When driving around Southwest Detroit you'll most likely see murals in several locations - on businesses as advertising and some that have a deep cultural meeting. Live in the D's Tati Amare got a chance to catch up with Elton Monroy-Duran, a local muralist who has done several of the murals in Southwest, and who gave us an insider look at his work and the significance of art in the community.
"I was thinking of a way to connect the community with art, actually, because not everyone knows about art and not everyone thinks they deserve to know about art" says Monroy-Duran.
To bridge the gap, Monroy-Duran paints images people will really connect with.
"I wanted to paint these popular Mexican icons -- actors and actresses," explains Monroy-Duran. "Everybody knows them, so I wanted to use them as a bridge, you know, to connect people to my art, to the murals."
The first mural he showed us was the large one in the parking lot of E&L Supermarket and Hacienda Foods in Southwest Detroit. It features the legendary Mexican actor Pedro Infante as well as other familiar images of Mexican-American culture like low riders and Cinco de Mayo parades. He also added some familiar faces.
"I started adding people from the community, along with the popular icons, and it is kind of like giving them the same level of respect and appreciation," explains Monroy-Duran.
Monroy-Duran's many murals in Southwest all began when he was raising his half of the Knight's Arts Challenge money, where participants are required to match their grants.
"It was really a blessing for me because that pushed me to connect with business owners and with organizations, and connect better with the community," says Munroy-Duran.
The next stop on our tour was the Plaza Del Sol Cultural Center, where Monroy-Duran explained his mural as a combination of the old and the new.
"I start basing the composition based on their ideas. They wanted something very traditional," says Monroy-Duran.
The mural features children watching as Maria Felix and Jorge Negrete, two famous Mexican actors, dance. The group teaches traditional Mexican dancing and hosts a mariachi group so Elton added a personal element by incorporating their portraits.
Our final stop was his latest projects at the Michigan Welcome Center where there is a portrait of people dancing on a Detroit street, with some fun cultural icons mixed in, and Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera watching over them from the sky.
"My inspiration is love. And that's something that's very personal. Love for my community inspires me to do these murals," says Monroy-Duran.
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