West Valley mural celebrates students’ cultural narratives

University of Utah student artists Beth Adams, left, and Hannah Miller, center, talk with U. graduate Kelsey Watts as a 1,500-square-foot mural at Esperanza Elementary School is unveiled in West Valley City on Friday. Artists from the U.’s special topics art class, led by professor V. Kim Martinez, painted the mural, which honors the cultural heritage of the school’s almost 98 percent Latino student body. Martinez and her students created a tapestry of cultural narratives that reflect the interests, curricula, identities and loves of the students who inspired the mural’s many themes: chess, sugar skulls, soccer, mountains, mariachi bands, sunflowers and folklorico dancers. However, the importance of the project goes far beyond vibrancy and color. The Title I Language Immersion charter school specializes in creating inclusive educational spaces that serve and empower underrepresented children from vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds. Principal Eulogio Alejandre sees the mural as culturally and socially empowering. “I never wanted to be in a school that tolerated culture,” Alejandre said in a press statement. “I wanted to be in a school that celebrated culture. With this mural, we are letting kids know that their culture is valuable.” The project was part of a class offered by Martinez that focuses on the public politics of art, along with encouraging artists to become invested in public funding projects and the myriad processes those projects entail.

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