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True Colors Mural Project

Juana Alicia and the Alliance for California Traditional Arts


Juana Alicia


Chicano mural painting  The Chicano Mural Movement began in the 1960s in Mexican-American barrios throughout the Southwest. Artists began using the walls of city buildings, housing projects, schools, and churches to depict Mexican-American culture.  Chicano muralism has been linked to pre-Columbian peoples of the Americas, that recorded their rituals and history on the walls of their pyramids, and Mexican revolutionary-era painters José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siquieros, collectively known as los tres grandes, whose work is well-known in Europe, the United States and of course Mexico. During the Chicano social and cultural movement that occurred throughout the Southwest in the 1960s and 1970s, mural production became part of the effort of Latinos to reinvigorate their cultural heritage, affirm cultural identity, and challenge racism.


Juana Alicia began painting murals as a teenager, over four decades ago.  She learned from other Chicano/a muralists, her peers (Mujeres Muralistas, Yolanda Lopez, Cruz Zamarrón), and Mexican artists such as Alfredo Zalce.  In the 1980s and 90s, she apprenticed with Diego Rivera’s assistant fresco artists, Lucienne Bloch and Stephan Dimitriov.  Her adult work evolved on the streets of the Mission District of San Francisco, the Latino neighborhood that has been home to a mural renaissance since the 1970s.  Juana has been teaching mural painting since 1981. As a current master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program, Juana will share with her apprentice Cece Carpio the significance and power of public visual art as a tool towards social justice.

Kickstarter Campaign for REALM Charter School Mural


Fresh Start: Interactive Mural @ Realm Charter School – True Colors Mural Project 2012

True Colors is the public murals program based at Berkeley City College, fiscally sponsored by Earth Island Institute, and directed by Juana Alicia Araiza. Through Juana Alicia’s Mural Design and Creation 
classes, True Colors creates one or more public murals 
every year with social and environmental justice themes.

True Colors’ 2011-2012 Mural Project is a collaboration with the REALM Charter School, located in West Berkeley. REALM is a project-based, technology-rich learning environment that immerses their teachers and students in authentic virtual learning environments that require collaboration, inquiry, critical thinking, ingenuity, and imagination.

This year’s project is to create an environmental “Game Board” themed mural with a virtual game component.  This concept is to expand the mural’s online presence which allows students to write stories, illustrate and create animations of how to actually play the game. The mural displays narratives of nationally recognized, young environmental leaders intermingled with real and imagined scenarios. These scenes illustrate communities working towards environmental sustainability. The muralists are collaborating with REALM’s students to research, design and paint the new mural and create the virtual board game. All students participated in community surveys, oral histories, and site-based research to develop the content, form and aesthetics of the mural. The research and design are close to completion, and the unveiling will take place on June 2012.

True Colors’ “Fresh Start” mural and its virtual component can only be completed through direct human interaction.  This project involves community to navigate complex information utilizing emerging technologies. The audience/participants not only view the mural, but also play with the design that becomes an actual living experience and on-line journey. The environmental issues and messages chosen impact people’s everyday lives and encourage the community to take positive social action. Imagine landing on square that leads you to learn about lead poisoning issues and solutions in West Berkeley.  “Playing” will educate the students and community about ideas and practices leading to environmental sustainability. We intend that, through this project, all participants will recognize and activate their ability to shape our world and to better humanity.


About True Colors

True Colors Mural Project at
Berkeley City College and Earth Island Institute


Making Berkeley Greener and More Beautiful, One Wall at a Time!


True Colors is the public murals program at Berkeley City College, founded and directed by Juana Alicia. Through her Mural Design and Creation classes at BCC, and in collaboration with the City of Berkeley’s Youth Works Program, Earth Island Institute and other community based organizations, True Colors creates one or more public murals each year. The True Colors Mural Project supports the development of young artist/ activists for the improvement of the urban environment through the creation of public murals. The purpose of the murals is to both educate urban dwellers and beautify the urban environment with messages and images that support ecological sustainability, conservation and restoration. The project recruits, engages and employs under-served, at risk youth from Berkeley and the greater East Bay, in vital community environmental mural arts projects. True Colors trains young artists to design and create community murals with social and environmental justice themes.