Alison Zapata painting the mural with students at Beechwood Elementary School.

Visual artist Alison Zapata and students of the Latino Community Center’s SOY (Supporting Our Youth) PGH program recently put their finishing touches on an amazing mural representing Hispanic heritage. 

The Latino Community Center (LCC) commissioned the 4’ x 16′ art piece painted on aluminum composite with support from the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts & Media and funding from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA). Pride in Latino Heritage was the chosen theme for the work painted in a vibrant and colorful folk art style. Symbols represented in the mural include native bird and plant species, Angel Falls, folk art, the coffee plant/industry, volcanos, Andes mountain range, and Frida Kahlo. 

Zapata shared her love of working with the LCC students and believing in the Center’s mission to provide the highest quality opportunities for the children.

“What I love about this project is that the benefit is double fold. The students gain pride individually in learning creative skillsets, as well as, in being part of a mural that displays the beauty and dignity of the Latino Diaspora through their lens. They get to share their love of their culture with their community and it’s quite empowering,” said Zapata.

To begin the art piece, instructor Aleira Gilbert led the students in researching the various countries of the Latin American diaspora for imagery. Alison then took the imagery the students chose and laid out a mural design to unify their collective ideas into one beautiful composition to tell their story. They worked together at Beechwood Elementary School for 20 weeks using acrylic paint.  It took from October until February to complete their vision of Latino heritage and culture.  

The children took great pride and ownership in their work. SOY (Supporting Our Youth) Pittsburgh is the LCC’s bilingual K-5 after school program that aims to improve academic outcomes for Latino youth, while simultaneously building students’ pride in their native language and heritage. SOY Pittsburgh is in its third year of programming, and in its third year of collaboration with Alison and PCA to build students’ pride in their heritage through the arts.  

The Latino Community Center in Downtown Pittsburgh will house the mural and the students are excited to see the fruit of their work on display!

The Latino Community Center wishes to thank all involved for this incredible collaboration: Alison Zapata, Visual Artist; Mary Brenholts, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts & Media Artists-in-Communities Program Director; Rosamaria Cristello, LCC Executive Director; Emily Blair, LCC Director of Educational Programs; Aleira N. Gilbert, LCC Out-of-School Time Instructor; Jennifer Geiser, LCC Out-of-School Time Assistant/SOY Pgh Volunteer Coordinator; and Daniel Santander, Out-of-School Time Assistant.  

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