'Changing Hearts and Minds'
Mural's brushstrokes meant to encircle community
Healing, hope and dispelling stigmas were the themes of the unveiling of the "Changing Hearts and Minds" mural Saturday at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ.
The mural, created by community members directed by local artist David Tineo, is now permanently installed at the church, 2848 N. Mountain Ave.
During the unveiling, a small crowd of people filled the sidewalk and spilled onto Mountain Avenue as community members gathered around a woman who stood in front of the tarp-covered mural.
Dona Rivera-Gulko, the Vice President of Adult Services for CODAC Behavioral Health Services cleared her throat and introduced the concept for the mural.
The artwork is meant to help dispel stigmas regarding mental illnesses and offer healing to those affected by the Jan. 8 mass shootings by using art as a vehicle to combine two, normally separate community groups: CODAC and the Hedrick Acres neighborhood.
The "Changing Hearts and Minds" mural was co-created by about 20 clients and staff members from CODAC Behavioral Health Services, The Haven treatment center, as well as some residents of Hedrick Acres.
CODAC, is a local nonprofit started in 1970, provides the tools, support and services to individuals, families and communities who are afflicted with the harmful effects of mental illnesses, substance abuse disorders and trauma.
"We have been in the neighborhood for about 12 years now with about 2,500 people coming in and out of the main clinic and 3 halfway houses so the residents of Hedricks Acres must be affected," said Gulko. "We have never reached out to them before."
Through coalition building, dialogue, education and bonding activities, this collaborative project seeks to bring out the best of both groups and to heal a community from years of misunderstanding, according to the CODAC website.
As her speech ended, the participants involved in painting the mural were invited up to remove the covering. A hush came over the gathering as each of the artists grabbed an edge of the blue tarp and began to slowly pull it down.
Claps and a few cheers filled the street as a colorful 8-panel painting, measuring 12' wide by 8' tall, with bright depictions of Southwest symbols and themes was revealed.
"Our homework from Tineo at the beginning of the project was to go home and think about an image that meant something to us personally that fit with the overall theme," said Susan Ferreira, a paralegal who volunteered to help paint the mural.
Ferreira said that she chose the scales of justice to represent the constant balancing act we all have to do in our everyday lives.
"There is so much turmoil in the world right now, not to mention trying to balance our work, family and personal lives," she said. "And in our society we make it seem accepted that if someone can't manage on their own, they need help; but the reality is that people judge others and think they are crazy or something if they are taking meds."
The upper left side panel depicts a balancing scale inside the silhouette of a human head, surrounded by chaotic blue waves, a butterfly and a hand holding a fish. She explained the symbolism behind the different themes: the butterfly represents transitional phases and the people painted on the bottom of the mural connect to the roots of a tree standing for the support and foundation of the community.
There are many symbols throughout the paintings that represent the power of community, the possibility of restoration and hope of life ahead, CODAC's markting director, Kristine Welter, said in a press release.
About 2-3 people worked on each panel and most of the symbols represented something very personal to each participant, Ferreira said.
"The symbol I chose was a saguaro with a strange arm I always see when driving home," said Monica Tervoort, a member of CODAC who also helped paint the stars and galaxies on the upper right panel of the mural. "Often times in art people paint things to look perfect and I just painted what I saw because it is real."
Ferreira said that some participants were concerned with how they were going to portray their personal subject on the panel, while others kept looking ahead wondering how the panel was going to fit into the whole mural.
"I am used to working alone on abstract paintings so I was a little apprehensive about getting along with the others but in the end we worked through things," said K. Loren Dawn who was a resident of the Hedrick neighborhood and painted the hand holding the fish.
Dawn said that she lived in the neighborhood for 22 years and thought it was neat to have the opportunity to participate in the mural before she moved.
"Ultimetly Tineo kept reminding us that we are only as good as our collective whole," Ferreira said.
"He gave us the confidence to try because it's just the beginning- you just have to start," said Tervoort.
Tineo, who had a very hands-off approach to his teaching, has executed over 80 murals and shared authorship of an additional 120 murals with many neighborhoods and community groups, tackling concepts of race, culture, class and privilege in his other artworks.
Over the course of 10 weeks the group, with direction from Tineo, developed the concept for the project, created a design and painted the mural.
The project, partly funded by a Kresge Foundation grant administered by the Tucson Pima Arts Council, was run by CODAC.
"We originally asked for $10,000 for this project but only received $6,000," said Gulko.
Ferreira said that the conference room at the main CODAC clinic where they painted the mural was cramped and that she sometimes bumped into people while trying to work.
"We also only had the funds to buy prime colors so we had to learn how to mix colors well," said Tervoort.
Despite the limited funds Welter said that she was really pleased with the turn out for the event after all the planning it took to get the project underway.
"We actually started planning this project before the shootings occurred," said Tineo. "When we found out what happened we didn't give up and continued working with the mural even though it was during the middle of a great tragedy."
Tineo said that the location for the mural seemed to be an easy decision because not only was it in the Hedrick Acres neighborhood, but it was also frequently visited by longtime minister Dorwan Stoddard. The 76-year-old was shot in the head while shielding his wife, Mavanell ("Mavy"), from the gunfire during the Jan. 8 mass shootings.
"It feels so amazing to see the mural up in one piece," said Ferreira. "I will never forget this."
After the unveiling of the mural, everyone filed into a meeting room inside the church where Tineo had a chance to speak about the project.
"This mural was different than other projects I have worked on because I had to overcome a lot of the fears that I have from my blindness, but we all have issues and that is one commonality in being human," Tineo said.
Tineo was given a framed group photograph of the community who participated in the project, as well as a poster of the mural.
"And look it is even signed by yourself," joked Gulko.
Gulko said that although Tineo has a lot of health problems, he loves teaching and is so passionate about using art to bring people together.
"He really is a Tucson treasure," she said.