If you are going to open up an art gallery these days, you may as well do it outside, right?
That is exactly what San Miguel de Allende’s Direction de Cultura Tradiciones is doing right now.
The city has invited 10 well-known street artists to put up their best work on the expansive concrete walls of the Libramente underpass called El Puente, located just south of Hospital H+.
The artists began yesterday, Nov. 24, and will paint through Thursday. Each artist has been provided with a 2-meter-by-4-meter space within which to work.
By Friday, the state of Guanajuato’s first-ever open-air Urban Art Gallery should be open for viewing.
Already after one day, the canvases are shaping up into something quite majestic, even for a city like San Miguel which has come to nurture and revere its outdoors art.
I stopped by this morning to check out the first day’s progress.
One of the murals furthest along was the artist “Mane.” He has chosen to create a Maria doll waving out a window. The backdrop is the dramatic cityscape of San Miguel. In a fun twist, Mane has included a large balloon which will appear three-dimensional in photographs — you can put yourself into the picture by “holding” on to the balloon.
Right to the left of Mane’s Maria doll is a piece by the well-known San Miguel artist Boomzer, kinetic birds in bright plumage against a black background.
To the left of Boomzer is the Jalisco artist Ana R. who had etched the most delicate outline in yellow of a young boy racing astride a sprinting rooster. Like several other artists, her piece will be busting out of the framed constraints set by the city.
In the next space, Andrea Felix has filled her frame with a magnificent crane, its neck a jumble of curlicues as its head snakes through a three dimensional box.
The last frame on the south wall belongs to Juan Villafana (FatLC). His image of an indigenous child with arms upraised looks complete as a delicate charcoal drawing against a white background. There will be more. His preliminary sketches shows the bright colors to come.
On the north wall, a mustard colored “canvas” awaits the vision of the artist Merle. Moving west, the artist Eduardo’s rich blue canvas is a dark sea surrounding two characters in embrace.
The next canvas belongs to my good friend Efrain Gonzalez. The scene of a man and woman on a picnic is inspired by the Mexico heritage art of Jesus Helguera, one of Efrain’s favorite artists. While one of the more complex pieces in the gallery, his work is progressing quickly.
Efrain is a famously efficient mural artist who works quickly. However, this time around he has several apprentices drawn from local youth support groups — the brothers (and talented graphic artists and rappers) Juan Angel Nolasco and Carlos Uriel Morales Nolasco from Ojalá Niños and Maria Guadalupe Granados Juárez from Jóvenes Adelante.
Also assisting Efrain are art teacher Jeff Honeycutt and art patron Susan Campbell Skinner.
Next to Efrain is the well-known muralist EKZAONE whose still-blank black canvas (this morning) promises a brilliant kaleidoscopic color-wheel inside which spins a woman who is holding a bright yellow orb. You’ll just have to come up and see it when it is completed — or when I post a followup blog of the finished projects.
The last one is a mystery to me. A black canvas as well, but with no art or name yet attached to it.
Now, it may be that the project still lacks funding for one project. The city’s culture and traditions department had, frankly, run out of money for mural art. In the past few months, they sponsored a series of murals of famous portraits (Mona Lisa, Girl with the Pearl Earring) all wearing masks. A second project paired muralists with young girls who showed an interest in art.
The city department has been charged with keeping the culture and traditions of San Miguel alive in this time of pandemic — no easy trick. Funding has been put into making videos of San Miguel cultural events and outdoors displays that can be viewed safely.
Efrain Gonzalez, Susan Campbell Skinner and others have been trying to raise funds independently to help all the artists contributing to the gallery with paint and supplies. The city department is not allowed to accept contributions directly. A private PayPal account has been dedicated to raising funds if anyone would like to contribute: firstname.lastname@example.org .
And artists do not move on paint alone. On Monday, Susan Skinner brought boxes and boxes of pizza. The city’s guardian angel of street art Colleen Sorensen will be providing lunches for the artists, too. Today, she is serving a vegetarian pasta — the same one she has been providing to hungry muralists for more than seven years. On Thursday, she’s coming with tortas, made to order for all.
Here’s Colleen: “Tuesday I’m coming with a vegetarian pasta (mushrooms, sweet peppers, red sauce, gobs of cheese. Also salad, garlic toast & dessert. Wednesday is a big gordita spread from Doña Meche’s in colonia Guadalupe. Artists must eat!”
Colleen was a founder of Muros en Blanco which nurtures street artists, especially in the district of Guadalupe. I’ll have more on in a later blog on Colleen and her work in Colonia Guadalupe, which is famous for its street art and loss of street art over the years.
More stories on San Miguel’s Urban Art Project:
- Urban Art Gallery takes shape in a San Miguel highway underpass
- At first brush: San Miguel’s open-air Urban Art Gallery is many strokes of creative genius
- Four days: A gallery is created, an obscure corner of San Miguel is transformed
More on murals around San Miguel de Allende: