Murals 34 in Piedras Negras, Mexico

My experiences muraling are positive and, upon completion of a wall, I usually want to return some time in the future for another round.  Well, you know all about good intentions and the best laid plans.  It doesn't happen as much as I would like.  But I have returned to some locations and I always knew I'd come back to Piedras Negras otra vez (again).  I just didn't think it would take me two years to do it.

On my first trip to paint in Mexico, I came with a church group.  I was invited to paint a mural at an orphanage.  There was a time limit, it was very rushed, and when I wasn't feasting on incredible Mexican food, I spent most of my time facing a wall.  I needed more.  More time, more experiences in Mexico, and certainly more food.

It's a little unusual for me to go muraling with a group.  I wasn't in charge of things like I usually am.  (Who said anything about control issues?)  It's not like things are in control all the time when I go to different countries anyway.  But, at least I set the dates and plan the agenda.  I must say, I enjoyed the group experience and was very willing to return to Mexico with another group from my church.  Several groups came after my visit.

I was just never invited back.

I don't know why that never happened.  I'm not one to invite myself into a group and then say, "Hey, let me take over the whole project and let's do a mural!"  So I waited . . . and waited . . . and waited for almost two years!  Then, I said to myself (and I do talk to myself too much), "Enough is enough!  I have connections in Piedras Negras.  I'm welcomed there.  And, I've had an invitation back for quite a while.  Why am I waiting on a bunch of gringos?"

I didn't wait any longer.

One of the painters from the last project in Mexico was Gaby.  She was the group translator, one of my best painters ever, and a local teacher.  Did I say teacher?  Did I just mention someone with a connection at a school in a location where tourists rarely go?  Did I contact Gaby and get everything set up almost instantly?  The answer to all these questions is yes.

I only had one requirement for this next round in Mexico.  I wanted to come when there was a Mexican fiesta with people celebrating in the streets.  In other words, I wanted to come during the Independence celebration in September.  And, as it turned out, there was another group from my church coming at that same time.  I was just there a whole lot longer.

Upon arrival at the Instituto de Las Américas Montessori Bilingüe School, I met Rosie, the school director and one of my biggest fans.  She knew all about my murals, travels, art and websites.  She oozed with passion for her students and enthusiasm for the project.  And, of course, that enthusiasm was infectious.

As always, I sat down with people in the community to get their input for the mural.  There were no preconceived ideas.  It was their mural and I wanted them to get the drawing they want.  The mural space was huge!  I'm talking 13 yards by 3 1/2 yards on a shell shaped amphitheater in the center of the school grounds.  There was a previous mural there, but it didn't stand the test a time.  It's one of those true facts of life that I don't like to think about for my murals.  Rosie wanted the new mural to reflect the message of the old one.

The old mural included scenes from nature with elephants, rhinos, and other animals that had nothing to do with Mexico.  Out with the old, in with the new!  My mural had animals from Mexico including an iguana, black bear, coyote, tortoise, eagle, and rattle snake.  The old mural had a group of children holding hands in a circle.  The thought behind that was the school's philosophy of supporting each other, helping everyone, and making all people feel a welcomed part of the community.  In my mind, if you saw the completed circle, you were outside observing.  So, in the new mural, a group of people, hand in hand, filled the length of the semi-circle.  But, it wasn't complete.  The other half of the circle included the audience.  They were needed to fulfill the school's mission.  And, I'm very pleased to say, that was my experience in Piedras Negras.

To fully understand that experience, you'll have to continue on to my adventure section.