Del Rio’s elders and its lovely variety of plant life are celebrated in two new murals unveiled Friday near Brown Plaza.

The two murals were unveiled as part of the First Friday Art Walk, Casa De La Cultura Executive Director Lupita De La Paz said.

“Right now, I think we need to focus on the visual arts. It breaks our heart not to be able to bring people to the Casa for events and classes, so this is a gift to the community, where we can share public art in a public space, and people can enjoy them without having us be right there next to them,” she said.

De La Paz said the large pieces were planned and painted by two artists new to muralism: Bianka Santillan and Andrea “Andy” Rodriguez.

“Neither of them had ever painted on this large scale, so I think it’s great for them to be getting their feet wet in this way, and it’s exciting because one of them, her proposal has also been selected as the artist for a third wall we will be doing,” De La Paz said.

She said the Casa will continue to focus on “finding more walls” around the community on which to create public art.

Santillan’s mural can be viewed on the southeast-facing wall of the city’s parks and recreation department building near the intersection of Canal and Guillen streets, just off the city’s historic Brown Plaza.

The bottom of the mural depicts stylized desert plants, prickly pear cactus and the wide leathery leaves of agave. At the top of the mural, branches of lush bougainvillea are depicted in flower, their brilliant fuchsia bracts trailing down the wall, just as they would outside many houses around Del Rio.

Santillan said her idea for the mural, titled “Homegrown,” was inspired by her female relatives’ love of their plants.

“Growing up, my grandparents and aunts always had their little gardens outside. They had cactus gardens and flower gardens, and when I was younger, that wasn’t something I really appreciated, but as I grew up and moved into my own apartment, it felt like there was something missing, so I got into plants, so my apartment now is covered with plants,” Santillan said.

A 2018 graduate of Del Rio High School, Santillan is currently attending Texas A&M University, where she is studying architecture and art.

Santillan said she has been painting ever since she was very young.

“I liked making messes when I was young. When I had paper, tape, colors, I’d be completely happy just making a mess, creating something. It’s just always something I’ve done,” she said.

Rodriguez’s mural, located on the northeast wall of Plaza Hall off Cantu Street, also features botanical elements, but its focus is a series of portraits of community elders.

“I wanted to showcase what our grandparents have sacrificed for us. We now have better opportunities, better living conditions, better chances to voice our opinions. They sacrificed so much in order for us to live our lives the way we choose. Some left family in other cities, some left the place they called home deep in Mexico for new generations to live anywhere they want.

“We sometimes take the past for granted and I wanted to showcase them and show gratitude for them, for everything they did for us,” Rodriguez said.

Like Santillan, Rodriguez said she has been an artist all of her life.

She is a 2015 graduate of Del Rio High School and graduated from Southwest Texas Junior College two years ago.

“Right now, I’m a ‘starving artist,’ not working anywhere at the present. I’m just trying to get my name out there,” Rodriguez said with a laugh.

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