Memorial Art muralists gather to meet with the press……..
Muralists and community members are continuing their fight this week to save murals at the old Memorial Prep Middle School in Logan Heights, as the campus undergoes a massive renovation.
© (Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune) Artist Salvador Barajas (2nd from right) along with supporters speaks to the press at Memorial Prep Middle School about the removal of his murals from the school Wednesday. (Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)
The artists have obtained an attorney and help from art conservator Nathan Zakheim to spur the removal of two murals by artist Salvador “Sal” Barajas from the buildings.
Barajas, an influential artist who was one of the first muralists in Chicano Park, said he was not notified that his murals would be destroyed during the construction process.
Standing a few feet from the school Wednesday, Barajas and two other artists, Mario Torero and Salvador Torres, held printed photos of murals they painted for the campus. The artists said they are willing to seek a court injunction against the San Diego Unified School District if the school proceeds with destroying their artwork.
Barajas held up a photograph of his 18-year-old mural titled Graduating Students, which depicts two students wearing graduation caps and gowns and holding books and a diploma.
A community member held up a photo of Barajas’ other mural, Aztec School, which has the words “graduation, education and motivation” and portraits of influential civil rights leaders.
“The theme is education,” Barajas said, of his two murals. “There is nothing wrong with having something like this at the school…. Why they are tearing them down, I have no idea.”
The school district received a letter from the artists’ attorney, a spokeswoman said, but she would not comment further.
Last week, community members and artists unsuccessfully rallied to save a 32-year-old mural by Torres at the school. The building was torn down in the afternoon despite a sit-in protest at the demolition site by an Encanto resident.© (Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune) Despite protests, construction crews tear down a building with a art work by muralist Salvador Roberto Torres at Memorial Junior High School in Barrio Logan on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020 in San Diego, CA. (Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)
San Diego Unified officials said then that Torres’ mural could not be saved because it was painted on a building that contained asbestos.
The mural was documented in high-resolution color and black and white photos, district officials said.
The mural featured Memorial students, veterans of World War I, and Sharon “Christa” McAuliffe, a teacher turned astronaut who died in the 1986 crash of the space shuttle Challenger.
“The district initiated a good faith effort to reach out to the artists and community stakeholders during the design task force and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process,” said Jamie Ries, a district spokeswoman, in an email.
The project was designed with extensive community input, Ries said, adding, “The muralist and other stakeholders were part of these discussions going back several years.”
The artists argue that it is the district’s responsibility to notify them directly if their work would be destroyed or moved because of construction or renovations. They said the Visual Artists Rights Act gives artists 90 days to remove their pieces.
A mural by Torero located in the school library is the only one that could be saved, the district said, because it was painted on removable panels.
Torero said he has not been allowed on campus to remove the mural.
Logan Heights resident Wicho Flores said he was involved in the community meetings the district held to discuss the school’s renovations.
Flores, who is a former student and employee of Memorial Prep Middle School, said residents made it clear they did not want to lose the history and culture of the school.
“We are not against the project; we are not against the progress of education here in Logan Heights, because that’s what they are making it seem like,” Flores said.
The artists and community members also questioned the district’s reasoning for not saving Torres’ mural last week. Flores said that if district officials were so concerned about asbestos, why did they allow a food distribution event nearby while demolition was happening?
“All hazardous material (including asbestos) assessment, notifications and abatement was performed by licensed contractors in accordance with all applicable environmental regulations,” Ries said.
The campus is undergoing construction to transform the elementary school and middle school campuses into a complex that serves K-12 students. The first phase of renovation includes the demolition and reconstruction of several existing buildings.
BY CLAUDIO BUCCIO WITH NOTICIAS YA
(NOTICIAS YA).- En cuestión de horas, la obra plasmada en un edificio dentro de la Secundaria Memorial en Logan Heights pasó de mural a escombros.
“Es un dolor muy fuerte pero tienen que aguantar esos fracasos que nos pasan como artistas,” dijo Salvador “Queso” Torres, autor del mural destruido.
A través de una reja, “Queso” Torres vio caer aquel mural que pintó en 1987 y dedicó a la secundaria donde estudió.
“Yo lo hice para que los niños de la escuela pudieran comprender y ver cómo se pinta un mural clásico,” explicó Torres.
La Secundaria Memorial está siendo renovada para convertirse en la primera preparatoria en Logan Heights donde además se impartirá preescolar, primaria y secundaria.
