Summer Art Camp 2012

During the Summer of 2012 I worked with the youth of the John Valenzuela Youth Center in South Tucson during their summer mini art camp. We created several mural panels to serve as public service announcements to the community. 


I told the youth my story of being a graffiti artists as a youth in Los Angeles, how I was headed down a wrong path in life. One morning after being out painting graffiti all night and trying to sneak back home, my mom caught me and said, “MEL, Do you want to pay the city for what you’re doing? Or do you want the City to Pay you?” Those words led me to leaving the street life and creating my art on canvas and murals and becoming a professional artist. I want to continue inspiring youth to follow their dreams!

We talked about making better choices for snacks; such as eating fresh fruits and vegetables instead of eating junk food. The “Junk Food Monster” on the mural is made of all the junk food that is directly marketed to the youth and their culture, making junk food even more appealing.  I explained to the kids that its very important to look at the labels of the foods they eat. How lots of fat and sodium are really unhealthy and I also showed them the different labels on fruits and veggies. We hope this panel encourages other youth in the community to make healthy eating choices!

This one is called The Art of Story Telling. The Art of Story Telling was a great way to talk to the youth about old folklore, like the story of Quetzequatl and the Ants; a story about how humans discovered maize. The giant Olmec in the mural represents the mixture of history and science fiction; provoking the thought of the possibility that giants created the ancient temples. Then there is the sci-fi that makes you ponder, was it aliens? Finally on the right of the mural, a child reading; learning about history, using the imagination, and creating his/her own stories.

At the end of the summer the youth invited their friends and families to a program at Ochoa Elementary School where they presented the mural panels we created, receive awards for their sportsmanship, and perform a skit they created in drama. In art camp we also created the masks that they used in their performance.


In October, the Pima County Public Library had asked if I would like to display art at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library in downtown Tucson. I accepted because I knew this was a great space to display all of the art that I’ve created with the youth in the community over the past two years. The art will be displayed until November 30, 2012