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Muralist hopes to bring art to University of Arizona community

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Sky Islands (Whale Mural) by Joe Pagac 2019 sponsored by Banner Health. 1930 E Grant Rd, Tucson, AZ. (Photograph by Lizette Arias)

The growing movement of mural art continues to bring life to the walls of Tucson and even the University of Arizona. 

Arizona native and muralist Ignacio Garcia said he hopes to bring more of the art displayed in Downtown Tucson closer to the university.

“The University of Arizona is a great mecca for sports and education, so I think to have art would be beneficial,” Garcia said. “I think this can be a great steppingstone for the university, and the benefits are tremendous. It can really inspire young artists at the university and have them contribute to this movement.”

Garcia’s “La Mujer Empoderada” is Downtown Tucson’s latest mural, located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Congress Street. Commissioned by LoveBlock Partners, the mural is intended to represent female empowerment and the female leaders of Tucson.

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La Mujer Empoderada by Ignacio Garcia 2022 sponsored by LoveBlock Partners. 5th Street and Congress downtown Tucson, AZ. (Photograph by Lizette Arias)

“That one got a lot of attention, more than what I expected. I think it’s because of the way it’s laid out and the way that I finally got to do something where I could utilize my style,” Garcia said, whose mural art took off in the early 2000s.

Tucson’s mural art movement began five years ago with the city’s approval to integrate art within the community. According to Garcia, this also was an effort at promoting art while preventing graffiti around public buildings.

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Black Lives Matter Mural by Camila on Canvas 2020. Hotel Congress downtown Tucson, AZ. (Photograph by Lizette Arias)

Mural art gained more popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, providing a platform for social awareness and self-expression. 

With mural art expanding across the community, UA alumnus Karlito Miller Espinosa painted a mural for the UA School of Art to represent the importance of the arts on campus and in the Tucson community.

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School of Art Mural by Karlito Miller Espinosa 2021. Speedway Boulevard and North Mountain Ave, Tucson, AZ. (Photograph by Lizette Arias)

“I grew up in Venezuela and in Costa Rica, and all those places have a whole history of muralism that was attached to the popular voice, the people and popular political movements,” Espinosa said. “I think that was one of the most inspiring parts of murals for me.” 

Artists David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera and Juan O’Gorman, whose vibrant works have been displayed in the National Autonomous University of Mexico, have inspired Espinosa as a muralist. He is hoping that American universities can adopt the same integration of art and architecture as the Mexican university.

“When I went to Mexico City and to UNAM campus, they have the Diego Rivera stadium and the O’Gorman mural library, and I just thought it was incredible they have this integration with the architecture,” Espinosa recalled. “That’s the first thing I thought of when making the mural for the [UA] School of Art.”

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Bill Walton riding a Jackalope by Ignacio Garcia 2016. Downtown Tucson, AZ. (Photograph by Lizette Arias)

While there are no classes on mural art in the UA College of Fine Arts, Garcia said that there is interest in incorporating classes into the school’s curriculum. 

“I’m finding out a lot of my students are becoming more interested, and I feel like there’s more opportunities now that murals have become more popular and have taken people like me all over the world,” Garcia said. “If there is to be a class, I think it wouldn’t just be about painting. It would have to be a hybrid with purpose and community. When it comes to painting, there’s a responsibility that you have, not just as an artist but as a person that’s coming into a place and reflecting its people and stories. There’s that responsibility of listening, researching and collaborating.”


 *El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.


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