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CMU’s Center for the Arts in Society Helps Create Mural
To Raise Awareness of Emergent Latino Community in Pittsburgh
Artwork Depicts Latino Presence; Reminds Viewers of Pittsburgh’s Legacy as City of Immigrants
PITTSBURGH—To draw attention to Pittsburgh’s rising Latino population, a group of Latino youths, with support from Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for the Arts in Society
(CAS), will unveil a public mural on the walls of the Latino Family Center (2215 Murray Avenue) in Squirrel Hill at 3 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 18.
The youth group, “Jóvenes Sin Nombres” (Youths Without Names), will reveal the mural titled “Pintando Para un Sueño” (“Painting For a Dream”). The CAS worked in partnership with the Carnegie Museum of Art and Tavia La Follette, director and founder of ArtUp and the lead artist for the mural project.
“Pintando Para un Sueño” depicts the Latino presence in the city and draws attention to heated issues of debate on immigration and the U.S. border. It also depicts the youths’ vision for a better future for all young immigrants living in Pittsburgh. The reference to a “dream” in the title refers to the “Dream Act,” (The Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors) legislation that if passed would grant all children of immigrants who graduated from U.S. high schools or completed two years of military service a conditional path to citizenship.
According to Paul Eiss
, director of the CAS, Jóvenes Sin Nombres not only helps to serve the needs of an important community, but also enriches discussions of current social and political issues. “The group reminds us of the critical place of the arts in helping to catalyze community organization, education and civic engagement,” Eiss said. “The point is not merely to help to find a voice and a place for new immigrants in Pittsburgh, but also to use the arts to help transform the city itself, beginning with its walls.”
Jóvenes Sin Nombres was founded in Pittsburgh in 2009 by Michal Friedman and Alfonso Barquera and is composed of young adults between the ages of 15 and 25. The majority of its members are first generation Latinos from Mexico, South America and the Caribbean.
Friedman said, “While Latinos are the city’s fastest growing population, they remain largely invisible to the larger Pittsburgh community. We believe the mural will not only represent the presence of Latino culture in Pittsburgh but also has the potential to generate positive cultural and social change by drawing attention to national and local debate on immigration and border issues.”
Members of Jóvenes Sin Nombres hope the mural will remind viewers of Pittsburgh’s legacy as a city of immigrants by making a connection between this generation of new immigrants to the European immigrants who arrived in Pittsburgh more than a century ago to work primarily in the city’s steel mills.
Since its inception, Jovenes sin Nombres has partnered with community activists, artists and academics. For the mural project, the group partnered with La Follette, who introduced them to concepts of design, art and social change and helped them brainstorm ideas for the mural. The group attended weekly workshops and lectures at the Carnegie Museum of Art taught by local artists and academics.
The group listened to a lecture about Mexican murals by Lara Putnam, professor of Latin American History at the University of Pittsburgh, and presentations by Eiss and Therese Tardio, professors in Carnegie Mellon’s History
and Modern Languages
departments. First-year students in Eiss and Tardio’s Humanities Scholars Program Seminar interviewed and collaborated with several of the Latino youths in authoring a collection of their life stories.
Pictured above: Members of the youth group “Jóvenes Sin Nombres” (Youths Without Names) work on a mural titled “Pintando Para un Sueño” (“Painting For a Dream”), which they'll unveil at the Latino Family Center in Squirrel Hill.