Interview with San Diego street artist Mario Torero

by Staff

Mario Torero is a San Diego artist who became a prominent leader during the Chicano movement in the 1970s. He has become a highly influential muralist during the last 40 years.

Daily Aztec: What year did you graduate from San Diego State?

Mario Torero: I didn’t graduate. We didn’t feel like we were getting the teachings we thought we needed to get so we went out into the streets and did our own thing, you know, painting murals and doing actual work directly in the community.

DA: What about street art do you think is more or less powerful than other art mediums?

MT: It’s the best because most people would say, “Oh we don’t know anything about art” and they won’t go to the galleries or museums because of the class or education the common people have lacked. But they recognize art when they see it. The colors, the images, it lines them up. It humanizes the community…

DA: The government has often been critical of urban art. Do you think the government should modify its position on modern art and how?

MT: They’re not going to be modifying anything unless we make them … My latest production is a glass / mosaic mural in the heart of the UCSD campus … We got that space because we took it, not because UCSD said, “Oh these poor Mexicans, they need that space for them to put their art…”

DA: How can younger artists seeking to grow in that medium work to develop their abilities?

MT: By creating more opportunities for them to express themselves. Ideally it would be with more classes. Art classes that deal with community arts, public art. Getting out of the classroom and dealing with people because this is about people, in the world, in the public eye. We need to expose them to more diversity of art, and quit being so elitist and exclusive. The students have to create more public art clubs to incorporate all the mediums … Contact people like me … I’m an “artivist.” Come out and support and work together.

Torero’s glass and ceramic mural in UCSD’s Peterson Hall is scheduled to unveil in February 2011.On Dec. 11 and 18 Torero’s MOONDOGallery at 4212 Florida St. in University Heights is hosting the show “Remembrance of Jimi Hendrix,” where local artists are encouraged to bring their own art reflecting Hendrix and his spirit.