“Lo estamos apoyando lo único que pedíamos era número uno transparencia del distrito y buena comunicación y número dos, preservar la historia de las escuelas,” dijo Wicho Flores, exalumno de la Secundaria Memorial.
Activistas y artistas se reunieron en la Secundaria Memorial para pedirle al Distrito Escolar De San Diego que les dieran 90 días para remover y reubicar el mural de Torres a otro sitio y también dos del artista Sal Barajas y uno de Mario Torero que se encuentra en la biblioteca.
“Nueva escuela dicen que van a modernizar y van a tener mucho arte y murales y ¿cómo? Están destruyendo murales, no me han dicho que quieren hacer con el mío,” dijo Mario Torero, muralista cuya obra está en la Secundaria Memorial.
Al no ser escuchados y ver que las excavadoras se acercaban mas y mas al mural de Torres, una mujer corrió hacia la pintura pidiendo que detuvieran la construcción y se sentó entre los escombros para detener la maquinaria.
Alfredo, esposo de la mujer a quien identificó como Mónica dijo que este mural era importante para la comunidad y más para Mónica porque estudió en esta secundaria. Monica fue arrestada por policías escolares del Departamento de Policía de San Diego y hasta ahora no han revelado cuales son los cargos que podría enfrentar.
El Distrito Escolar de San Diego dijo que no podían salvar el mural ya que fue pintado directamente sobre la pared que según un análisis de calidad ambiental contiene asbesto y pintura a base de plomo. Agregaron que mantenerlo o removerlo sería un riesgo para la salud de trabajadores y estudiantes. El distrito asegura que tomaron fotografías para hacer una réplica en el nuevo plantel y para exhibirlas tanto en la biblioteca de San Diego como en la Universidad de California en Santa Barbara.
“Si ellos no lo querían aquí por motivos de salud, nos hubieran dado la oportunidad de llevarlo a otro lugar,” añadió Flores.
La concejal Vivian Moreno quien representa Logan Heights envió una carta al Distrito Escolar de San Diego en la que pedía que se les diera un plazo de 90 días para extraer el mural ya que era una inspiración para estudiantes y un tributo a la nave espacial Challenger que explotó en 1987. Sin embargo, fue demasiado tarde.
“Son testigos del racismo que existe en este país de no querer que nosotros que somos los artistas que continuemos con nuestra cultura,” dijo Torres.
Activistas y muralistas piensan seguir luchando por salvar los otros tres murales que siguen en la propiedad. El distrito por su parte, dice que una vez terminada la obra habrá espacios para murales incluyendo una réplica del que se destruyó.
THURSDAY, 24 SEPTEMBER 2020, 06:30 AM EDT
Protester community members failed to save the demolition of a 32-year-old mural which was painted by a famed Chicano artist at Memorial Prep Middle School in San Diego. The school building posture that mural was torn down Wednesday. Consequently, Encanto resident Monica Bernal assets a sit-in protest for almost an hour before she removed by police. Ultimately, after an hour of Wednesday, police talked to Bernal and tried to convince her to leave the area of the protest but she refused. Unfortunately, Police then manacled her and carried her off-site.
Consolidated officials of San Diego stated that the mural could not be conserved because it was painted on a classroom building that curbs asbestos. As per the statement of officials breaking into the wall to protect the mural would have released the hazardous material. District officials in their statements mentioned that the mural has been cataloged and will be re-created soon at the new school location.
San Diego Unified spokesman Samer Naji said that in accordance with the Historic American Buildings Survey, the photos will be accommodated at the San Diego Central Library. Alon with it the pictures will be housed at the San Diego History Center as well as UC Santa Barbara Library Special assemblage.
Destruction of Chicano culture
Still, District officials had mentioned that the mural will be recreated at a new site but the community members saw the destruction of that mural just like a great loss for Chicano culture and their community’s history. Bernal, who went to Memorial Prep, said that for her, it was just as another form of deletion of history and civilization in an area that is being modified. She said that its an erasure of what and who we all are. According to her, the mural was all about their history.
