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Chattanooga's First Latino Mural: Dreaming Forward/ Soñado

On a Saturday morning in late May, Mayor Andy Berke, members of the Chattanooga Football Club Women’s team, and many other community leaders, adults and children gathered for a painting party in the parking lot of the Carniceria Loa #7, the Hispanic grocery store  at the corner of Broad and Main Streets. Together they painted the first layers of a mural on the wall of the store that will be the first Latino public mural in Chattanooga.

Alex Paul Loza, who is leading the mural project, is a local portraitist and figurative painter who teaches at Lee University. Loza was born in Peru and has been active in his career in educating and enriching the Latino community through the arts.

“As a Latino and an artist,” Loza says, “I feel compelled to create a public artwork in which our Latino community, especially the children, can identify with, find inspiration and gain a sense of understanding that the baton is being handed over to them so that they can pave the way for the future.” Loza’s objective for the mural – which will be titled Dreaming Forward/Soñando – is to increase citizen empowerment and beautify the neighborhood at the same time.

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Loza has done several mural projects in Chattanooga already, including one currently on display at City Hall. He created the City of Collegedale’s first public mural in 2016, the Veterans Memorial Mural. He believes murals can be tools to teach the principles of equity and social justice and expand cultural understanding among people of different backgrounds.

Loza has commissioned three other local Latino artists to help paint the mural - Kristina Sanchez-Mills, Magdalena Pedraza and Karla Ayala. The project began all the way back in January when Loza and the team met with neighborhood residents to learn about their stories, ideals and dreams, and also took photos of them to use as figure references for the mural design. Loza hopes the scenes in the Dreaming Forward/ Soñando mural will encourage conversation about Latino cultural heritage and how it connects to contemporary life.

At the community painting day in May 2018, everyone got a lesson in mixing colors and got to add their own “touch” and brush stroke to a finished painting to be enjoyed by all. Be sure to check it out – you can’t miss it – the finished mural is 14 feet high and 30 feet wide!

The Dreaming Forward/ Soñando mural project was made possible by Equity in the Arts, a recent grant program funded by Benwood Foudnation in partnership with ArtsBuild to support projects led by local Black and Latino artists.

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