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Heritage Garden mural celebrates urban pollinators

Artist Mario Mena speaks in front of the mural.
Rosa Cabrera in front of the mural.

For eight weeks, artist Mario Mena led a summer arts class where students put down their thoughts on the environment and the land under their feet.

Working with 12 students from Yollocalli Arts Reach’s Street Art Class as well as the 12 students in the UIC Heritage Garden’s summer internship program, they created the yet unnamed mural, which recently was dedicated outside the UIC Latino Cultural Center during a Day of the Dead celebration.

“Not only did they learn, but I learned a lot working with the youth to create a beautiful image that reflects our Earth and our land,” said Mena, who leads the Street Art Class through Yollocalli Arts Reach, an award winning youth initiative of the National Museum of Mexican Art.

The theme of the mural is the conservation of urban pollinators. It depicts two large colorful monarch butterflies alongside other pollinators flying in a sky of orange and yellow over green fields, as billowing smokestacks spew dark plumes of smoke in the background.

Funding came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service to the UIC Latino Cultural Center and the Heritage Garden.

Students in front of the mural.

The work is part of the Engaging Diverse Audiences in Monarch Conservation project meant to highlight the Heritage Garden’s monarch butterfly habitat, said Ireri Unzueta Carrasco, lead coordinator and Heritage Garden educator.

Latino Cultural Center Director Rosa Cabrera said the mural, which will be temporarily removed to prepare it for permanent installation, serves to beautify the campus and support our students’ journey at UIC as they “create cultural and artistic responses to social and environmental issues that many of our students are facing.”