The mural in León, like the one in El Viejo, was completed in three days with about 30 participants. The atmosphere was very different there, though – it was more urban, had more colonial architecture, evidence of a tourism industry, and was pretty diverse – as far as I could tell from my short time there.
After a local flavor dinner in an after-hours market, I was introduced to some of the B-Boys who would participate in the program, and I was impressed by their acrobatic breakdancing in a graffiti- and mural-filled square, where skateboarders were also honing their skills.
In addition to the dancers’ and singers’ performances, we had a productive session sketching out ideas for the mural. I was surprised that almost all of the images that were meant to reflect the community were somewhat negative, or at least about parts of their society they wanted to change. Later, when I had them draw images or symbols of themselves, they used very simple and direct means to represent their places in the world.
One of the youths, Mario, was quite talented and acted as the mouthpiece for some of the others’ ideas. I designed the final mural sketch to highlight his work using a large portion of the wall. It turned out that this was his first mural, but he took to it quite well. I later saw more of his work online. His graphite drawings were quite evolved – I was impressed. He seemed excited to have such a prominent part of the large wall that we did together.
I created drawings for the walls in a cozy bar-restaurant where I was barely noticed by the waiter, so I had plenty of time to draw before any food or drink arrived. My method is to produce a few drawings based on the participants’ input, using a framework that I feel fits the context of the situation.
For León, I came up with two sketches. Both had a prominent face in the middle of the composition, which is unusual for me. Given the dimension and orientation of the wall, the frontal face found its own place in my drawings.
As a group, we decided to blend the two sketches, with fragments of both emerging from the faded pink wall. The process goes quickly, and once we got started painting so many new folks wanted to be involved, which is good but can become chaotic quickly.
This turned out to be a very serious group, which added to the success of the project in León. They were extremely committed, so I kept expanding the borders of the piece. By the end, the intense colors we used crept inside the building as well, and we left the community center with sufficient paint and a hunger to continue the mural around the street corner to another wall.
The imagery that we used was a half-lion, half-woman bisected by a tree that was decidedly trimmed on the first day of the painting to allow the mural to shine. The director of the community center was thrilled at our endeavors and told me so repeatedly. I was impressed and humbled by his praise during a press interview of both of us, for a local radio program.
The reception for the mural in León was a jubilant atmosphere, and the B-Boys gave us a remarkable performance to celebrate the completion, as did the folkloric Agateyte Dance Group, who had also performed at the Chinandega unveiling. We all had some delicious tacos and then moved on to Managua to start the process for the third collaborative mural during my visit to Nicaragua.
On my first free day the folks from Jóvenes por el Diálogo, Hazel and Carlos, took me to the beach, where I had a delicious fresh fish and a swim in the Pacific Ocean. Now I am writing this post on the Atlantic side in Laguna de Perlas, after our tiny plane followed a trail of volcanoes to get here from Managua. Enjoying the sea breeze and change of climate on the other side of this stretch of land between two oceans, I look forward to working at the unfinished cultural center in Bluefields, the home of the final mural on the agenda. Stayed tuned for more about this and the other mural that took place in Managua.
This has been a whirlwind of a tour. The days and nights are so filled, and when we start painting there is nothing else that exists.
This post is my second installment for the Community Engagement through the Mural Arts exchange program, which is supported through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.