Mural Project Beautifying Coachella
By Raymond P. Bondad
In the heart of Coachella lies a jewel in the making, a community-driven mural depicting a timeline of Mexican-American culture dating back to the pre-Columbian era. Encompassing the Spanish conquest, Mexican independence from Spain, and Chicano history, the mural is part of the beautification and rejuvenation projects coming to the “City of Eternal Sunshine.”
Originally started by “Artistas Del Barrio” in 1979, the Shady Lane mural project lasted until 1981 and was never completed. Eventually the wall deteriorated and fell to the ground.
The city decided to level the wall and start over. In May of 2011, the mural project was revived when “Culturas,” a local organization, rallied volunteer artists from all over the Coachella Valley and enlisted volunteers such as Ruben Gonzalez, the mural project coordinator. Gonzalez is a private contractor who volunteers his time leading the project.
The mural timeline is a show of respect to the original idea and the original artists from 32 years ago, according to Gonzalez. Along with beautifying the community, the mural will also serve as an educational tool for the several local schools within walking distance as well as the rest of the youth in the Coachella Valley, and will serve to educate everyone about Mexican-American history via the timeline.
Since May of 2011, the city of Coachella has paid for all of the material and a $5,000 contribution by Goldenvoice was used to provide meals to artists as they bring the mural to life, Gonzalez said.
“Our responsibility to the artists and everyone involved is to just feed the artists,” Gonzalez said.
The mural is open to all artists in the Coachella Valley. Each artist is given a 50-foot portion of the timeline for their depiction. Once an artist creates his/her design, it must be approved by Gonzalez, John Duran, and Gabriel Perez, and then, the artist gets the green light to make his/her mark, Gonzalez said.
So far, there have been several talented artists, like Temo Aldrete of Cathedral City, whose freehand depiction of Mexican independence was done using spray paint. Gonzalez says that Frank Limas, an artist who recently enlisted into the United States Army, painted the depiction of the “Mexicano Folklore. He did Joaquin Murieta, Vasquez, and Gregorio Cortez. It took him about a month to do his but he had us out here at one or two in the morning,” Gonzalez said, with a chuckle.
Gonzalez is hoping to be able to finish the project before the summer hits this year, because of the heat. Most artists who painted in the summer, painted at night to avoid the harsh weather during the day, although the evenings aren’t much cooler. Gonzalez is reaching out to artists of all ages to help finish the wall. He is also seeking donations of money, food, and beverages for the artists.
For more information on the Shady Lane mural project and how to get involved, community members can visit “Culturas” on Facebook or at myspace.com/culturas.coachella.