Begging of Mural
The mural was painted in 1988 by Torres. Torres was the co-founder of the Centro Cultural de la Raza and lead a murals project at Chicano Park beginning in 1973. According to the UC Santa Barbara Library, the park now clunch the largest collection of Chicano murals in the world. The mural highlighted a diverse group of Memorial students and graduates, veterans of World War I, and Sharon “Christa” McAuliffe who was the teacher and later became an astronaut and who died in the 1986 space shuttle Challenger explosion.
The mural was painted by influential artist Salvador Roberto Torres, who helped create Chicano Park and Centro Cultural de la Raza
By KRISTEN TAKETA with the San Diego Union Tribune
SEP. 23, 20205:19 PM
Community members tried unsuccessfully to stop the demolition of a 32-year-old mural painted by a renowned San Diego Chicano artist at Memorial Prep Middle School in the Logan Heights neighborhood.
The school building bearing the mural was torn down Wednesday afternoon despite a community member, Encanto resident Monica Bernal, holding a spontaneous sit-in protest at the demolition site for about an hour, before being taken away by police.
The muralist, Salvador Roberto Torres, an influential artist who helped create Chicano Park in 1970, wrote to school district officials this week trying to enforce what he said is his right to remove the mural before it was destroyed.
San Diego Unified officials said the mural could not be saved because it was painted on a classroom building that contained a lot of asbestos. Breaking into the wall to preserve the mural would have released the hazardous material, officials said.
District officials said the mural has been documented and will be recreated at the new school site after it’s constructed.
Still, community members saw the destruction of the mural as a loss for Chicano culture and the community’s history.
Bernal, an Encanto resident who grew up in Sherman Heights and went to Memorial Prep, said she sees it as another form of erasure of history and culture in an area that is being gentrified.
“It’s an erasure of who we are,” she said. “Those murals are who we are. They tell our history.”
The mural was painted around 1988 by Torres, who co-founded the Centro Cultural de la Raza and spearheaded a murals project at Chicano Park starting in 1973. The park now holds the largest collection of Chicano murals in the world, according to the UC Santa Barbara Library.
The mural on the school featured a diverse group of Memorial students and graduates, veterans of World War I, and Sharon “Christa” McAuliffe, a teacher who became an astronaut and who died in the 1986 space shuttle Challenger crash.
“It’s a joyful, important, colorful mural that I enjoyed making,” Torres said at a press conference Wednesday morning in front of the demolition site.
There are at least three other murals in addition to Torres’ at Memorial Prep: two murals by Sal Barajas and one by Mario Torero. Torero’s mural, located in the school library, is the only one that could be saved because it was painted on removable panels.
“We want to take some control of our community through our art,” Torero said. “It’s history.”
Over the course of an hour Wednesday, police spoke with Bernal and tried to convince her to leave the site. She refused. Police then handcuffed her and carried her off site by her limbs, she said, and then gave her a misdemeanor ticket for failing to disperse.
San Diego School Police Captain Joseph Florentino said the last thing police wanted to do was put their hands on a peaceful protester. But he said Bernal endangered herself and others by being so close to the building, which was already partially demolished and was close to collapsing.
“It’s tough when a historical community landmark goes away. We respect that,” Florentino said. “It’s a tough one for everybody.”
The murals have been documented in high-resolution color and black and white photos in accordance with the Historic American Buildings Survey, said San Diego Unified spokesman Samer Naji. Those photos will be housed at San Diego Central Library, the San Diego History Center, and UC Santa Barbara Library Special Collections, which houses historical papers on Torres.
San Diego Unified School Board Vice President Richard Barrera, who represents south central San Diego, said he thinks replicating the murals is a better way to preserve them. He said the murals were painted on old, deteriorating walls, and the murals would deteriorate, too, if the district did nothing about it.
“These murals cannot be preserved forever,” Barrera said. “The way to actually preserve them is to replicate them onto spaces that can be preserved.”
Naji said that the Logan Memorial Educational Campus project has gone through years of planning, which included opportunities for community input. The public was notified more than a year ago of plans to demolish the school buildings, district officials said.
The demolition Wednesday was part of a massive renovation that will transform the Logan K-8 elementary school and Memorial Prep middle school into a complex that will serve children from infants to high schoolers.
The project will build Logan Heights’ first public high school, along with a Montessori program. The complex also will offer athletic fields, a health and wellness center, access to legal representation, counseling and dental services.
“We know that this is important to the community, and we know that the artist is really invested in this,” Naji said. “We really tried to look at every alternative, but this project really is so critical.”