Community Profiles: Mural Artist Juan Monarez

Juan Monarez -- artist & muralistOn Saturday, August 29, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Juan Monarez, the lead artist responsible for the new murals at the Park View Rec Center.

For a young artist of 26, Juan already is building an impressive resume. In 2005 he was recruited by Marie Moll of the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) to participate in the restoration of the “Tribute of Life” mural originally painted in 1989 by Jorge Somarriba. This mural is along Klingle Road in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. Juan also painted the mural in the former Next Step Program library at the LAYC and a Maryland LAYC Center Mural. You may also have seen his work in area group shows, such the McClean Project for the Arts, the Greater Reston Art Center, the District of Columbia Arts Center, and Art-o-Matic.

Highway of Life Mural, Park ViewJuan was born in a small town in Nevada with a population of about 40. He can truly be considered a local talent, though, since his youth was spent in Herndon, Va., where his parents relocated when Juan was one. Having artistic ability, Juan attended school at the Corcoran Collage of Art & Design. It was during an internship through the Corcoran that he first became introduced to the LAYC and its Art + Media House program. Currently, Juan is a first year art teacher at Lincoln Middle School on 16th Street who lives along the Sherman Avenue corridor.

Highway of Life Mural, Park ViewThe Park View mural is part of that tradition, being Juan’s fourth and most recent mural and also sponsored by the Art and Media House. Though Juan was the lead artist and did have to do many of the final touches himself, he found the experience of working with the local youth rewarding.

Being in a public space, children approached him frequently asking if they could be involved, especially on Saturdays. Early in the process that was easy and he gave them materials and direction. It was only later as work became more detailed or was too high on the walls that Juan had to shoulder the brunt of the work.

I asked Juan what he liked most about doing murals, and it boiled down to a few major themes.

  • He likes to work outdoors and would much rather be there than alone in a studio;
  • He likes how murals bring art to the people and illustrates how art isn’t only in museums and galleries or for the rich – this makes art attainable and accessible; and,
  • He also likes how the process of community murals is democratic.

Highway of Life Mural, Park ViewAsking him to elaborate on the democratic process, he offered that many decisions on the mural were voted on. The chief painters involved would vote on colors and ideas at key moments in the creation process.

Lastly, I asked Juan if he was satisfied with the mural. Overall, he stated that he thought it turned out well, though with more time he thinks it could have been more community specific. The window from start to finish on this project was incredibly tight. But in the end, he knows that the mural has made the impact he was striving for.

“When Jennifer [Nguyen] told me that one of the teens going into the Rec Center commented ‘that jonx be tight’ referring to the murals, I knew I had done my job,” Juan stated. He furthered that this was the highest complement he could have expected.Highway of Life Mural, Park View

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(Editors note: If you would like to ask the artist questions directly about his work, you can contact him at monarezart (at) yahoo (dot) com)

Explore posts in the same categories: Art, Community Involvement

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