GRAD, HIGH SCHOOLERS CREATE
When Walter Ornelas first came to the College of Architecture and the Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the fall of 1996, he never dreamed of returning to the campus more than four years later as an art teacher.
A unique project has brought Ornelas back to UIC's campus. The Yollocalli Youth Museum, Gallery 37 and Greyhound Lines, Inc. are bringing the flavor of Mexico to the Harrison Street bus terminal in the form of a mural.
Ornelas, who received his bachelor of fine arts degree in August 2000, is director of the Yollocalli Youth Museum. The museum, a youth initiative of the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, serves as an arts education and career-training program. It educates students in artistic mediums while introducing them to professions in the arts.
"As a student and artist, Walter was clearly exceptional in his ability to communicate his imaginative approach to art-making and its importance in our lives," said Judith Russi Kirshner, dean of the UIC College of Architecture and the Arts. "I am delighted that we can collaborate with the Yollocalli Youth Museum on this terrific program."
Part of the Greyhound Community Reflections Mural Program, the project provides students across the nation the opportunity to create murals that capture their communities' spirit. Greyhound teamed up with the National Council of La Raza to design the program.
Ornelas is working with 24 students from Chicago-area high schools. Most of the students are from the Pilsen neighborhood. The students began working on the project in UIC's Art and Design Hall in mid-July and will finish by Aug. 17. The mural will be unveiled in a ceremony in mid-September.
"It is great coming back to UIC and being able to use the facilities," said Ornelas. "It gives these students an opportunity to see what a university environment is like. This was the first time many of them were on a college campus and it makes them aware of the possibilities they have after completing high school."
Greyhound first brought the project idea to the Yollocalli Youth Museum. Ornelas then proposed that Gallery 37 join the project.
Through Gallery 37's involvement, the students work as apprentice artists Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. and are paid by the City of Chicago's Kid Start Program.
For these students, the project is more than just a summer job. Although fluent in Spanish, most of them were born in the United States and are not knowledgeable about their culture's history and the history of Mexico. By working on the mural, they are being exposed to these lessons.
The mural is strictly Mexican in its theme. The students either created designs or used traditional imagery. The only restriction Ornelas placed on the students was that they had to explain why they chose or created a particular image and how it relates to Mexican culture.
"This project was particularly exciting for me," said Ornelas. "Murals are visual representations of history and have been used in Mexican art for hundreds of years. I wanted to recreate that experience here."
The mural will consist of three panels. Each panel will be 5 feet 4 inches high by 43 feet long. One panel will show indigenous imagery of Mexico, while the others will show contemporary Mexican images.
Once the mural is installed inside the Harrison Street bus terminal, Ornelas hopes to develop a corresponding pamphlet that teaches visitors and travelers about the significance of the mural's images.
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