When I think of the word POW!WOW!, my mind immediately conjures up images of the cultural practice of Native American men, women and children gathering to celebrate their culture through song and dance. POW!WOW! Antelope Valley recreates this metaphorical celebration through the creation of several artistic murals throughout Lancaster BLVD. However, POW!WOW! is much more than murals, it is the opportunity for creating art that engages the community, a medium typically seen as too “highbrow” for everyday people. I set out to interview the artists responsible for painting the murals throughout the BLVD Cultural District and got some interesting and thought provoking replies.
Each artist that I interviewed gave a unique perspective on the importance of community engagement, each with their own design and purpose for their murals. Gustavo Rimada; painter and muralist from Indio, California; is a great example of someone whose work is culturally diverse. He often features famous Mexican iconography like calaveras, the Virgin Mary, red roses, and even socio-political commentary. Carlos Mendoza, a muralist, infuses inspirations of Mayan and Aztec culture into his art. MJ Lindo, muralist from the Bay Area, takes a more feminine approach in her murals — often depicting women of different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities.
But why are murals like this important? While speaking with Carlos Mendoza, he told me of the importance that art had, even volunteering his time to paint some murals for his son’s school. He believes that it is a chance to provide the Antelope Valley with a change in scenery in a place where art has been seemingly forgotten. Art provides the Antelope Valley community with glimpses into other facets of life through the interpretation of the muralists. But most importantly, the murals are tangible, visible and accessible, there is no need for fancy institutions and status to access these murals. Anyone can touch, feel and experience the murals regardless of one’s background. Manuel Zamudio believes that art has the potential to change lives, “Art is something that has to be given to the community. Through art, you can be exposed to different ideas, culture, and could help people aspire to dream.”