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Art Project Gallery
Mayan Gods Mural

For two summers neighborhood teenagers created Street Talk I and the following summer, Street Talk II exhibitions at Walkers Point Center for the Arts in Milwaukee, WI. This was not a traditional exhibit. The images were painted right on the gallery walls by primarily Hispanic, teenage gang members who had honed their skills doing graffiti with spray paint.

The teens were amazed that they could cover the walls of the art center with images they drew with just spray paint. If they didn't like what they did, they just sprayed over it. They were so enthused they started painting chairs and floors. The images and messages they created through their art dealt with tough themes: drugs, death, gangs, loneliness and sorrow.

The third summer we offered that the teens learn to do a mural with traditional paints and brushes. Muralist Pio Pulido-Frankel of Austin, Texas, came to Milwaukee to work with them to create a mural based upon their primarily Mexican heritage. Before Pio came to Milwaukee, the teens talked to a professor from the University of Wisconsin -Milwaukee who helped them formulate their ideas and choose the theme of Mayan gods. The teens shared stories that their parents and grandparents told them which were authenticated and explained further by the historian.

Eight 4'x8' plywood panels were covered with vibrant colors and Mexican/Mayan images that were absolutely astounding. The mural was more amazing when one realized that unskilled young people created it in less than two weeks under the tutelage of one artist. Pio and the teens worked many long hours at the center preparing the mural which was then hung at 12th and Mitchell Streets in Milwaukee. This site was selected because it was considered to be neutral gang territory.

The mural hung for only a few weeks before a girl's gang spray painted it beyond repair. It was truly a tragedy to have such a beautiful piece ruined for those who created it and the neighbors who immediately embraced the mural for its beauty, theme and recognition of the teens who worked very hard on doing something positive for themselves and their community.