Barrio Block Party - Linda Ave Mural Project

But things are looking up for Linda Avenue, thanks to the many dedicated folks behind the Linda Avenue Project, who've worked with Pima County to restore some historically significant buildings in the vicinity that will, with any luck, soon become the home of a neighborhood art center and permaculture demonstration site. In addition, the project has worked with celebrated muralist and Menlo Park resident David Tineo--plus 42 kids from Menlo Park Elementary and Maxwell Middle schools--to create a beautiful mural on a wall near a currently vacant lot.

The 1,000-square-foot mural depicts big, colorful images of local heroes and ancient symbols, telling the story of Menlo Park and giving the neighborhood a new sense of community pride. According to Gigi Rodriguez of Chicanos por la Causa, one of the organizations facilitating the project, the kids gained a lot of historical and cultural understanding (while having a lot of fun).

"It's a collaborative community process, which means it's magic." says Menlo Park president Mac Hudson. "Linda Avenue ... is already a safer, more beautiful, inspiring little nook of our neighborhood, a place where people feel represented and, therefore, are invested and engaged."

The completion of the mural and building restoration will be commemorated this weekend with a celebration featuring live entertainment and music, refreshments and speeches by community leaders like Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias. It'll be a regular "barrio block party"--and it's free and open to everyone.                          Anna Mirocha (Tucson Weekly, December 2007

Below is a Q&A session between Mac Hudson, (Ward 1 council aide), and Anna Mirocha (Tucson Weekly) and Gigi Rodriguez (Chicanos Por La Causa) in 2006:

Mac: One of the reasons that the mural has been so popular is that the neighborhood's very own David Tineo has been the lead artist. He is one of Tucson's most prolific mural artists. We also partnered with Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery and Workshop Tucson's only Latino based contemporary nonprofit cooperative art gallery and workshop located in the historic downtown. And several guest artists such as Tanya Alvarez, Ruben Moreno and Fernando Gonzalez have come and participated with the children and painted their own "canvases" on the wall.

Q: How long did it take to do the mural?

The neighborhood committee, the Linda Avenue Project committee started the grant proposal to PRO Neighborhoods back in 2005. Then we started planning the mural in June this year and started painting in September.  We planned with Raices Taller Gallery and CPLC's Youth Center. We have painted for nine official Saturdays and seven weekdays.     

Q:Was it hard?

Planning is not as fun as painting, but I wouldn't say the mural has been difficult at all. It's been quite a joy to be there on the wall with thirty or forty neighbors and artists.  

Q: What does it look like?

I've attached some early photos (photographer Jeremy Bow) for you but I would describe the mural as colorful and full of creativity. We planned and wrote the grant for a 60-foot mural but because of the participation it has grown to nearly 200 feet in length and over 1000 square feet of wall space. Several guest artists including Tanya Alvarez, Ruben Moreno and Fernando Gonzalez have added their own images on sections of the wall.

Q: How did the kids like painting it / what do you think they got out of doing it?

I would like for Laura Luna or Gigi Rodriquez of CPLC to answer this question too and I will send this to them. It seems to me that the kids have had a lot of fun at the wall. The weather's been great, my wife made homemade nutritious goodies and the mesquite bosque where we paint is a beautiful setting. A mother in one of the Citizen articles said that it helped her son to make friends. They got to make art outside. They learned to creatively represent themselves and their community with color and images.

Q: Give me some general information and background about the Linda Avenue Project.

Pima County owns several parcels of land at the northwest corner of West Congress Street and North Linda Avenue. The overall site consists of a commercial building, vacant land and a vacant residence and outbuilding. A bungalow believed to be constructed in 1916 and an outbuilding occupy the site. Both buildings have gable roofs and stucco on double brick walls. They are built in the bungalow style, which is typical of residences built around that time in Menlo Park which is one of the first subdivided neighborhoods in Tucson. The buildings have been vacant for some time and had suffered significant deterioration. In spite of these developments, the historic architectural character of the buildings remains intact and the neighborhood has worked with Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias (who will attend and speak at the dedication) to complete an exterior stabilization of the buildings which will also be recognized at the dedication. The intended use of the site is as a neighborhood art center and permaculture demonstration site for the residents of Menlo Park and beyond.

Q: Tell me a little about how the project "offers an antidote" to Rio Nuevo.

Antidote was probably too strong a word for me to have chosen. Perhaps I could have said "alternative." Linda Avenue is neighborhood in scale. It's really a homey residence writ large. Not everyone that visits Rio Nuevo will also get to visit someone's home in the neighborhood, but they could come to Linda Avenue and get a sense of what life is like in a West Side barrio. Rio Nuevo's buildings such as the Convento are reconstructions of a history that was overlooked by the City and pushed into a land fill. The Linda Avenue Project is authentic architecture and living culture: neighbors with a sense of pride in place that refuse to be overlooked or pushed out.

Q: What's special about Linda Avenue?

It's a collaborative community process which means it's magic. People when given the chance to give of themselves, especially to something larger than themselves like a community, tend to overflow with generosity. And the list of collaborators is well over one hundred individuals, organizations and businesses. Please refer to the press release for a list. How, specifically, do you think the project will improve the lives of the area's residents? Linda Avenue, from when it was known as "crazy" street for the drugs and crime, is already a safer, more beautiful, inspiring little nook of our neighborhood. A place where people feel represented and, therefore, are invested and engaged.

Q: Tell me a little about the celebration itself. Will there be a ceremony of some kind?

Yes. There will be a formal program. Richard Elias and other community leaders will speak. We are also having our neighborhood holiday party that day and will give ten iMac computers to the students that participated the most as well as gift boxes to every participant. We have planned to have a Danza Azteca group perform and hopefully they will. We will also acknowledge the Cunty for the completion of the exterior stabilization of the houses on site.

Q: Food?

Refreshments from the River Park Inn and we've been serving baked goods made with mesquite meal to highlight the health benefits of native mesquite flour (e.g. it's much better for diabetics because its sugar releases much slower into the blood stream). Next year we plan to do a native mesquite  pod milling on site in the mesquite bosque, so that people can have their own mesquite flour.

Q: Music?

Yes, we plan to have live music but I'm not sure who yet. Raices is looking into it.  

Q: Finally, if you could sum it up, why should people come to this event?

It's a barrio block party. The mural is an open-air art gallery and the site is a glimpse of wonderful things to come.