Time stops for no one, especially not for a social movement. So the Bay Area-based community cultural center La Peña is opening a new horizon for an old mural at the intersection of art and activism. The group has launched a fundraising campaign to replace the Song of Unity mural, a pillar on the Berkeley landscape that is now showing the wear and tear of a quarter century of activist history. The plan is to create a fresh mural with a “new generation” of creative souls, partnering with the Trust Your Struggle collective to take this old wall to new heights. Their goal is to raise $17,000 by July 1st to fund the creation of a public art piece that “represents the concept that arts and culture can help cultivate social and political awareness and activism.” It’s an old idea, of course, but one that constantly needs to be refreshed and revamped to fit the contours of today’s social justice struggles.
The old mural is an incredible artifact. The group’s website lists the illustrious palette of artists and change makers whose lives and creative work inspired generations past:
The main figure, done in relief, is Chilean folk singer Victor Jara, who best embodies La Peña’s tradition of cultural workers involved in struggle for peace and justice. Jara was executed by the military junta during the coup d’etat in Chile in September, 1973. His detached hand is shown still strumming a guitar, a symbol of his resistance to the military. Other figures on the left side of the mural, representing Central and South America, include Chilean Nobel Prize-wining poet Pablo Neruda, Nicaraguan rebel leader Augusto Sandino, Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, and Gabriela Mistral of Chile. On the right side, representing North America, are actor Paul Robeson, folk singer Woody Guthrie, Native American activist Bill Wahpepah, and folk singer Malvina Reynolds.
But with La Pena’s 2nd Skin Mural project, it’s time to make room for the new kids who are taking on the next wave of social justice struggles. We can’t wait to see what the TYS crew comes up with.
Here’s more on the campaign from the project’s Indie Go Go site:
In 1978, the Song of Unity mural was painted in the facade of our Berkeley building by a group of inimitable artists as the first 3D-collectively-painted mural in the Bay Area. After years of exposure to the sun and weather, the original mural is in an unrepairable state. As a nonprofit organization, still committed to our mission of promoting peace, social justice and cultural understanding through the arts, education and community action, we have decided to invest in the future of La Peña by building a new mural with a new generation of politically conscious artists.
We have now a great opportunity to bring into the fold a new generation of leaders in their field. Trust Your Struggle (TYS) is an artist collective of visual artists, educators, and cultural workers dedicated to social justice and community activism through the medium of art. They have produced gallery installations, live paintings, murals and arts education workshops with youth and community organizations since 2003. Some of the TYS muralists have been students of the original artists!
We need to raise $17,000 by July 1st so we can take down the old mural, purchase the materials, resurface the wall and pay artist fees and other related costs. Using new weatherproof and lighter materials and new special paints (Politech), Trust Your Struggle will create a 21st century mural that represents the concept that arts and culture can help cultivate social and political awareness and activism.
As for the original mural, it will be carefully dismantled and we are already exploring ideas for how it can be relocated to an interior space, preserving it as an historical East Bay landmark for future generations. We envision a day when you can visit La Peña and experience the transformation of our communities over a span of almost 40 years through the stories told within these two murals. The murals are the different skins of our organization and they change as we change.