Paint with Arantxa X. Rodriguez

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday May 4, 2023

If you’ve wanted to paint a mural and haven’t had the chance, this one’s for you. Join Arantxa X. Rodriguez (who goes by AXR) at Marcus Garvey Park to paint a mural that will be installed this June in East Harlem. The mural project was awarded AXR by the NYC Mural Arts Project, which partners with a mental health nonprofit every year to create a public mural that fosters community engagement and dialogue around mental health. This year NYCMAP partnered with S:US (Services for the Underserved), a nonprofit that serves the disabled, people in poverty, and those facing homelessness. 

In addition to mural painting, visitors can enjoy music and DJ sets presented by Good Vibes in the Park, try new foods & learn from a demonstration at the Harlem Grown food truck, participate in yoga, dance meditation, a sound bath, knitting, journaling/reflections and more! This event is free and all ages and artistic skills welcome! 

I asked AXR how she came to muralism as the current focus of her work in an email conversation that covered many aspects of her engagement. Having grown up in Mexico, she felt the influence of the “three grandees”, muralists Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros. Soon after completing her MFA at School of Visual Arts in 2019, she applied for and won the Residency Unlimited/NYC Health and Hospitals Arts in Medicine award granted by The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. When the Pandemic lockdown went into effect, the program shut down; but not for long. In October, the program was relaunched and AXR was awarded the mural for Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx, which is the hospital The Young Lords kidnapped in the 70s, and thanks to that, she said, public health care in the city completely change for the better.

AXR also told of her volunteer work for various health and wellness organizations during her high school years in Mexico. She says, “The thing I like most about making community murals is that exchange, the opportunity to give a new experience to so many people, engage in dialogue during the planning and change someone's day through the healing power of making art. Not to mention the final outcome, which endows a space with a new energy that will live on their walls.”

Her inspiration for the current mural, Empowerment through Gratitude, is a painting by David Alfaro Siqueiros (above right), from which she freely borrowed the hands as a symbol for outreach (left). The mural’s final form, which grew out of months of community workshops in which people shared their ideas and created drawings to explore the theme, AXP painted an Afro-Latin-Cuban woman seated in the lotus pose on a globe she is protecting, while reaching out with her marvelous "Siqueiros" hands. 

AXR visualizes symbols drawn from the cultural makeup of East Harlem, and adds, “And by no means can I even compare myself to Siqueiros, but similarly, as he was inviting the people to defend their rights and fight for justice through revolution, I invite people to fight the inner demons that can keep them enslaved in mental health issues. The opportunity I offer with this mural is the transformation and transmutation of the interior life; I believe that is the only way we will find peace in this world.” 

Saturday, May 6 from 1:00 to 6:00 pm at Marcus Garvey Park, 122nd Street and Madison Avenue, New York, NY. Sign up HERE