Calle 16

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A grass roots community effort to fund and promote a community mural project on 16th Street in Phoenix.

José Cárdenas: The next time you drive down 16th street between Thomas and McDowell, keep your eyes open for the murals that are showing up on the sides of the buildings in the area. The murals are part of the "Calle Dieciséis mural project." In Sounds of Cultura SOC, producer David Majure reports that the project was born about a year ago out of frustration over Senate Bill 1070.

Hugo Medina: Art has been part of every revolution, every movement. Art evokes ideas.

Gennaro Garcia: Art, it's a language. The best way to get together a community. With art.

Silvana Salcido Esparza: This is how we can do -- change perception. We can do something positive during negative times.

David Majure: In the spring of 2010, S.B. 1070 turned Phoenix, Arizona, into a reservoir of raw emotion. Anger and resentment over the state's new immigration law spilled into the streets and into the consciousness of the nation.

Silvana Salcido Esparza: That's not where I come from and that's not the way we are. You know, perception is everything, right? So the perception is skewed.

David Majure: Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, the owner of barrio café in Phoenix traveled that summer and about everywhere, people wanted to know, what's up with Arizona?

Silvana Salcido Esparza: The questions to me were very stupid, yet to them, they were genuine concerns and it really brought home the point we looked like buffoons to the rest of the country. So when I came back, I started to think about myself, looking in the mirror, what can I do differently? And I had just commissioned the mural out back. And I'm looking at this mural and it hit me, we need to do more. What came to me, you have to do more murals.

Gennaro Garcia: I want Phoenix to be full of murals. Everywhere. Not just Calle Dieciséis. But every single corner.
David Majure: Chef Silvana found kindred spirits in Mexican American Artist Gennaro Garcia and Bolivian born artist, Hugo Medina.

Hugo Medina: We came out with Calle Dieciséis, what we want to do is get artists to come out and paint murals along 16th street.

David Majure: She posted the idea online and the response was overwhelming.

Silvana Salcido Esparza: All I did was facebook. I put it up on facebook and the rest is history. People stood up and said, yes, absolutely. People who were desperate to do something, to change that skewed perception people have about Phoenix. What I'm saying is - let's take ownership, we have to be accountable for our own actions and you can't fight hate with hate. You know, don't worry about what others are saying. You worry about what you're doing. And how are we making things better, and who doesn't love art?

Hugo Medina: This will become mural alley and we're going to cover up this back wall and get this whole area, different artists and murals. They're donating their time, doing the mural at cost. Brick by brick and wall by wall, artists are transforming 16th street, or Calle Dieciséis, into an open air gallery of murals.

Gennaro Garcia: We want to beautify the street. You'll see a lot of the buildings have closed down and tagging gone up and really it's turning the neighborhood around.

David Majure: In early may, Medina led a walking tour of the neighborhood on 16th Street between McDowell and Thomas roads.

Hugo Medina: That wall is calling my name.
[Laughter]

David Majure: The community has a number of existing murals. Some have been here for decades. Others, relatively new.

Hugo Medina: As you see the different murals, you see the different styles and flavors of the art.


Passerby: It's art. Terrific. Just what we need happening in Phoenix.
Hugo Medina: When I decided to do this mural, I wanted to do homage to the person who harvests the plants to make tequila.

David Majure: The area had a large Mexican population, so S.B. 1070 and the economic recession were a double whammy for local businesses.

Silvana Salcido Esparza: I think it's dropped off about 50%. That's a lot. You see a lot of the little businesses closing down the street. Very good businesses, they can't survive because the client base has left. Whether they were deported or auto-deported. They're gone.

David Majure: Chef Silvana is helping businesses reinvent themselves. The mural project is bringing people together.

Hugo Medina: It's not our project, it's a community project, something that people in Arizona who live here, day in and day out, are doing for their community.
David Majure: Calle Dieciséis has evolved in a grassroots organization that seeks to build community by promoting art, culture and cuisine on 16th street in Phoenix. The murals are simply a catalyst.

Silvana Salcido Esparza: What I keep saying it's community-based. Means it's going to cost us sweat equity. Digging into our own pockets. Bringing out our own talent. And you can't say help us if you're not doing anything. What we're doing is doing it together.
David Majure: That's how this mural came to be. Emblazoned on the side of a sporting goods store and a carved plaster relief of the face of Frida KAHLO.


Gennaro Garcia: I wanted to do something special. This mural, I wanted it to be like the face of Phoenix. I want people to come and visit Phoenix and say, we have to go to the mural. We have to go and take a picture of the mural.

David Majure: Garcia designed the mural but didn't paint it alone.

Gennaro Garica: I had a lot of help. 100-150 people.

David Majure: Other artists pitched in and plenty of kids stopped by to leave their mark.
Silvana Salcido Esparza: In five years, they'll be in high school and driving. They're going to look over and say, see that line over there, I did that. It's a sense of community. So it starts with one mural but it's endless where it can go.

David Majure: Where it goes is anyone's guess, there are few limitations.

Gennaro Garcia: First, we don't want politics on Calle Dieciséis. But it's there. Let's face it. It's in our face.

Silvana Salcido Esparza: It's not a political movement. It's not a political retaliation. This is not retaliation to 1070. This is not a Mexicano movement or Latino movement, it's a Phoenician movement.

Hugo Medina: We don't want to restrict the artist and not allow them to paint what they want to. We want them to have a vision. But want it to be cultural, historic and positive.


David Majure: "Biennvenidos a Arizona" - Welcome to Arizona is the title of Garcia's mural. Its message: Build your own American dream. Garcia says he's already living his.

Gennaro Garcia: Because I'm a immigrant. I came -- I came -- I was illegal for a long time. But now I'm a citizen and part of this beautiful country. This is my country and if I was still living in any other country in the world, and I cannot get the -- give the best life to my family, I will come to America. Every single life, every single life. It's a beautiful thing. That's the whole idea of America.

David Majure: And the whole idea of Calle Dieciséis is to spread that American spirit.

Silvana Salcido Esparza: When we're done in this block, we're going next block and we have to nurture it and feed it and take care of it. Calle Dieciséis is here, most definitely here.


David Majure: Artists have been donating their work to raise money for the mural project. It's all on sale at barrio café on 16th Street south of Thomas. The show runs through the end of September and all proceeds go to Calle Dieciséis.

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