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“HEY YOU! YOU WITH THE SPRAY CAN!” No, that’s not la jura busting some young tagger. It’s Silvana Salcido Esparza’s plea to the graffiti artists of Phoenix. She hopes to channel street energy into art for social change as part of her Calle 16 Project.
The grassroots effort couples established and aspiring Chicano artists with local youth to create a positive landscape along 16th Street. Fueled by what she termed “the whole S.B. (expletive) 1070 fiasco,” Salcido Esparza, Barrio Café’s chef and owner, decided she couldn’t wait for others to make her town a better place. So instead, she rolled up her sleeves.
Exactly how she would take action came to her after she returned to Phoenix from a month-long trip. Frustrated with local politics, she found herself staring at the mural she had commissioned Chicano artist El Moisés to paint behind her restaurant, when the idea struck her. Murals! So far enough funds have been raised for one mural, but others are in the works.
Noted artists like Gennaro Garcia (at left) and Case Beer jumped on board early, and others like street artist DOSE have committed to the effort of beautifying an area some see as too Mexicanized.
Like Mr. Rogers in his signature cardigan, she can be spotted in her white chef’s coat at one of the tables in her café, tête-à-tête with influential customers who have indicated support for the project.
For Salcido Esparza, the mentoring aspect of the project goes beyond artist development and extends to businesses along 16th Street, something not normally done in the business world. Take Tortas El Guero, for example, the popular shop she is helping to reinvent as both a restaurant and art space. They may change their name to Norte 16 and add the tagline “Borderline Cuisine. Featuring food from Chihuahua and el norte.”
And` Galería Café will host “noches estilo bohemia” featuring live guitar, light food, drinks and, of course, art. With Barrio Café as its epicenter, the project aims to stretch south down Calle 16 from Thomas Road to Roosevelt Street.
Ultimately Salcido Esparza hopes to create an arts district filled with public works and a cultural center offering classes in art, dance, music, acting and ESL courses. Or, as she puts it, “a community with heart.”
Pretty heady stuff – something you can expect from someone whose restaurant’s tagline is “comida chingona.”