Power of murals and art for social change

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Murals like this one by Francisco “Enuf” Garcia, an AmeriCorps Ally at Public Allies Arizona, are transforming streets into art galleries in Phoenix, Arizona.

To Francisco “Enuf” Garcia, an artist, author, and AmeriCorps Ally serving at Public Allies Arizona, painting a picture on a wall is a deeply primordial, highly influential act. “When you paint a picture on a wall, as our human ancestors did in caves 40,000 years ago, it helps you to see what it is that you want to accomplish. In the same way when we write things down, when we paint images we establish our goals and our visions.

“When people paint public murals of the change they want to see,” Francisco continues, “people are going to believe it.”

Born in Los Angeles and having lived in Phoenix since he was a teenager, Garcia was recently honored with the Dr. Eugene Grigsby Visual Artist award by the Phoenix Center for the Arts and Mayor Greg Stanton. Over the last decade, Francisco has produced a steady stream of socially conscious, visually stunning murals throughout the city. His pieces are as much a tribute to past social justice heroes as they are a celebration of culture and diversity, and a call to solidarity for today’s population.

Francisco’s body of work also has a very explicit goal. “My hope is to make Phoenix the capital of murals,” he says. “Not just graffiti, but I want to see more murals with messages. Murals that bring people together and educate people about their culture and where they come from. I want to see young people paint for a change, for something positive.”

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Francisco was influenced by the Chicano murals he saw growing up in Los Angeles, but he never thought he’d one day be producing — and teaching about — the same kind of art.

Influenced by the wave of Chicano muralists that in the 1970s transformed Los Angeles boulevards into public galleries, as well as by great Mexican muralists of the last century like David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera, Francisco joined Public Allies Arizona last year because he wanted to “be inspired by people who are trying to create change in the country.”

“Public Allies has a big network,” he says, “and it’s powerful when we come together.”

Francisco is currently serving at Phoenix’s Tumbleweed Center as a Youth Development Specialist for unaccompanied minors in their Casa de Sueños program. There, he is meeting and helping young people who have faced harrowing intercontinental journeys to escape rampant violence and hopeless poverty in places like Central America.

aaaLearning their stories of pain and hope will give Francisco even more reason to continue on his mission to change the minds and the hearts of people through art.

“Art can make people think,” says Francisco, who contributed an article to the critically acclaimed book When We Fight We Win!. “I believe art is a tool to voice justice and other ideas that are not really voiced in media and society. It’s a way to express the love of God.”

Learn more about Francisco on his Facebook and Instagram page.

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