change—Food, Art, and the Future

For more information contact Art Meals Tucson:

Monday, April 6, 2020

Arts in the Age of COVID 19

Artist Journal:

In the weeks prior to COVID-19 life was filled with activities, plans, planting seeds and the rush to get outdoor work complete before the summer burn sets in. We had concerns, but the event still felt far away - the world was not ready.

One of my narrative abstract paintings from early 2020
For me the first few week of March it really hit home, the shopping had been done, I felt personally prepared, but as the news got worse people began to socially distance. School was cancelled, shortages at the markets, then shops closing, the economy freaking out. The world was on a collective bad trip. Friends texted and called with regular updates, more information, details and personal situations. Do we socialize distantly through May? August? Nobody really knows, the virus is in control and dictating our behaviors. Some breathe fear.

Work in progress. March 2020
Final version of this painting. March 30, 2020

Today it’s clear, the world has changed… there is the before, and the after. I’ve been attempting to capture the emotions of these past few weeks in my work. The endless questions, lack of clear direction or future. I find myself developing a new routine, adapting, changing. It’s spring, the flowers and trees abloom, the deep blue sky and fresh desert air carry the smell of creosote.

“Once, there was a mountain, then there was no mountain… then there was.”

What has changed for you? Where do you see yourself in 3 months? A year?

Wear A Mask, April 2020

Wear A Mask, April 2020

Friday, March 20, 2020

SPECIAL: COVID 19 Artist Resources

I’m assembling a list of resources for our field specific to the COVID 19 situaiton. The images below were made by my friend Ricardo Levins Morales, check out his website for inspiration.

I will keep updating as I become aware of opportunities. I know we are struggling right now, but if we help each other we will get through this, hopefully with a deeper appreciation of how interconnected we and all things are. Keep in touch and drop me a line, let me know how you are doing and if I can help in any way.

Youth and Education

Learning Heros
Education Week
Art Making Activities for Your Kids
Future Ed (summer camp)
City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Homeschool

Arts and Medicine

Center for Arts and Medicine

Entertainment and Events

Pen Podcast
This limited-run podcast, "The PEN Pod," is meant to provide regular updates and conversations about literature and free expression, and provide an outlet for our in-person events that have been postponed or canceled.

Financial Resources for Working Artists

Atrium: Federal Resources 

Emergency Grants for Female Artists Over 40

Writers Emergency Fund

Working Visual Artists Fund

NYFA Emergency Resource List

General Resource List

Teaching Artist Resources

Freelance Artists

Financial Resources

Tool Box - these sites have been updateed with Emergency COVID-19 Resources

Alternate Roots

Center for the Study of Art and Community

Americans for the Arts Interactive Resource and Response 


Online emergency preparedness service by and for arts/cultural nonprofits

Transitioning to an online workplace 

Digital Tools for Artists to Run a Remote Career During Coronavirus

City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
Overview: Keeping Our Small Arts Non Profits and Business Open During this Crisis

In our personal and business lives there are things with our control, action steps that will help us continue our work given the changes around us.

Develop (local/neighborhood) Plan for Continuity
        1) Planning, Communication, Training
        2) Threat Assessment
        3) Activate Plan
        4) Once crisis is over: Evaluate Plan/ record and store.

Communicate with stakeholders to categorize and assign tasks (who will do what):

        Mission critical  - working on site
        Mission critical - working remotely
        non-critical -     working remotely
        non-critical -     non-remote work

3) Develop a process for situational awareness. Identify reliable sources of information.

    John Hopkins -
   Center for Disease Control
   Local/County Health Department
    Mayors Office, City Council Members, Department Heads
    Pima County

4) Check Supply Chains for Vulnerabilities
        Check as far down the supply chain as possible
        Identify alternative vendors
        Self Produce
        Check Supply chains daily/hourly as needed

5) Promote Good Health Habits
        Washing Hands
        HEPA Filters
        Cleaning Supplies (Lysol, Bleach, Hand Sanitizer, Soap)
        Self Containment
        6 feet distance
        Hand Washing Stations

6) Assessment of Community Travel
        Identify modes of transportation
        Identify alternative modes of transport
        Plan car travel: call ahead to make sure gas stations are open along your route
        If flying wear medical mask, use wet wipe to wash down seating area and consoles.
        Get outside, hike, bike, walk, run - maintain 6 feet distance, use common sense.

7) Inventory Supplies
        Clean all items
        On line inventory


Monday, January 13, 2020

2020 Some New Works

Happy 2020! "VOTE"
"with 3 clues"
"Mellow Yellow"
These are hand drawn, scanned then colored on a computer - intended for digital consumption.
I made a short video of another drawing, depicting a simple and delightful day, which you can see in the post below.

A Day in 2020: Jan 3, 2020