Fiestas Patrias en el Fulton Mall. During the Mexican Independence Day celebrations at the Fulton Mall, Teresa Flores and Raul Baltazar gathered public input from San Joaquin residents on their relationship to the urban and the rural. This was inspired by Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait between the borderlines of Mexico and the United States.

Building Community, One Mural at a Time

Interview by the Community Alliance

Artists Teresa Flores and Raul Paulino Baltazar standing next to a mural painted by people at this year’s Big Fresno Fair. It was inspired by the fair itself using familiar images like games, food and Snoop Dog. More than 150 people participated. Photo by Ernesto Saavedra
Artists Teresa Flores and Raul Paulino Baltazar standing next to a mural painted by people at this year’s Big Fresno Fair. It was inspired by the fair itself using familiar images like games, food and Snoop Dog. More than 150 people participated. Photo by Ernesto Saavedra

For another year, the Fresno Fair made its way to town. Amid all the usual rides, petting zoos and fried greasy food, there was another thing bringing people together from all walks of life: Creative Fresno’s Mural Mobile Arts Project. The project consists of creating four mobile murals, which began Sept. 12–15 at the Fiestas Patrias (Mexican Independence Day celebrations) at the Fulton Mall. The second one was created at the Fresno Fair in October.

This is an attempt to engage the community in a unique way by incorporating the dynamics of the Central Valley with art. Consequently, the process organically spawns dialogue specific to these dynamics like living between a rural and urban setting, immigration, farmworkers and other topics. This is spearheaded by artist Teresa Flores, a native of Fresno but residing in Long Beach who drives up once a week to teach a class at Fresno State, with the help of Raul Paulino Baltazar from Los Angeles.

On October 5, 2014, the Community Alliance sat down with Teresa and Raul to talk about Creative Fresno’s Mural Mobile Arts Project.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself—where you grew up and how that influenced where you are today.

Teresa: I grew up here in Fresno. My family moved here when I was three, and we traveled between here and southern California for most of my life and I got used to the drive and I think that kind of gave me the courage to leave and go to grad school in L.A. eventually. I went to Fresno State to get my drawing and painting degree. Then I left to go to grad school at Otis College of Arts and Design and got my MFA in public practice with the intent of coming back to Fresno to use what I’ve learned in public practice in Fresno. And I’m doing it now.

Q: What specifically about that drive inspired you to do what you’re doing?

Teresa: It’s seeing the subtle changes between these regions and the similarities as well. There are these subtle unique things that are specific to each region. [In] the [Central] Valley we are much more impacted by the drought; by the lack of universities and the lack of arts here. And so we have a different sense of identity than maybe people in like Riverside who have UC Riverside and things like that.

I’ve been a teacher for six years now. I’ve worked with so many different kids around the [Central] Valley and see how much they want art. They’re creative and they don’t have as many outlets as they’d like outside of school. That’s what I like about this project because we get to tap into that “outside of school” context. I know that it’s memorable and it stays with people. I think about myself when I was a kid growing up in Fresno and wanting to make art.

Fiestas Patrias en el Fulton Mall. During the Mexican Independence Day celebrations at the Fulton Mall, Teresa Flores and Raul Baltazar gathered public input from San Joaquin residents on their relationship to the urban and the rural. This was inspired by Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait between the borderlines of Mexico and the United States.
Fiestas Patrias en el Fulton Mall. During the Mexican Independence Day celebrations at the Fulton Mall, Teresa Flores and Raul Baltazar gathered public input from San Joaquin residents on their relationship to the urban and the rural. This was inspired by Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait between the borderlines of Mexico and the United States.

Q: Raul, what brought you here?

Raul: I came to help out Teresa. This is my first time here in Fresno. I’m from L.A. but have lived up and down California.

Q: What are you hoping to accomplish with this project and what drives you to do it?

Teresa: I see how happy people are in participating in something like this. You come to the Fresno Fair and have to spend six bucks on a corn dog and all this money, and you show up here and find art that you can do for free. We’re teaching people how to paint and they walk away feeling accomplished and they want more. They ask where they could take lessons. They want to do more and they feel good. That’s what’s amazing about this project; people feel good about what they’ve done.

The Central Valley has a designated space of where it’s okay to have art, show art or make art. People are expecting to see art that has already been made. They aren’t expecting to make a work of art that’s actually going to be at the fair.

Q: Raul, what inspired you to do this?

Raul: That’s a very good question. With this project in particular, it is for the kids to create [culture] instead of consuming culture. Letting them experience that little entry point; it makes it worthwhile. The contemporary art world is so esoteric; it’s kind of meant to keep you at [a] distance. [Referring to the mural project] It’s accessible.

It gives people an opportunity to voice themselves. For a lot of kids, it’s something they really love. They need to be helped to better facilitate that voice.

There are still two more murals to go, but their theme and place are yet to be determined. To learn more about Creative Fresno’s Mural Mobile Arts project, contact Flores at teresaflores18@gmail.com

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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