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Grassroots art group’s leader reacts to mural vandalism

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, at 6:54 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, March 29, 2014, at 2:14 p.m.

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Whoever painted racist graffiti on a mural in north Wichita celebrating immigration didn’t succeed in deflating those who painted it, says the leader of a grassroots art collective.

Instead, the vandalism has energized those involved with the effort.

“It just makes clear why we need to have more public artwork that speaks to the issues in the community,” said Armando Minjarez, who is leading the organization of ICT Army of Artists, a collection of creative people – including writers, musicians and filmmakers – who collaborate on public art projects that “elevate a lively spirit of justice and colorful cultural expression” in neighborhoods around Wichita, a flyer promoting the effort states.

“There’s no question in my mind this (effort) is targeted” by whoever committed the vandalism, Minjarez said.

The vandalism on the mural included the words “KKK, “welfare” and a slur against people from Mexico.

Also targeted was the Bluebird Arthouse at 924 W. Douglas in Delano, which hosted an organizational meeting of ICT Army of Artists on Thursday night. A wall of the art house and a wall of the business across the alley were painted with graffiti.

Emily Brookover, owner of the Bluebird, is convinced the same person vandalized the wall of her business and the wall of the business facing the art house across the alley.

“It makes me very angry,” Brookover said before she painted over the graffiti. “It makes me more vigilant to support his group and do whatever I can.”

The mural at 21st and Park Place was painted by a group of South High School students called Latino Leaders.

“The students that painted the mural, they wanted to give a message that was real to their lives, to their everyday experience,” Minjarez said. “They are upset about what happened. They are also very energized.”

The mural is “obviously a powerful message and it reaches people.” he said. The vandalism “just proves to me that what we’re doing is right and we need to do more of it.”

The Latino Leaders want to paint murals around Wichita, depicting the great diversity that exists in the city, Minjarez said.

Despite what many people around the nation may think, he said, Wichita and Kansas have a great deal of cultural diversity. The group wants to reflect that in its murals.

“We want to highlight how wonderful people are,” Minjarez said. “We’ll just continue to elevate the dignity on everyone. That’s what we’re all about.”

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

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