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UA students paint the town with new mural

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On the wall of the Historic Y building in the heart of Downtown Tucson, a mural depicts a Latina woman looking longingly into the clouds while surrounded by colorful imagery of cactuses and Arizona sunsets. 

The artistry and detail of this new mural was painted with the help of two UA students. 

Students Analaura Villegas and Brisa Tzintzun painted the mural alongside UA professor Karlito Miller Espinoza, also known as the artist Mata Ruda.

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Villegas and Tzintzun, both graphic design students, were picked from their illustration class by Miller to help him paint a mural titled “Sonora” in Downtown Tucson over the 2018 winter break, portraying the Hispanic heritage of Arizona. 

“We were extremely surprised, because he only chose two students out of about twenty students in that class,” Villegas said. “He saw our potential in painting and us showing up to class every day ready to paint for three hours. Karlito saw that we carry the same passion for painting just like he does, which allowed us to have this wonderful opportunity.”

The trio began the mural on Dec. 11 and finished it Dec. 16. According to Villegas, they prepared to paint “Sonora” by buying all the necessary materials as well as gridding the mural to make sure everything was aligned perfectly.

“We first went to Ace Hardware store for about twenty different colors of spray paint and around five buckets of primary color latex paint and around three big brushes,” Villegas said. “My professor managed the lift, in order to begin gridding the mural and focused on small grids specifically for her face.”

Villegas also said that while Miller focused on painting the face, they worked on color blocking and filling the whole mural.

“We later focused on the details of the woman as well as blending the colors as a gradient effect for the sunsets in order to make it come to life,” Villegas said. 

Tzintzun said they would meet at the Historic Y building at 9 a.m. and wouldn’t stop working until 6 p.m. 

“The mural took longer than we had anticipated due to the rough texture of the wall we had to paint on,” Tzintzun said. “We had to use almost double the paint and time to cover it up completely.” 

After five days of hard work and dedication, the trio was able to finish their mural. Both students were able to learn something new from the experience, improving their art skills, they said. 

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“This was the very first time I had ever been invited to work on something this big, at a much larger scale than I usually do,” Tzintzun said. “It definitely put me out of my comfort zone, but it paid off, because I learned so much from this experience.”

Similar to Tzintzun, Villegas was unfamiliar with the steps it took to paint a mural, but she was able to learn along the way what it took to create one.


“The process of painting the mural was something I was eager to know, because painting a mural can require different steps, but I later found out that it is similar to painting on a canvas,” Villegas said. 

Not only does “Sonora” show the artists’ expertise, the mural has a powerful message behind it. It is a representation of the Hispanic heritage that flows through Tucson, according to the artists. Villegas said that Miller wanted to incorporate a young adult to appeal to a broad audience and he wanted anyone viewing the mural to be able to relate to it.

“The girl in the mural has very distinct features that represent Latinas and everything that comes with girl power,” Tzintzun said. 

Aside from the young woman, the mural represents different things, Villegas said.

“The mural has many sections where it represents Arizona, such as the cactus and sunsets as well as a hummingbird, which represents the Colibrí organization the Historic Y building is a part of,” Villegas said. “The butterfly symbolizes migrants who have crossed the border and the woman is reading a book and looking up into the clouds to symbolize hopefulness, empowerment and knowledge, in my opinion.”

Tzintzun said she hopes the mural makes people feel proud of who they are or where they come from.

“I know it makes me feel very special to see my culture represented in Tucson, whether it’s through a mural or anything else,” Tzintzun said. 

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During their time painting the mural, Villegas and Tzintzun said they were both able to become closer and, more importantly, said they were able to learn more about their artistic skills and valuable art techniques.

“My favorite part of painting the mural was bonding with my classmate and teacher as well as learning how to make every little detail come to life,” Villegas said. “I actually didn’t know how to blend so smoothly and create a nice sunset until they helped me with color matching and using water to blend.”

Tzintzun also credited the learning experience as the best part of painting the mural, saying she enjoyed being able to proudly represent her culture.

“I feel very lucky to have been able to experience this,” Tzintzun said. “I was able to represent my culture the best way that I can, by painting it.”


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