Sometimes you find art in surprising places.
At Xico in Chandler, it’s underfoot — sealed into the concrete floor in 3-foot-by-3-foot painted squares. Each is a small masterpiece by an Arizona painter, printmaker, sculptor or other artist.
“It’s a new idea for some people, that a floor can be a mural. I can tell you we’ve inspired more than a few patios, and people always ask if they can take a square home,” says Hannah Humphrey, community outreach coordinator at the 36-year-old arts and culture nonprofit.
Created in 1975 by local Chicano and Native American artists, Xico promotes Latino and Native American culture through the arts. About 100 area artists help host workshops, programs and exhibitions in Xico’s downtown “galeria” and throughout the community.
“A lot of people assume it’s all been done by one artist, but everyone who’s done a square is someone who is involved with Xico or volunteers in some way,” says Humphrey.
Phoenix artist Hugo Medina is painting the “rug’s” twentieth block. Kneeling on the hard floor, he renders the face of a native Bolivian flute player from carefully applied strokes of brown acrylic paint. For him, contributing to the project is a chance to build community.
“It’s history in a sense. You have all these artists coming together to capture time and create this piece that will last, hopefully, forever,” he says.
Medina expects to continue work on his painting the week of Aug. 22. It should be finished in time for Xico’s Aug. 26 reception for “Caras Amadas,” a free exhibition of portraits by six artists.
Humphrey says the floor became an unexpected showcase for homegrown artwork three years ago, when Xico moved into its 100-year-old building.
“We had orange shag carpeting, and it was hideous. But when we ripped it up, we found this beautiful concrete floor, already divided into slabs,” she says.
Artists, such as Ahwatukee Foothills’ Gennaro Garcia and Mesa’s Carmen Guerrero, began painting the squares. Today there are just eight blocks left to fill. Humphrey expects artists will complete about one per month.
The imagery inside each block is different, but they share one thing: a triple coat of clear polyurethane sealer, plus an additional varnishing every six months or so.
Mark and Debbie Egloff, visiting from Beaver Creek, Ohio, said they weren’t afraid to walk on the floor when they wandered into the gallery and found Medina bent over his painting. The mural was the first thing they noticed.
“If you think about local artists doing it, it really tells the story of the community,” said Debbie, pointing to a colorful block filled with vivid pictures of Mexican muñecas, or children’s dolls.
Humphrey says the mural is an icebreaker.
“It’s a quick introduction to local artists, especially for people who are maybe new to the area or are visiting. Arizona isn’t necessarily known for art, and it may be a revelation for some people, to find these are all local artists, and they’re all fantastic.”
Xico is open Tuesdays through Saturdays at 44 S. San Marcos Place, Chandler. Admission is free. The Caras Amadas reception, also free, is 5:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 26 and features portraits of individuals from the Hispanic, Latino and Chicano communities. For information, call (480) 833-5875 or visit www.facebook.com/xicoinc
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