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Mural concepts are unfolding in Atascadero as part of the Equality Mural Project

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Toni Morrison said, "All that art-for-art's-sake stuff is BS. What are these people talking about? Are you really telling me that Shakespeare and Aeschylus weren't writing about kings? All good art is political! There is none that isn't."

The 10 artists participating in the SLO County Arts Council's Atascadero Equality Mural Project seem to have taken that to heart, creating art that demands to be reckoned with, contemplated, and responded to. These ideas are not only beautiful and have the potential to draw mural tourism, they're also telling visitors who Atascadero is and what it cares about.

WE ARE EVERYDAY PEOPLE Inspired by Sly & The Family Stone's 1969 song, "Everyday People," Irineo Medina's mural concept is meant to "uplift marginalized groups in my community," he said. - COURTESY IMAGE BY IRINEO MEDINA
  • Courtesy Image By Irineo Medina
  • WE ARE EVERYDAY PEOPLE Inspired by Sly & The Family Stone's 1969 song, "Everyday People," Irineo Medina's mural concept is meant to "uplift marginalized groups in my community," he said.

The mural concepts are viewable through the end of February at a pop-up gallery located at 6100 El Camino Real, suite B, and the project's goal is to raise $40,000 to apply these 10 murals to open walls in Atascadero. The gallery space was donated by Z Villages and the public can view the work by appointment, and masks are required.

Irineo Medina's concept is called We Are Everyday People, inspired by Sly & The Family Stone's classic 1969 song "Everyday People": "Sometimes I'm right and I can be wrong/ My own beliefs are in my song/ The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then/ Makes no difference what group I'm in/ I am everyday people, yeah yeah/ There is a blue one who can't accept/ The green one for living with/ A fat one tryin' to be a skinny one/ Different strokes for different folks/ And so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby/ Ooh sha sha/ We got to live together."

Medina's image shows three faces with mix-and-match eyes, noses, and mouths of different colors—the idea being we're all more alike than different, and we all need to learn to live together.

"When it comes to art in public spaces, I have an intrinsic motivation to offer solution, love, and positivity for the community I am working in," Medina explained in his artist statement. "I blend my passion for art with that of my job as an advocate for children of color to inform my creative thought process in the public space. It is necessary for me to use my gift and platform to uplift marginalized groups in my community by creating work for them and furthermore using that work to raise awareness around issues these groups might be facing.

"I have found importance in uplifting women and draw influence from my mother who raised three children as a single mother," he continued. "I think about how unfair and hard the story of single motherhood is across the nation, especially if those stories mix with cycles of domestic abuse. I paint to portray women as powerful and beautiful sources of life and strength. I think about women of color and how some of those same hardships can be amplified because of the color of their skin.

"As a person of color, I find it incredibly important to represent minorities in my work. For so many reasons, but to me the most important is to address the issue that so often systems in place have marginalized us, dehumanized us, disenfranchised us, and kept us from growth and development," he said. "Too often those systems have painted us in a negative light. I want to represent people of color in such a beautiful way that viewers can't help but see it as such."

ORIGIN "My goal for this project is to focus on the connections between people and the experiences of natural phenomena shared between all," Mia Franco explained. "I intend to explore what connects us as humans rather than what separates us." - COURTESY IMAGE BY MIA FRANCO
  • Courtesy Image By Mia Franco
  • ORIGIN "My goal for this project is to focus on the connections between people and the experiences of natural phenomena shared between all," Mia Franco explained. "I intend to explore what connects us as humans rather than what separates us."

Mia Franco's concept, Origin, depicts a heron in flight, coming in a circle out of sunlight, suggestive of a phoenix rising from the ashes.

"My goal for this project is to focus on the connections between people and the experiences of natural phenomena shared between all," Franco wrote in her artist statement. "I intend to explore what connects us as humans rather than what separates us, bringing together all communities to appreciate natural patterns and other surrounding life forms."

Clarke Andros' concept, Grow to Shade, is a bold red, white, and black graphic design that repeats the words, "We will grow to shade all those beneath our branches and in shade be still." Consider it a sort of mantra.

GROW TO SHADE "I firmly believe that public art is for the public good," Clarke Andros said of his bold, mantra-like design. "As a poet and visual artist, I love the idea of the integration of positive poetic affirmation with well-executed aesthetics in the public space." - COURTESY IMAGE BY CLARKE ANDROS
  • Courtesy Image By Clarke Andros
  • GROW TO SHADE "I firmly believe that public art is for the public good," Clarke Andros said of his bold, mantra-like design. "As a poet and visual artist, I love the idea of the integration of positive poetic affirmation with well-executed aesthetics in the public space."

"I firmly believe that public art is for the public good," Andros stated. "As a poet and visual artist, I love the idea of the integration of positive poetic affirmation with well-executed aesthetics in the public space. It is a goal of the piece in consideration that it would act as a mantra of sorts for the people of Atascadero to interact with and apply to their own personal and public lives whenever they see it. When we repeat affirmative and positive phrases to ourselves, change is the habit formed.

"So in short, the goal of the mural is to enact positive change and a mindset for growth," Andros continued, "looking to the beauty around us for inspiration, and have that permeate into the community and make long-lasting inclusive change."

Other participating artists include Cynthia Luján, Katie Tam, Isaac Yorke, Brandy Pippin, Jackie Nguyen, Sally Lamas, and Rachel Hamann.

"The Equality Mural Project is also seeking property owners with exterior public wall space for seven additional walls in the downtown area," organizers said. "To jump-start fundraising efforts, fine art prints will be available for purchase in the gallery, and 100 percent of those proceeds go to the selected mural artists and to cover the costs of painting materials."

Businesses, organizations, or individuals interested in partnering with or donating to the Equality Mural Project in order to beautify downtown Atascadero should contact Victoria Carranza or Zoe Zappas at equalitymuralproject@gmail.com. Δ

Contact Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey atgstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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