Pedestrians entering the country through the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry are now greeted by a new piece of street art as they walk onto the first block of Terrace Avenue.
A few steps past the shuttle and taxi drivers offering rides uptown or up north out of the city, passersby are welcomed by big, bold white letters reading “Nogales” over a vividly colorful background of thin horizontal lines on a brick wall.
“Basically, we wanted the word ‘Nogales’ because it’s the port, so we wanted a type of welcome, like a postcard,” Priscilla Nefftys, one of the artists behind the mural, told the NI on Tuesday.
“And it has the colors like a ‘serape,’ which is a piece of the downtown area in Ambos Nogales,” she said, referring to the colorful woven shawls that are one of the typical Mexican handicrafts sold at the local souvenir shops known as “curios.”
But this single mural, although grand on its own, represents a much bigger project called “Nogalería” or “Nogallery,” which encompasses the cultural identity and history of Ambos Nogales.
Local artists Gerardo Frias, Tony Plak and Nefftys secured a grant from the University of Arizona Confluence Center for Creative Inquiry, in collaboration with the Andrew Mellon Foundation, to document the local history of the area through their own creative means.
The end result, Nefftys said, will be a collection of murals painted in the downtown areas of Nogales, Ariz. and Nogales, Sonora, as well as a book that will describe different pieces of local history through a series of poems inspired by the murals.
Aiming to inspire
So far, the artists have painted two murals on the northern side of the border – the postcard-like greeting on Terrace Avenue and a tribute to Nogales-born jazz musician Charles Mingus on the second block of Arroyo Boulevard.
“We want to bridge the gap between the older generations and the new ones,” Nefftys said, adding that the Charles Mingus mural caused people to begin asking questions about the local history they’ve never heard about.
The murals in downtown Nogales, Sonora – where the trio has also collaborated with artists Jesus Ariel Ayala and Adrian Paz – consist of additional iconography that represents the local culture, such as a woman sewing handicrafts and a “catrina” skeletal figure walking over a path of marigolds on the Day of the Dead.
Those murals can be found along the first blocks south of the DeConcini port.
“We want to inspire others so that we can have more art,” Nefftys said, adding that the muralists want “to involve more people… to continue doing these types of projects so that Nogales can look prettier and its people can be more cultured, know their own history and not forget where they come from.”
For more information on the Nogalería project or to collaborate with the artists, visit “Nogalería” on Facebook and Instagram.