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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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Nationally-renowned artist brings murals to East Toledo

Peruvian artist Mario Torrero will lead a group of Bowling Green State University students in painting a 40 feet wide by 15 feet tall mural on a viaduct on East Broadway near Vinyl Street.

If the weather and other factors cooperate, the group will have begun their project over the weekend and be done by this Wednesday.

Over a dozen students, who will get college credit, are being led by art lecturer Gordon Ricketts, director of BGSU’s Arts Village Learning Community, and Torrero. Ricketts and Torrero have had an association dating back to when they met in San Diego, California.

MarioMural
One of artist Mario Torrero's murals he painted in
Barcelona, Spain. Torrero will be leading a group
of Bowling Green State University students in
painting a mural on an East Broadway viaduct in
East Toledo. (www.fuerzamundo.org)

On Torerro’s website, www.fuerzamundo.org, he is described as “A child of the 60′s. (His family) lived for a time in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district and enjoyed the music, art and lifestyle of the era.” The website displays his artwork and murals, which can be found around the world.

Torerro began painting murals 40 years ago starting in San Diego. His murals in Chicano Park, San Diego, are among many known worldwide and are a major attraction of the area.

“Long before San Diego’s downtown area was the bustling center it now is, in 1976 Mario and his father opened The Acevedo Art Gallery International on 8th and Broadway, Downtown San Diego’s first art gallery. By 1977 it became the first ever multicultural art center, known as the Community Arts Building,” the website continues.

Ricketts also once lived in San Diego, but they didn’t know each other at the time.

“But I start travelling there about 10 years ago and I’d take 10 students in a van on a road trip to San Diego, and we were introduced to Mario,” Ricketts said. “Chicano Park (40 years ago) was this neighborhood park where they built this freeway through San Diego, and of course they built through neighborhoods where people didn’t have money, right?

“They built this big bridge over San Diego Bay and there are all these pylons and they have this dirt piled up everywhere and they bisected the neighborhood and so they were going to put a police station there. So, these kids said, ‘No, we are not going to allow a police station there.’ So they camped out down there and people started painting the murals and they took the park back.”

Ricketts continued, “This park has a national heritage now and this activist group that has been painting on it for 40 to 50 years has actually gotten money now, $2 million, from the California Department of Transportation, to refurbish what they did 40 years ago. This is where the community gathers now, and it’s not just Chicanos, it is all races and all people come down there and they are welcome.”

Torrero and Ricketts first brought their murals to Toledo’s Old South End incorporating mostly Latino artwork, and it has taken off so well that other groups of local artists are starting to contribute on their own. Torrero said for East Toledo they want the art to reflect a more diverse culture, including imagery representing the African-American population.

Torrero, who still resides in San Diego, and his crew plan to incorporate into the East Broadway mural logos from East Toledo schools Waite (Indians) High School, Oakdale (Vikings) and East Broadway (Chiefs) elementaries as well as a large honey bee with flowers around it, feathers, dancers representing seeds, and a representation of the late civil rights activist Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The mural will be painted on the right side of the viaduct.

“It’s a great drawing and there are issues that students need to know about the whole honey bee thing,” Ricketts said, recognizing a declining bee population nationwide. “Honey bees and flowers are all connected in some way with people. I like the concept of this — the ‘inter-connectiveness’ of this and the bees and the flowers and how important it is to us.”

Torrero added, “We are at a time where there a lot of environmental issues going on. So, Einstein said, ‘If bees go, civilization goes,’ and we are at that time where we have to watch global warming and many other elements that could be toxic to civilization.

“So, the bees are important and people don’t pay attention to the bees, except they don’t want to be stung by them. This is a whole different way of looking at it because if they survive, we survive. So, we have to be careful about not being stung by the bee, but by it dying, perhaps.”

Before beginning in East Toledo, they have to finish a mural project in South Toledo near the Green Lantern restaurant.

Ricketts said the group hoped to begin by digitally projecting their cartoon drawings onto the East Broadway viaduct on Saturday night and then begin adding color paint this week, working from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. They said anyone who wants to stop by to watch or even be involved is welcome. East Toledo Family Center officials said they recruited local youth who were expecting to assist.

At a community meeting held at Oakdale School Thursday, Ricketts and Torrero were asking officials if the area to be painted can be sandblasted by city officials before work begins. They also need access to generators and about a half dozen 12-foot ladders so artists can reach the viaduct, which is about 15 feet above ground.

The East Broadway project, estimated by Ricketts to typically cost $5,000, is mostly supported by donations from BGSU’s Arts Village Learning Community, College of Arts and Science, ECAP, Ethnic Studies Department in the School of Cultural and Critical Studies, Medical Circle, Office of Service-Learning, School or Art, and the Theater and Film Department.

Community participants include the East Toledo Family Center, One Voice for East Toledo, NeighborWorks: Toledo region, Northwest Ohio Building Trades, Sofia Quintero Arts and Cultural Center, Toledo Parks and Forestry, and Duane and Maria Rodriguez-Winter.

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