The Restoration Project of Chicano Park Murals

........Individual artists continued to repair damaged murals, with most of the costs from their own pockets. Salvador Torres, now Chairman of the Chicano Park Arts Council, teamed up with Al Ducheny, Chairman of Harborview Community Council, and Guillermo Rosete of Los Toltecas en Aztlan in 1986, with the single goal of petitionong the Public Arts Advisory Board to recommend to the city "the preservation and expansion of the Chicno Park murals." Mr Ducheny later spo ke at a PAAB meeting and led board members on a tour of the park. In 1987 the issue of declaring the Chicano Park murals as public art was adressed to PAAB by George Loveland, Director of Parks and Recreation, MR. Loveland recommended that the murals be proclaimed public art, and that the PAAB should work with the Eastern Division of Parks and Recreation, CALTRANS, and community groups to devise a procedure for restoring the murals in Chicano Park. Upon receiving the recommendation, the PAAB committee visited Chicano Park, and agreed to recommend the murals as a public art project. Committee members stated

that the murals are important to the culture of the neighborhood; important to the Hispanic population of San Diego, would be an asset to the City if restored, maintained and expanded; and that the restoration would encourage expansion of the murals throughout the park on a quality basis.

........Mary Ann Oberle, Eastern Division Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation, agreed on the point of the importance of the murals, but wanted their maintenance to be the responsibility of the community, Barrio Logan. She explained that Eastern Division "would be unable to provide manpower, scaffolding, or on-going maintenance, as this could reduce the level of service to current programsŠ but could possible provide a protective coating for the murals after restoration. James L. Larson, Director of Public and Legislative Affairs for CALTRANS, approved, by letter, the restoration process, and agreed to submit an outline for CALTRAN's responsibility. ........The specifics of ownership and responsibility were discussed at the meeting. The City of San Diego owned the land under the Coronado Bridge, which included the land in Chicano Park. The Department of Parks and Recreation was responsible for land maintenance. CALTRANS owned the bridge pylons upon which the murals were painted, and wanted to regulate non-controversial imagery of the murals, in effect, censorship. The concern over controlling imagery had previously surfaced in discussions by the Historical Site Board. CALTRANS later decided that mural imagery should be approved by PAAB.
........The Chicano Park Murals were then declared an Art in Public Places project in February 1987, with the city supplying $2,800 for the restoration of two murals. Two thousand dollars for two murals may have appeared as a dream to the artists involved in repairing murals throughout the years. But how to finance the other forty-eight murals in Chicano Park? Again, the necessity to organize effectively became apparent.
........The Chicano Park Murals Committee was the result of such necessity, founded in 1989 with the help of the city's Commission for Arts and Culture.

Composed of about twenty members representing a variety of neighborhood viewpoints, plus advisory representatives from the mayor's office, Councilman Bob Filner║s office, other city departments, and CALTRANS . . ., the challenge of the new group is to fashion a master plan for the park, and perhaps most importantly, find financing for it.

Co-chairs of the committee were Salvador Torres and Linda Sheridan, a professional lobbyist with an interest in the arts. Committee members formulated a twenty-page proposal entitled "Recommendations for Renovating and Painting Murals in Historic Chicano Park" consisting of points of interest to be considered. The first point specified the physical condition of the murals as to age, surface preparation, present surface condition, type of paint and sealer, and their positions relative to the cardinal points. The second point presented the first documentation of all the murals in the park, up to 1989. including the direction in which the mural faced, the number of hours involved in painting each mural, the recommended process for restoration, the names of the artists involved with each mural. and the date in which the mural was complete. The third point presented a map of Chicano Park with the freeway abutments and pylons numbered to indicate the order in which the murals would be restored.
........The fourth point presented a procedure for selecting artists for the restoration process. The original artists would be contacted and offered the designated amount of funding for the specific mural If the original artists chose not to participate, they were allowed to select artists of their choice to complete the process. If the original artists did not choose others to work, then other artists would be allowed to submit proposals for evaluation. A project coordinator would be selected and would be responsible for coordinating a restoration team. The fifth point recommended the procedure for restoring and painting the murals. Scaffolding would be set in place, and concrete surfaces would be washed and cleaned. Techniques and materials would be evaluated to prepare damaged surfaces. Sandblasting, scraping, and sanding would remove surface paint. Damaged areas would be repainted or retouched. A comparison of the repainted surfaces with original photographs allowed for accuracy where needed. After a curing time of two days for a layer of new paint, the surface would again be cleaned and sealed with a clear solution. The sixth point presented a job description for the project coordinator, for a twenty-hour work week at $25 per hour. The coordinator would develop a restoration team and be responsible for ordering materials and equipment. The duties would branch into bookkeeping, historical research, and public relations for the media and lectures.
........The seventh point presented a sample itemized cost sheet based on a three hundred fifty square foot mural. The eighth point presented the CPMC's conclusion, in two parts. The objectives of Phase I would include the objectives of creating a showpiece for the restoration project, unifying the community, developing public awareness of Chicano Park, demonstrating that the project could work within specific timeframes, and restoring ten of the murals by Chicano Park Day 1990. The remaining murals, with the exception of Undocumented Worker would be scheduled for restoration within six months. Phase II would involve the restoration of Undocumented Worker, the evaluation of the restoration process, and the development of a new mural program for the remaining bridge pylons in Chicano Park. The ninth point presented the murals to be restored and their estimated costs. The tenth point presented the suggested budget for the two phases of mural restoration.' ........After presenting the city with such a well documented study of the procedures involved in the restoration process. the city's Commission for Arts and Culture "approved the donation of $60,000--almost its entire budget--to help offset the nearly $90,000 price of restoring and painting murals.Š Restoration work began on the first ten murals in August 1991. The photographs of the day were composed of Chicano artists posing and smiling with city officials presenting a very different image from that of the park takeover twenty-one years earlier. The Chicano artists desperatly needed city funding' but were not enthusiastic about city involvement in other phases of the restoration process. For the artists, the murals represented only part of the restoration of Chicano Park. Public bathrooms and park benches badly needed repair. Park lights did not go on at night, and the soil within the park needed cultivation. Complaints surfaced regarding the selection of the first ten murals to be restored, based upon visibility, historical value, and extent of damage' rather than up the need for immediate repair. Complaints surfaced about the artists themselves, claiming that they did not understand the totality of the project. Torres and Victor Ochoa considered the Chicano Park Murals as a collective process to he considered as one work of art. Instead the majority of murals are presented as separate easel paintings within an outdoor gallery.
........The restoration process served to bring official city recognition to the Chicano Park Murals and the Chicano artists involved. In June of 1992, the Commission for Arts and Culture issued a press release regarding the completion of the restoration process of eleven murals. With "41 gallons of paint, 64 brushes, nine gallons of varnish, and a ton of 'elbow greaseŠ' the first phase of the process had been completed on "what is considered the largest, most important collection of outdoor murals in the country."