Mural paintings by acclaimed local Chicano art and culture movement leaders Salvador ‘Queso’ Robert Torres, Mario Acevedo Torero and Sal Barajas face imminent destruction due to school renovations taking place now in Logan Heights. As of Tuesday afternoon of Sep 22nd, a large part of the building where the most threatened mural is located had been destroyed. The artists are asking the San Diego Unified School District to halt the demolition and grant Torres the time the federal VARA laws protecting artists are granted to remove their works from a building owners’ site. Artists have reached out to school board officials, city, state, and county legislators to voice their request to be allowed to remove their artworks before the destruction of the buildings that might occur within days or hours will preclude this possibility.
Now under construction, the Logan Memorial Educational Campus, formerly Barrio Logan’s century old Memorial Junior High School, is moving forward with modernization plans that will create a new preK-12th grade program based on Montessori principles.
While Torero’s 1976 painting “The Cosmic Testament”, an acrylic mural affixed to panels mounted on the library walls will likely be recovered, Torres’ 75 x 45 ft. mural titled “The Memorial Mural of the San Diego Unified School District”, and an interior wall mural by Sal Barajas will be demolished, according to vice president of the San Diego Unified School District Richard Barrera. Torres’ epic work which included the efforts of other Chicano Park artists including Barajas, Torero, Guillermo Rossett and Gloria Gloria Torres de Rebelledo was commissioned by then principal Tony Alfaro around 1987. For Torres it was a tribute to all teachers, and specifically depicts honored science teacher and astronaut Sharon Christa McAuliffe, who sacrificed her life during the 1986 Challenger crash, and to the veterans of WW1 with the images of their iconic doughboy faces. In the late 1980’s Memorial students faced many socio-economic challenges and Torres created this mural to inspire students to graduate from junior high and high school and pursue academic pursuits such as science, the arts, athletics, and teaching despite not having family members who ever went to college.
Torres and Torero are both alumni of Memorial and are both co-founders of Barrio Logan’s legendary Chicano Park and Centro Cultural De La Raza. Torres holds three academic degrees, two teaching certifications for K-12 and university education and has devoted his life to promoting, teaching and practicing the revolutionary Chicano street art of activism.
The San Diego Unified School Board representatives informed Torres that his mural is “not removable” because of dangerous asbestos in the walls. Yet Torres disagrees entirely. Torres states his rights have been violated through this demolition/construction process in several instances. Torres and Torero and a coalition of community supporters point to federal VARA laws that protect visual artists’ work and grant creators 90 days to remove their creations from buildings that will be destroyed. Memorial Mural artists have sought legal counsel and point to the growing trend in professional mural removal and restoration services that have recovered many valuable and fragile murals from concrete, brick, plaster and steel walls as mural art has grown nationally and internationally relevant in museums and auction houses alike over the last 20 years.
Specifically, a 46 ft fresco by Mexican painter Alfredo Ramos Martinez which was meticulously removed from the walls of the to be demolished La Avenida Café around 1990 in Coronado and now is on display at the Coronado Public Library. Engineers, Architects, Artists and the whole Coronado community rallied to save the “El Día del Mercado” murals. The Barrio Logan/Logan Heights neighborhood is proud of its rich Chicano heritage of mural art and activism, that is now a source of resident pride, drawing students, tourists, and residents from far and near to experience Chicano Parks’s historical murals that were awarded a national historical landmark site status in 2017. The community is rallying behind these murals. “If Coronado can achieve this feat of art conservation and engineering, then surely we can,” commented one memorial mural supporter from the neighborhood.
Artists and Barrio/Logan residents and supporters of the mural preservation will gather on Wednesday September 23 at 11:00 am to hold a press conference in front of the Memorial demolition at 811 So. 28th St. at the north side of 28th and Logan Avenues.
For more information go to www.memorialartmurals.org or IG @savememorialmurals FB @SaveMemorialJrHighMurals