STC professor turned student completes McAllen mural
“I started looking at videos for creative areas during the pandemic, but I still wasn’t sure what I was doing because I didn’t have any academic preparation. I studied painting a lot until I had the chance to take a class last semester.”
Motivated by the world changes in 2020 and inspired to find a creative outlet, South Texas College Spanish professor Juan Silva turned to art.
With long hours spent indoors, Silva said he began looking up instructional videos on how to paint, but he lacked experience.
“I started looking at videos for creative areas during the pandemic, but I still wasn’t sure what I was doing because I didn’t have any academic preparation,” Silva said. “I studied painting a lot until I had the chance to take a class last semester.”
Silva who just started his 25th year as a Spanish professor at STC, became a student at the college.
While taking his painting course he was encouraged by art faculty to submit a design for the Keep McAllen Beautiful Irrigation Pipe Public Art Project.
Keep McAllen Beautiful is the local affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, a national public education organization dedicated to improving waste handling practices throughout America.
Since 2019, the local non-profit has established a program to give artists a chance for exposure through the painting of more than 200 irrigation pipes along the city’s hike and bike trails, which have been transformed into beautiful works of art.
Despite having little experience as a muralist, Silva said he was excited to learn that his proposed design was selected by the city, and he had an opportunity to create a mural at an irrigation pipe located at the corner of 23rd Street and Lark in McAllen.
“It was so different from what I’m used to because I’m used to painting on a canvas with calm and relaxing music. It was totally different experience, but I accepted the challenge,” Silva said. “It was hard with the weather and the noise from traffic, but it was also a learning experience where I applied what I was learning in the classroom and through my research.”
Silva said the work entitled Mudar, or “Move,” in English, depicts several important characters including an old man, a young girl, passing birds and orange trees which were all inspired by the sense of community.
He also incorporated a narrative element that speaks about the roots of the people and families in the region, he said.
"The elderly person refers to those looking for opportunity and finding a place to call home in this life which leads to hope for the newer generation. The old man has made life better for the young person but little birds are always looking for a better place,” Silva said. “And finally, history tells us that the common orange, which represents our region, arrived from Spain. As you can see, the movement in the mural tells us everything about our community and our place in history.”
Silva said he was grateful for professor Luis Corpus, who inspired him to pursue his passion for art, and who assisted him with preparations for the mural.
“He (Corpus) was very supportive, not just about helping me learn how to paint, but also pushing us to participate in community projects like this this one. I think he was just as excited as I was about doing this mural,” he said. “He helped me with the process and gave me the steps to prepare.”
As his new passion for art grows, Silva said he hopes to one day study abroad and connect the Valley with the rest of the world.
“I want to continue doing things with art. I want to prepare more. I want I want to take more classes,” Silva said. “I want to take classes in Europe or South America and bring those ideas to the Valley.
For more information on STC’s Visual Arts Department visit www.southtexascollege.edu/academics/visual-arts/ for more information.