By Jose Ivan Cazares
BELL — Hector (Tetris) Arias is among dozens of artists being put to work to uplift and inspire Los Angeles residents through public art.
His latest mural at the Bell Library depicts the monarch butterfly, which migrates from Mexico to Canada to represent the migration of people to the U.S. The mural was sponsored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis as part of the SELA Virtual Arts Festival.
The annual Southeast L.A. arts festival moved to a virtual venue for 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It streamed a live showcase of musicians and other artists, which is still available on the festival’s website along with a virtual gallery.
“Public works of art build community pride and inspire creativity, strength and beauty,” Solis wrote in a Facebook post. “I am very proud of this artwork1”
Solis provided $10,000 to help sponsor the SELA Arts Festival 2020.
Arias attended Loma Vista Elementary School in Maywood, Nimitz Middle School in Huntington Park and Bell High School. He’s lived in Southeast L.A. the majority of his life, but he hadn’t had the opportunity to create public art in his community until the outbreak of the pandemic.
“It took the pandemic for some of the cities to see the value of public art, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to create a few pieces of art locally,” Arias said. “The butterfly is very fragile and yet it takes on this impossibly long journey. It actually takes them a few generations to make it to Canada and back to Michoacan in Mexico which is their sanctuary.”
Arias compared the butterfly’s migration patterns to the experiences of Mexican Americans and other Latinos in the U.S. and said he hopes the vibrant colors on the library’s exterior walls will make it welcoming to the youth of the largely Latino community.
He said people migrating to the U.S. face challenges such as poverty but work hard to give younger generations a chance of a better life. The mural reads “Once you know how to read you will forever be free and features a young girl reading a book with the iconic monarch butterflies surrounding her.