Photo credit: Isaiah Salazar of Landmark Photography

Written by Mialise Carney, COSS Communications Student Assistant

Earlier this month Phillip Gonzales, professor of Chicano and Latin American studies, lectured with the 559 Mural Project, a local collective of activists who advocate for the arts to address racial injustice, social and economic inequities in Fresno County through mural art. Gonzales has been involved with documenting Fresno Chicano mural projects since 2018, and recently became involved with the 559 Mural Project as referred by local artist Mauro Carrera. 

“We hope that the murals will become a living part of the community and act as reminders and catalysts for the public to develop creative solutions to move the needle forward on change,” Gonzales said. 

The 559 Mural Project follows a long historical practice done since the 1970s by Chicano muralists. Chicano murals have been a part of local communities, on buildings and businesses near or in the neighborhood. The community activists and members of the 559 Mural Project seek to uphold the philosophies of JEDI, or Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice, in their organization. 

“We strive to be unapologetically anti-racist and will continue to listen and learn as we do our work to bring awareness about systemic racism in our rural communities,” he said. 

In early March 2021, Gonzales participated in a Facebook live event for the 559 Mural Project. The event featured two muralists involved in the Selma mural “De Colores,” as well as the founders of the 559 Mural Project. Gonzales also provided the historical background of Chicano murals in the San Joaquin Valley. 

“The experience of doing the live online Facebook event was exciting! The dialogue was informative, allowed for the artists to describe the messages in their art, and allowed the founders of the 559 to discuss how they were inspired to promote awareness of social justice through Chicano mural art,” said Gonzales.

During the event, Gonzales featured images by his uncle, muralist Daniel “Chano” Gonzalez, and discussed his 2018 Fresno State exhibition, “Murales de Mi Tio.” Gonzales has been doing research and developing his Chicano murals exhibition for over thirty years and has even written a book that features much of his uncle’s work. He also incorporates this research into his teaching at Fresno State. 

“I teach about “Murales de Mi Tio” (the murals of my uncle) in CLAS 9 – Chicano Artistic Expression. I do several modules that allow students to view videos, see YouTube presentations, and visit current relevant websites that provide a broad learning experience of Chicano murals,” Gonzales said.