During the Summer of 2012 I worked with the youth of the John Valenzuela Youth Center in South Tucson during their summer mini art camp. We created several mural panels to serve as public service announcements to the community.
I told the youth my story of being a graffiti artists as a youth in Los Angeles, how I was headed down a wrong path in life. One morning after being out painting graffiti all night and trying to sneak back home, my mom caught me and said, “MEL, Do you want to pay the city for what you’re doing? Or do you want the City to Pay you?” Those words led me to leaving the street life and creating my art on canvas and murals and becoming a professional artist. I want to continue inspiring youth to follow their dreams!
We talked about making better choices for snacks; such as eating fresh fruits and vegetables instead of eating junk food. The “Junk Food Monster” on the mural is made of all the junk food that is directly marketed to the youth and their culture, making junk food even more appealing. I explained to the kids that its very important to look at the labels of the foods they eat. How lots of fat and sodium are really unhealthy and I also showed them the different labels on fruits and veggies. We hope this panel encourages other youth in the community to make healthy eating choices!
At the end of the summer the youth invited their friends and families to a program at Ochoa Elementary School where they presented the mural panels we created, receive awards for their sportsmanship, and perform a skit they created in drama. In art camp we also created the masks that they used in their performance.
In October, the Pima County Public Library had asked if I would like to display art at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library in downtown Tucson. I accepted because I knew this was a great space to display all of the art that I've created with the youth in the community over the past two years. The art will be displayed until November 30, 2012
My experience being part of the Rillito River Project was an amazing one. Originally from Los Angeles and now a Tucson resident, The Rillito River Project exposed me to a lot of valuable information about the environment and inspired me to learn more. Our experience began at Biosphere #2. We spoke to many different scientists about their work and our group was given a tour of the biosphere. The thing about the Biosphere is that you have to think of it as a living thing you are able to walk through and semi control. It’s a very cool experiment.
After our 4 days at the Biosphere we headed down to Cuenca Los Ojos in the Chiricahua Mountains. We stayed at the Coronado Ranch, an amazing place. Valer Austin has many acres of land both on the U.S. and Mexican side of the border. She invited us to see what she has done to raise the water table and reestablish native grasses on her land by building simple rock dams called gabions. We also had a chance to see how the border not only keeps people from their natural migration but also keeps animals from their natural migration. Being on the Coronado Ranch and meeting with Valer was a very inspiring experience. We had the opportunity to see what one person can do to make a huge change for the better.
I learned a lot from this experience. With this new knowledge I would like to use my skills as an artist to share it with others. I feel that if people knew more about how climate change is effecting our environment they would be willing to make the necessary changes. The first project I have in mind is to create a painting of the Mexican Free Tail bat. It lives in Tucson six months out of the year and helps our local farmers control the bug population. It also eats mosquitoes and is a delight to have as a summer resident. I would then love to make my painting into a large-scale mural that the people of Tucson can appreciate and learn from. This is the project I would like to do as a direct result of my Rillito River Project, Art Lab, experience.
Curated by Self Help Graphics & Art's Program Manger, Joel Garcia, The Jornalero Papers gathered the voices of 10 artists who live/lived the experience of being a day laborer in America to take part in a special printmaking atelier. The subject of each of the limited edition fine art serigraphs explore the artist's dreams of opportunity, met with the realities of oppression, abuse, and physical pain; as well as their experiences of empowerment through organizing and creating networks of opportunity in between the lines of society.
Through a series of dialogues conducted virtually via Skype, the artists came together, shared their experience, knowledge, ideas and perspectives to help develop the content of what you will experience through Self Help Graphics & Art's LIII Atelier--The Jornalero Papers.
Artists include: Joel Garcia (Los Angeles, CA, Curator), Noel Vargas Hernandez, Hugo Martinez (Los Angeles, CA), Jose Luis Barrero (Los Angeles, CA), Alfredo Burgos (Los Angeles, CA), Ricardo Santibañez (Los Angeles, CA), Mel Dominguez (Tucson, AZ). Jose Gonzalez (Portland, OR), Irwin Sanchez (New York, NY), and Xavier Tavera (Minneapolis, MN),