Muralist and teacher Cris Escobar uses art to enrich and beautify the community by telling the stories of its history and culture.
Escobar works as an art teacher at Del Rio High School and has painted and helped direct the painting of a number of different murals in Del Rio, including those outside the Casa De La Cultura.
He said placing and painting murals is a little different from exhibiting art in a gallery.
“Murals are a visual medium that are out there in the community. They are not hidden away. They are out in the community, exposed. Murals are a way of sending out a message, especially in times of need. They send a message, whether it’s about social justice or cultural awareness,” Escobar said.
He said he also hopes his murals help teach the community, especially its young people.
“There are a lot of kids out there who are lost. I am a high school art teacher, and I just wanted to be more hands-on with my work and helping kids and this community,” he said.
• I am included in a book titled ‘Triumph of Our Communities/Four Decades of Mexican American Art.’ The book was printed in 2005 by Arizona State University’s bilingual press.
• I am in the process of editing and putting the finishing touches on a film entitled ‘El Dia de el Cabritio.’ This is a documentary piece that includes both my mother and father as the main characters, providing me the information about an authentic Mexican dish known as ‘fritada.’ This is a dish that requires special steps to prepare. I started this documentation process in 2010 until the passing of both my parents early this year.
• I consider myself an outdoorsman. I love camping out and anything and everything dealing with nature. I have been fortunate to travel with my family to places like Mount Rainier, the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone National Park, the north rim of the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, Zion National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Gila National Forest, Lincoln National Forest, Mount Rushmore, Yosemite National Park, Big Bend National Park and others. I am a firm believer in the preservation of our beautiful and vast wilderness for generations to come.
• I also enjoy riding horses and document any and all cowboy stories as my father was a true cowboy himself. Before the passing of my mother and father, I made it a goal to gather as many stories to learn more about the sacrifices he and my mother made in the early days of turmoil. They spoke about how they were affected by discrimination and how they surpassed and survived with the bare essentials.
• I love to deer hunt and learned to field dress deer, thanks to my father.
• I love to paint to the sounds of Latin jazz. I am a fanatic fan of Carlos Santana and other groups like Malo, el Chicano, and Tierra.
• I enjoy learning more about our cultural history and make it a point to interact and meet people that are experts on this type of history.
• I enjoy working with youth and feel it is critical to educate and assist them in gaining insights about their own race, history and culture. I want them to feel a sense of pride and to recognize the accomplishments of important figures of their respective race or ethnicity. In my case, it would be the Mexican American and Chicano based on the specific region of the United States we’re living in now.
• I was a migrant farm worker for at least 18 years of my life. I worked harvesting a wide variety of crops. My last year of migrant work was in early 1981. I was attending my first year of college. This is not a way of life you would want to experience! Working 12 hours a day, being exposed to pesticides, snakes, mud, mosquitos, flies, the hot burning sun, low wages and at times facing a racist rancher, and getting
Paid unfair wages for hard work is not a life. Our parents had no choices in those times. There was no other source of bringing in income. It was hard work, we survived and learned a lesson about work and preferred staying in school and getting a higher education.
• I have held other positions of employment in the past. I was an artist-in-residence with the Texas Commission on the Arts from early 1980s to 1996. I painted eight murals for the Brownsville School District in 1996.
• I started painting murals in 1998 with a mural arts organization in San Antonio.
• My work has been exhibited in Denver, Colo.; Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Brownsville, Uvalde and Del Rio.
• My artwork has been collected by two major Chicano art collectors: Dr. Gil Cardenas of Notre Dame University and Dr. Ricardo Romo of the University of Texas San Antonio.
• My artwork was also part of a major magazine entitled ‘Tonantzin,’ distributed by the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Organization. I was selected as a second-place winner of the annual Tejano Conjunto Festival held each year in San Antonio.
• Most recently, over the summer, I was able to visit with Chicano visual artists in San Diego and Los Angeles, Calif. This has opened new venues for exhibiting my artwork and getting added exposure. It also created a new connection with other muralists and visual artists.
• I worked as a youth counselor in the 1980s and 1990s for the city of Del Rio Youth Counseling Center. I also did substance abuse counseling with United Medical Center’s drug awareness program.
• I have been part of El Comite Cultural del Pueblo since it was established in the late 1970s, early 1980s. I have painted numerous murals throughout Del Rio.
• I frequent San Antonio, as my daughter is finishing her child psychology master’s degree internship with the University of Texas at San Antonio. I know numerous well-known artists in San Antonio and had an exhibit at Gallista art gallery for over 15 years until its recent closing. Other artwork has been exhibited at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Centro Cultural Aztlan and every year in the month of November, on the first day of Christmas shopping, at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio.
• I consider myself an amateur photographer and like to do many photo-related projects.
• Other cities I have traveled and visited are New York, Philadelphia, Pa.; Washington D.C., Atlanta, Ga;, Miami and Orlando, Fla; and most recently, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Calif; Seattle, Wash; and Las Vegas, Nev. •