Defend the Sacred

By Cheryn Vigil, Aesthetic Activist

A new mural was to go up on the Environmental Center windows, but what would be the new theme? The Aesthetic Activists are a group of talented artists who use their art for activism. Our main goal for this project was to receive community feedback. We drafted up seven powerful topics and decided to let the people vote on the winner. The topics included public lands, renewable energy, water crisis, social divisions, the erosion of democracy, food, justice and security, and climate change. For a week, we set up a white board in the Student Union with the options and asked people to pick their top two favorites. We kept track on the back of the white board by using tally marks. After a week of asking people to take a second to vote, the results came in…and the winner was…public lands!

Alright, so public lands, where do we go from here? That was the question we had to ask ourselves. Well, we could go with Bears Ears because most people are familiar with the issue due to the location of the National Monument being a few hours away from Durango. Here in the Southwest, there are different tribes who have similar connections to specific parts of land. With the Trump administration shrinking the monument by over 85%, many people were devastated. Five tribes including the Dine, Hopi, Zuni, and Ute have a scared bond with the area. Not a single tribe was consulted about the actions of wanting to shrink the monument President Obama set in order.

The main goal of the mural was to let people understand what the mining was doing to the land, but also with the people who live in the Southwest. Even though the actions are heart breaking, we wanted to let the people know that there’s still hope. However, achieving that message was the most challenging part. How does one incorporate tribes, hope, mining, and unity? After numerous drafts, the team came to an agreement on a design.

Achieving our main message requires the artist to think good thoughts, to remember their “why,” to remember they too are resilient, but most importantly to remember we are one. Art is more than a painting, it’s a feeling. By doing what we love as artists, we find our true selves in the process. What we do with our talent is a way to give back to the community by saying thank you for letting us express our true selves, good things are coming.

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