In the past few years, Arizona has been in the nation’s spotlight not for what makes the state beautiful, but what made it extremely controversial: SB1070. With the introduction of SB1070, immigrants in Arizona were being singled out and subjected to daily struggles that could not be matched, and the need for a unifying voice in the community came out through art. Artists such as Ernesto Yerena shared his frustrations through the Alto Arizona campaign and the local Phoenix community got involved in creating the Calle 16 Mural Project.

“SB1070 was the spark plug but it’s more than that. It’s not just Latino and Mexican artists, it’s Phoenician artists, it’s Arizona artists,” said Hugo Medina, local artist and one of the founders of the project.

The Calle 16 Mural Project reignited the arts community in Phoenix and turned adversity into something thriving and beautiful. Soon after, various organizations also began to get involved, facilitated by long-standing leader in the local arts community, Phoenix Center for the Arts (PCA). For the past 30 years, the PCA has been a foundation and center for the arts in the city, offering classes and outreach in the performing and, notably, visual arts.

After joining forces with nonprofit Phoenix Center Arts Association, the PCA withstood threats of a shut down and came back to inspire the community with a vengeance. One such program is the Phoenix Mural, organized and curated by local Bolivian artist Hugo Medina, which had its debut last December at the first annual Phoenix Festival of the Arts. The event was a weekend-long cultural celebration at Hance Park showcasing music, drama, food- but it was the Mural that made the biggest impression.

By the end of the weekend, more than 100 local Phoenix artists gathered by Medina had added their unique style to one of the longest murals painted in Arizona and possibly, the country.

“The mural began as an independent project to bring more of the community to the 1st Phoenix Festival of the Arts and it is now being integrated as a recurring part of the festival,” says Medina. “The mural will grow and evolve each year- I don’t want to do the same thing over and over again.”

And with the help of some of his talented friends and the success they’re already having, a bright light is shining back in the city and the hopes for the Phoenix Mural are very high.

“I believe-and it’s one of my goals- that we will become a mural destination. [I want] muralists and artists from all over the world to come here to paint.”

The Phoenix Festival of the Arts is currently holding a poster design competition for 2014’s festival – artists stand to win a $300, and deadline for entry is March 16th. Find out more here, and check out the  Phoenix Center for the Arts to get involved in awesome classes and activities and start creating!