Postcards from San Miguel de Allende: Redirecting Grafitti Artists, Part Four

Part One, Part Two and Part Three

Some people see the arroyo of Obraje running through San Miguel de Allende as a squalid ditch, a place to dump household garbage when one fails to heed the bell of the municipal trucks collecting trash. It diverts floodwaters away from Colonia Guadalupe during the rainy season, but during the much longer dry season it serves as a shortcut for many, including children attending one of several schools bordering the arroyo. The area, well below street level, also is a magnet for those engaged in drug deals or other dangerous liaisons. And those armed with spray paint.

Former San Antonian Colleen Sorenson looks at the ditch and sees something different. She sees Paseo del Rio or pathways like those along the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River. The graffiti-covered walls of buildings backing up to the arroyo represent additional blank canvases for more constructive artistic expression. Muros en Blanco, ecologically concerned residents of San Miguel de Allende and city officials began meeting, and change is happening.

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Bulldozers were clearing away debris in February, when these photos were taken.

According to an article by Antonio de Jesus Aguado in Attencion San Miguel, Edgar Bautista, head of the city’s Urban Development Department, said:

“The perspective is touristic…,” and it fulfills the development goals of the Millenium, the priorities of which are security, health and education. The idea is to turn the arroyo into a patio-garden within the city, a tourism corridor, “in other words, a park that would generate a new ecosystem as important as Parque Juarez.”

Colleen was working on another arts festival, but, in addition to the mural projects lining the arroyo, the event would involve the schools in Colonia Guadalupe and carry strong environmental messages to foster a spirit of community stewardship.

Looking forward to seeing the transformation next time we return….



Postcard from San Miguel de Allende: Redirecting Grafitti Artists, Part Two

(Link to Part One)

Blank walls are magnets for graffiti, but treating those walls as a canvas for public art projects commands respect even among taggers.

To try to halt the spread of random graffiti and alter the urban landscape, Colleen Sorenson joined with Federico Vega to launch Muros en Blanco in San Miguel de Allende. They met with city leaders, including Mayor Mauricio Trejo Pureco, and convinced them to establish Colonia Guadalupe as the city’s first arts district.

Enthusiasm was so high, they were given virtually no time to throw together the new arts district’s first event and public art projects in March of 2013. First, the pair had to identify walls appropriate for the murals and obtain permission from property owners for the project. Then they turned to the internet to solicit lead artists from throughout Mexico and beyond – Germany, Argentina, the United States. The chosen artists were housed with neighbors, neighbors who also rose to the occasion to prepare potluck feasts spread out as buffets for the starving teams of artists who gathered for meals in Colleen’s patio. Youths of the community were given the opportunity to join and work under the tutelage of more experienced artists.

Here are some of the results:

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Look for more photos of murals in Colonia Guadalupe in Part Three.


Postcard from San Miguel de Allende: Redirecting Grafitti Artists, Part One

Several years ago, Colleen Sorenson fell under the spell of a colorful, compact neighborhood of homes, Colonia Guadalupe, increasingly attracting artists priced out of the center of San Miguel de Allende.

She loves it but began to be alarmed by some of what she saw surfacing on buildings all around her. Tagged walls and graffiti attacks on property without permission damage the fabric of a neighborhood.


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But Colleen had seen this before in San Antonio, and she knew there were remedies. She was determined to corral the talent behind some of those marred walls, redirecting taggers toward more positive forms of artistic expression.

The gringa transplant with little command of Spanish has made a huge impact on her adopted home in an extremely short time. And, whether working class or artist, everyone on every corner in Colonia Guadalupe seems to know her name.

Some of the results of her efforts, both grassroots and at city hall, will be seen in a series of forthcoming posts.