Here is an exciting project taking place in El Paso. It is a beautiful collaboration between artists, property owners and the community. The realization that murals create an attractive neighborhood is powerful. The transformation is powerful and deep when everyone in the area gets behind it. We see this in large cities as well as places that you would never expect, like the Art Alley in downtown Rapid City.
Segundo Barrio is famous for its murals; the 79901 area is noted for its buildings covered in eclectic Mesoamerican and religious imagery. Now a budding team of artists aims to contribute to that legacy.
Carlo Mendo and Silver IsReal, founders of the Urban Art-Fitters League of El Paso, recently started with a wall in a downtown alley off Fourth Avenue between Oregon and El Paso streets. In six months to a year, they intend to beautify the often-drab walls of downtown alleys with work by local talents.
“Now that we started our first mural, everyone is jumping on board,” IsReal said. “We have artists, building owners and other people who want to get involved, so it’s a really positive experience that we’re seeing everybody meet us halfway.”
The two frequent collaborators set aside at least one day of the month to discuss how they can contribute to El Paso’s creative progress. Mendo is the owner of downtown’s Loft Light Studio, IsReal runs an apparel line called Estylow Junktion, and both are involved in El Paso Permaculture.
One of their first pieces, a plant stem topped with a peace sign with the message “Make Love Not War,” is a tribute to IsReal’s former girlfriend Jeannette Alicia Lazaro and her friend Evalynn Marie Rose, who both passed away in January 2011. IsReal said the first pieces, finished about two weeks ago, have already sparked curiosity.
True to their environmental leanings, the group used surplus paint donated by a commercial painter for its first pieces, and the self-sufficient ethics of permaculture will also work their way into the new project.
“We’re going to start utilizing the water that’s trapped on the roofs and start creating mini forests that are self-watering instead of having to use tap water,” said Mendo, who recently graduated from El Paso’s first permaculture design course. “The idea is to use native plants.”
Both founders credit contributors such as Jorge Hernandez, a downtown building owner who has granted them permission to paint the alleys and is connecting them to other owners. Diego Martinez, voted What’s Up’s Best Local Artist in 2012, is among the active Urban Art-Fitters.
The group is aiming high when it comes to future projects; they hope to push for nonprofit status and eventually open a school of urban art.
“We want people to support this project, but this is also a call for El Pasoans to come and join us,” Mendo said.
If interested in joining the Urban Art-Fitters League of El Paso, visit facebook.com/UrbanArtFitters.