Students Take Part in Youth Services Mural Project 

The mural painted by the Teen Wolf group depicts two O'odham youth in traditional attire, holding an item used in the game of Toka (female game) and a gourd used in O'odham and Piipaash singing.

Students on spring break had the opportunity to explore their artistic skills on a mural project sponsored by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Youth Services Division (YSD). Over the course of two days, students in the Teen Wolf group of the after-school program worked together to design and paint a mural on an exterior wall of the VA 2 Clubhouse. 

Youth Development Specialist Natasha Martinez showed the students how to work with spray paint on an art project. “For most of these kids it is their first time using spray paint,” said Martinez. The students are in grades 7 through 12.

She said the students caught on very well using the spray paint to create their mural, which depicts O’odham female and male figures holding a toka stick and a gourd rattle, with a traditional basket design behind the two figures. The background is a landscape with Sonoran Desert imagery. 

“The kids really did well. They worked hard on it, and they should be proud of what they have created,” said Martinez. She said the mural was a great way to have the students take part in a creative project and see it through all the way to completion. 

“Most times [the kids are] just kind of inside, but this weather is nice and we wanted to take advantage of it and do something with the time they have off for spring break,” said Martinez. 

The project was a great opportunity for Martinez to share her artistic skills in mural painting. Growing up, she was involved in graffiti art, and at that time it was very rare to have any opportunity to apply her artistic skills to something different, let alone an art project sponsored by the Community. She said she wanted to encourage the students artistically because that was something she never experienced.

SRPMIC artist Thomas “Breeze” Marcus assisted with the project and guided the students through various sections of the mural. Martinez said it was important to have a Community artist join the students to show how mural painting as an art form is a part of the Community. 

YSD Program Manager John Paul Saspe said the mural turned out very well, stating that it had been a while since that particular wall was retouched. “It was a huge surprise to look at how well it turned out, and the kids benefitted from the art project,” said Saspe. 

“They really enjoyed being outside, getting fresh air and working together at different levels … it was very relaxing for them,” said Saspe. The YSD staff had been planning the student mural for a while, but the project was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The students said that they enjoyed working on different parts of the mural, from the hummingbirds to the male and female figures. Maribelle Garcia said she enjoyed painting the mural and would like to participate in another mural project with a different style and design. 

Another student, Saul Leva, said he would like to create another mural, but in a graffiti style, which he normally draws on paper. He said it would be nice to take his ideas and put them to use if the opportunity to create another mural comes up. He said his favorite part of the project was working on the finer details, like the clouds and details on the two figures. 

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