The day after Trump was elected in Fall 2016, I came onto campus at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to teach my Wednesday 8:30 a.m. class, and the classroom was silent. Students were actually in tears. One student just looked at me and asked, “What are we going to do?” They seemed so deflated it really disturbed me as a professor. One of the reasons I teach is that I really feed off of the vibrancy of my students. To me it seemed like all these bad vibes were just eating away at the souls of these usually hopeful, fun-loving, spirited and creative young people. I then started to think of how to channel this terrible energy in positive ways because everything just seemed so negative at the time.
Is this more than a class project? In other words, are these posters being used in the community of El Paso?
First and foremost, the students [sold] these posters at the largest arts festival in downtown El Paso, called “Chalk the Block,” Oct. 6–8, 2017. This event attracts over 40,000 visitors over the three-day period it takes place. … Next, we have already reached out to the visitor center/gift shops at both Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site (the design by Arturo Rubio) and the Wyler Aerial Tramway here in El Paso (the design by Narda Avila), and the posters hope to be sold there. There are many more outlets around the city the students are exploring to get these posters out to the masses.
When we first posted the pics of the posters on the UTEP Dept. of Art Facebook page and had tons of “LOVEs,” we started thinking maybe we should have printed more for Chalk the Block! People are loving these designs.
I think when you elevate an aspect of your city to poster-topic status, you start to better appreciate what’s been under your nose perhaps your entire life. Many of these students were born and raised in El Paso, and at first it was hard to look at their surroundings in that way. We just take things like the Franklin Mountains, or that we can easily walk to another country, for granted. Residents who are now seeing these posters get excited that their city looks good, really good, and that pride comes back. It was a pride that Trump and others were slowly eroding in us, or making us doubt our greatness. I didn’t want my students to sugar coat El Paso, or to convey it in an untruthful light. I demanded honesty and wanted them to convey their own experience with their city.
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