Mural at Hillsboro Boys & Girls Club gives sense of place
With the community in mind, artist Arturo Villaseñor says he wants to give kids at Hillsboro's Inukai Family Boys & Girls Club a sense of place.
After weeks of work, Villaseñor says he's more than halfway finished painting a mural on the western, street-facing wall of the Boys & Girls Club building at 560 S.E. Third Ave.
He was commissioned to do the mural as part of renovations to create a "teen space," where students will be able to comfortably socialize and do homework, at the 30-year-old after-school center.
In June, the Boys & Girls Club was selected by HGTV and Comcast Corp. as one of three organizations in the country — and the only one on the West Coast, with the other two located in Atlanta and Baltimore — to receive funding aimed at revitalizing facilities in Comcast's "Lift Zones." About 1,000 Lift Zones were created by Comcast last year to boost internet connectivity with free wifi.
Set to the backdrop of the sun and sky adorned with color, the mural will show the face of Mt. Hood, as seen from Washington County, the arch of Hillsboro's Main Street Bridge with a MAX train passing below, a "SE 3rd Ave" street sign, and the Japanese characters for "Inukai," in honor of the club's namesake, Hillsboro business leader Dick Inukai.
It's the second time Villaseñor's work will enhance the building.
In 2018, he painted a mural on the wall of the building facing a playspace. That mural shows flags from countries all over the world.
Same as the last mural, Villaseñor took input from students at the Boys & Girls Club, which serves kids primarily low-income families and students of color.
He said the students, who ranged in age from elementary school students to high schoolers, wanted to see the mural reflect "all kinds of things," from Pokémon characters to an LGBTQ pride flag.
Villaseñor said it wasn't easy to incorporate components from such a wide range of ideas into about 20 designs he proposed.
With feedback from the club's staff and the Hillsboro Arts & Culture Council, he says the selected design maintains an elegant simplicity that will be a marker of place to kids at the club.
One thing that was common among many of the suggestions from kids was for the mural to be colorful, Villaseñor said.
Running with the idea from one suggestion, the sky backdrop of the mural has the look of stained glass, which was used throughout history to accentuate light primarily in religious buildings. Although the building's wall isn't transparent, the sun will rise from behind the mural.
"Painting something for the kids who come here was the most important thing to me," Villaseñor said. "How will they perceive their environment or their community? I wanted it to be recognizable, and something they enjoy looking at."
He enjoys doing them, especially when they're for important community institutions, Villaseñor said, but murals aren't his primary artistic medium.
The artist, who moved to Oregon from Mexico City in 2000 and now lives in Forest Grove, typically paints technically intricate pieces in his studio.
He draws on his background growing up in Mexico City and later becoming an engineer with a degree in math and physics to create pieces that show his culture and fascination with science, he said.
While only starting to paint on buildings recently, Villaseñor worked to restore historic buildings for years when he lived in Mexico.
In 2009, he started working at Adelante Mujeres in adult education, helping people learn to use technology, among other skills.
From a young age, he always had the urge to paint and draw, he said. He also creates sculptures and graphic designs, writes poetry and takes photos.
His work as part of "The Frida Project," in which he created portraits of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, are on display at M&M Market, a few blocks away from the Boys & Girls Club.
"It's honoring to have the chance to do something like this," Villaseñor said of having another opportunity to paint a mural at the club. "We're out in the open. People will see this for a long time.
"I'm glad they chose me."
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