Construction of a 30-foot mural paying tribute to Sacramento’s Chicano history has begun in advance of its March opening inside Golden 1 Center.
The mural, titled “Flight,” prominently features an overhead view of a yellow-and-black Canadian swallowtail butterfly as well as several other critters flying around the circle’s exterior. It’s expected to be installed by February inside the K Street arena entrance, then unveiled at the Sacramento Kings’ Latino Heritage Night matchup versus the Brooklyn Nets on March 1.
Three Royal Chicano Air Force lead artists – Esteban Villa, Juanishi V. Orosco and Stan Padilla – are overseeing a group of 25 assistants working to assemble the mural, which Padilla described as “drawing on Mesoamerican mythology.” The three lead artists all began working in their studios in south Sacramento (Villa), Colfax (Padilla) and Los Angeles (Orosco) around Dec. 1 after more than two years of sketching and planning.
“Muralism is a social art,” Padilla said. “It’s not like one artist gets up and paints a big wall. It takes a whole team, culturally, the way we do it.”
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Former Mayor Joe Serna Jr., the first Latino elected to lead Sacramento, belonged to the RCAF until his death in 1999. Serna’s son Phil leveraged his position on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors to find funding for “Flight,” largely from money obtained in a tobacco lawsuit settlement. The city has an agreement in place with Sacramento County to accept $300,000 from Serna’s office to fund the artwork.
Serna said Sacramento has “a rich legacy of embracing public art in our public spaces, and this is going to be something all of us can be very proud of.” And with 200 events a year filling Golden 1 Center, the venue will provide unprecedented exposure for the RCAF.
“I’m hopeful that the artwork and the brief explanation that will adjoin the artwork about what the RCAF is will help educate people about how special they are and what their history means to Northern California and the state,” Serna said.
The artists, who have worked together for more than 40 years, are airbrushing, spray-painting and hand-brushing acrylics atop Corafoam polyurethane boards. When all three boards are merged, the triptych mural will bulge out about a foot-and-a-half from the wall.
“The theme is migration, immigration, the transformation of society,” Padilla said. “It’s a classical view of our Mexican heritage and world’s artistic tradition of man emerging into the cosmos, of man taking charge of his own destiny.”
Villa and Jose Montoya started the RCAF – then called the Rebel Chicano Art Front – in 1970 to help create posters for labor causes. The organization later began supplying free breakfast to low-income students and artistic programs to juvenile offenders in Sacramento, and has stretched its artistic reach to San Diego and Idaho.