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Tucson's Murals Enliven Public Spaces

The city of Tucson, Arizona is known for its murals. These wall-size works of art represent a traditional Chicano art form and reflect the city's large Mexican-American population. Some paintings celebrate the community's cultural identity, while others document their lives and struggles. For producer Yi Suli, Elaine Lu has more on the murals of Tucson.

In Tucson, murals are everywhere: in museums, on the walls of schools and restaurants. David Tineo has created more than 200 murals all over Tucson. He says it is in his blood. "We come across many generations. We are proud of who we are. We come here to the United States. This is our heritage."

Alfred Quiroz, a professor of arts at the University of Arizona, says the Chicano community's roots inspire artists like Tineo. "I would say David is probably a very traditional Chicano muralist who valued a lot with family, southwest tradition, some of the folklore of the southwestern traditions," he said.

Jane Hallet of the Tucson Pima Arts Council says many murals depict the Chicano community's ties to the ancient Aztec civilization. "The representations of the Aztec. Maybe one of their calendar stones or one of the symbols taken from the Mexican buildings. Or the pyramids Aztec built particularly outside of Mexico City."

"Revolutions" is a giant explosion of colors depicting death, tension, and conquest. It commemorates Mexico's struggle to gain independence from Spain. Tineo believes murals can touch people in a very personal way.

"Because murals were the art of people. Murals are a public art form of voice. It could be anywhere," Tineo said.

Quiroz adds, "It is public art form, number one; and number two it is a big painting. Some people don't like the idea that it's a big painting, but that's what it is. It is a big painting. It can be a social statement; it can be a political statement."

Tineo believes making a statement with his art is important. He says, "I'm not a singer. I'm not a writer. I'm a painter. And my contribution to my community is my murals, my paintings."

Murals have even made their way onto walls of ordinary homes.

It's a spiritual piece, he says of the work he is doing on a ceiling. "The story is the dream. It was a dream of hope, of awakening to the culture and heritage. It is a spiritual piece. It is a sanctuary."

The homeowner, Claudia, says it is peaceful, "I felt those are very safe. This was a sanctuary where I would have to feel in peace," she said.

A sanctuary, a historical journey or a political statement, Tucson's murals are a unique form of urban art.