Toledo muralist Ricardo Quinonez Aleman was clearly baffled.
“What happened to the cup of green paint I just gave you?” Mr. Aleman asked 7-year-old Anthony Anzaldua, who handed him an empty cup and gestured to the wall behind them.
“Wow, you’re a good and fast painter,” an impressed Mr. Aleman said, patting the boy’s shoulder.
About three dozen Toledo-area Latino artists, most of them south-side residents, gathered Saturday afternoon at the Providence Center, 1205 Broadway, to work on a large mural that stretches across two of the building’s outer walls.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view
The project is sponsored by the Toledo-based Organization of Latino Artists.
A couple of blocks away, a dozen art students from Bowling Green State University finished up murals at the Adelante Latino and Community Resource Center, 520 Broadway. The Green Lantern restaurant is directly across the street.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view BGSU students painting
Both mural programs are designed to help beautify and instill pride in the south-side community, organizers said. All the murals portray Latino cultural themes because of the neighborhood’s large Latino population, the organizers said.
In a show of unity, the two groups gathered at the Providence Center site for a cookout and to paint together.
“There’s no competition between the groups,” said Gordon Ricketts, lecturer and director of the Arts Village at BGSU. “There are plenty of buildings to paint murals.”
It was Mr. Aleman, 42, who helped start Bowling Green’s program four years ago, when he was an adjunct art instructor at the university. The mural painting effort is now part of the school’s curriculum and is offered for the summer term as a special-topics class, Mr. Ricketts said.
The university invited world-famous Chicano muralist Mario Torero to return to the area to work with the students on the murals. They plan to paint about six or seven murals, perhaps one in East Toledo, but mostly on the south side.
“It gives the students an opportunity to paint a larger project and learn about a culture they normally wouldn’t be exposed to,” Mr. Ricketts said, noting that most of his students are white.
The Organization of Latino Artists’ primary goal for the murals is to involve the community, said Mr. Aleman, now the group’s president. The group includes about a dozen local artists: painters, muralists, jewelry makers, and even a chainsaw sculptor.
“We’re always inviting people to come out and paint with us,” Mr. Aleman said. “That’s the whole process of mural painting. That’s the whole idea of teaching the community how to paint their own mural; it’s about people building up their own community.”
Everyone — no matter their age or experience — was invited to help paint.
Betty Anzaldua of Toledo brought four grandchildren — Bella and Chris Herrera, both 3, and Anthony and Aliyah Anzaldua, both 7, — to help out. Ms. Anzaldua, a part-time artist herself, thought the event would be a fun way to spend the afternoon.
“Well, Anthony is an artist,” Ms. Anzaldua said. “I’m baby-sitting today, and Ricardo said it would be a controlled environment. The only problem is, the girls aren’t really dressed for painting.”
Delfina Zapata and Joe Martinez, also members of the artists’ organization, said the group hopes to collaborate with other communities in the future.
The Latino Artists often reach out to gang youths to help paint the murals, they said, in hopes of encouraging them to express themselves constructively.
“We’ve been doing these murals for a couple of years now,” Mr. Martinez said. “I’d like to think that the reason the kids aren’t tagging the murals is because they know it’s theirs.”
Contact Federico Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.