In the ‘80s, Mario Torero painted a large mural at San Diego State’s old Aztec Center. The piece was sandwiched between the bowling alley and a bar and it stayed there until 2013, when it along with the rest of the building was torn down to make way for the new Aztec Student Union.
When Torero found out his mural had been destroyed, he approached the school. Citing the California Art Preservation Act, which protects artists’ rights when it comes to the intentional destruction of fine art, he said his lawyer had conversations with the school administration about what they might be willing to do to bring a replica of the mural back.
“We were banging loudly on the back door,” Torero said. “That was the same time the new president was getting more and more interested in the arts.”
SDSU invited Torero in. They asked him to teach an experimental new class at the university. Torero just wrapped up the first semester of the new class, Artivism: Understanding Street Art.
Torero’s a counterculture artist who was one of the original painters behind the murals in Barrio Logan’s Chicano Park. One of the first things he did with his new class was paint signs on recycled vinyl that asked, “Where’s the art?” He and the students Duct-taped the signs on walls all over campus.
“Most of the art is hidden indoors at SDSU,” Torero said. “Outdoors, there’s nothing. The school’s spending millions of dollars building buildings, but where’s the sculpture? Where’s the murals? Where’s the color? Nowhere. It’s a sterile space.”