The mural at La Peña Cultural Center will incorporate new images while keeping the original design intact. Photo Einar Sevilla
By Einar Sevilla
Amid a growing controversy to replace an existing mural that welcomed patrons to La Peña Cultural Center, a compromise has been reached that incorporates some new images while keeping the original design intact.
Months ago, the 37-year-old Berkeley cultural center initiated a fiscal campaign called “2nd Skin” to revamp its historic 1978 mural titled “Song of Unity,” because it had deteriorated over the years.
But when efforts from the artist collective Trust Your Struggle to create a new mural got underway, a surge of public outcry to save the painting flooded La Peña.
“I would never have imagined that I would have to be in this fight to keep the mural,” said Lisa Milos, a Chilean-American and member of People United to Defend the “Song of Unity/Canción de la Unidad” Mural, which was formed in response to La Peña’s 2nd Skin campaign.
“It seems like we, as a staff and board, were not able to put out a clear message with a clear purpose of what the mural is, and what the mural is going to be,” La Peña Publicity Coordinator Fernando Torres said.
ARG Conservation Services conducted a mural condition assessment and made four treatment recommendations in June 2008, including one that called for saving the mural.
According to the ARG report, “None of the artists present felt that it was necessary to retain the original mural.” In fact, the artists saw no problem in replicating it.
The report also stated that the current mural needed to be taken down because of structural damage to the wall that it sits on.
Ray Patlan, one of the original mural artists, has taken on the task of creating a replica of the current mural, which will incorporate some new images while keeping the original design intact.
Patlan is working with members of People United to Defend the “Song of Unity/Canción de la Unidad” Mural, which has convinced La Peña to do a replica rather than a completely different mural.
ARG Conservation Services set the price for a restructure of the wall and painting of a replica at just over $81,000.
This seemed to be unrealistic to a cultural center facing financial difficulties. With a rebounding economy, many non-profits have been forced to compete for funding and grants, and La Peña has been losing revenue since 2009.
Meanwhile, there is a growing effort between second-generation La Peña supporters to revitalize the center. The Second Generation was formed about a year ago and consists mostly of the children of former Peña employees, volunteers and board members, most of whom are in their late 20s and early 30s.
Immigration lawyer Jorge Rodriguez said the mural and the cultural center don’t belong to anyone and that people need to be informed about what is happening so that there can be a process, rather than simply being told what was decided.
Transparency has become a growing issue being expressed by concerned long-time La Peña followers who want future board meetings open to the public.