About a dozen high school students, called Latino Leaders, who attend Wichita South High School have created a mural near 21st and Park Place addressing the issue of immigration.
The idea came from resident artist, Armando Minjarez. He's the co-founder of The Seed House~Casa de la Semilla, a non-profit educational organization that works with various groups, including the high schoolers on this project.
The group has been meeting for six months to find creative ways to effectively speak about issues affecting their communities. It is the first project resulting from the organization’s Public Art Youth Empowerment Program.
The mural includes an outline of the United States, a couple with one person wrapped in a Mexican flag, the other in an American flag, which Minjarez says turns into the U.S.-Mexico border. There’s also a depiction of three youth wearing graduation caps that Minjarez refers to as "Dreamers."
“Dreamers are the undocumented immigrants," he says. “Children that were brought here by their parents who have been fighting since 2004 with the introduction of the Dream Act to have equitable access to higher education.”
Minjarez says the art piece showcases a powerful image of the three graduates jumping over a red-and-white-flag border fence.
“That just speaks to the separation and the obstacles that students and the Dreamers face,” Minjarez said.
“They work so hard through high school and once you reach that goal to go to college, you find out that you are unable to receive any kind of financial aid regardless of your achievements. So you really see all the struggles with the kids and the families.”
Two of the students who had planned to work on the mural had to go to Mexico to address immigration issues. Minjarez says the youth had no recollection of the country. They came to the U.S. as toddlers. The group decided to wait on them and he says fortunately, the youth were able to return to Wichita and participate in the creation of the mural.
The north Wichita neighborhood, near 21st and Park Place, welcomed the addition of the mural.
“There were countless amounts of people who would stop by," Minjarez said. “The cars would stop and they would get out of the car and start telling about their own immigrant stories, about how the neighborhood is changing and how the corner is colorful now. It’s become a central point where communities are becoming activated.”
Minjarez says the students were initially apprehensive about their artistic abilities but once the mural was completed, they were extremely proud of their accomplishment.
“The fact that they decided the message of the mural and the images, it was theirs 100 percent,” he said.
The students will share more about the mural and their additional artwork during a Final Friday event, October 25 at Wichita’s City Arts from 5-9 p.m.