Convivio Mural Reveal

Convivio Mural of Community and Inclusion was revealed on Sept. 16, 2018, Mexican Independence Day.   Hundreds of people from the community of North Side came out to celebrate and support all the hard work that the North Side High School Students from the Mariachi program have put into this beautiful musical tradition from Mexico.   As cultural ambassadors for their community in the North Side, Mariachi Espuelas de Plata embodies artful excellence and accomplishment, representing and promoting cultural values that they proudly promote throughout the nation, including performances at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Convivio was produced with support from Make Art With Purpose (MAP), Comunidad 27, and the active involvement of over 200 community members who attended the Convivio painting event in July.  Local and regional artists have also donated their skills in the production of this mural.

For the past year Arnoldo Hurtado has led community meetings inside of Franko’s, using the mural project to activate community discussions about gentrification, the importance of voting, and the formation of local business and neighborhood councils to direct growth and change in ways that do not displace residents and small businesses. These bi-lingual Spanish-English meetings have included the participation of hundreds of community members, city council members, representatives from businesses, the arts and other government agencies.

Murals of Community & Inclusion

Convivio: Murals of Community and Inclusion is a project that came about after years of discussing the plan with the owner of a local grocery store, Franko’s Market.  This store has suffered the consequences of a neglected and underserved community.  Criminal activity has forced the owner of the store to board up his windows and retreat from his community by taking shelter inside his store.  As sad as that is, we saw in opportunity on the dilapidated walls of the store. This opportunity finally came around a couple of weeks ago when over 200 members of the Northside community came out to help paint a giant 110 foot mural on the outside walls of Franko’s.  The goal of the Convivio mural was to bring members of the community and take ownership of the beautification process of their neighborhood.  The event was a success and even had a couple of write-ups in the Fort Worth Weekly!  Article 1 & Article 2

We have another community event coming up on September 16 from 4-9pm to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. We will be “unveiling” the mural during this cultural celebration. Once again, this event will foster community bonding and ownership over the well-being of our residents.  This is where the idea of neighborhood/community arts and cultural programming comes in.  Just like museums offer programming to their audiences, we should approach community development in the exact same manner. This will reduce crime while increasing resident participation. In our case, we have a record of providing programming in the form of the annual Posada, National Night Out, Community Tree Planting, and now murals!

A follow-up to Northside Fiesta & mural unveiling will be posted here.  In the meantime, take a look at the visuals!

Mural Final Poster


Fiesta Northside

Noches de Horchata 3: Franko’s Story

Art and culture is something that the Northside does extremely well.  Mr. Niño, the celebrated mariachi teacher from Northside High School attended this 3rd Noches de Horchata as an advocate and example of a successful member of the arts community in our city.  The mariachi, Espuelas de Plata, has been nationally recognized as one of the best high school mariachis in the United States ( Spanish version of Star-Telegram Article) (English KERA Art&Seek Article).  Northside High School itself is a hub of creativity in a city that boasts institutions such as the Kimbell Art Museum, Amon Carter Museum, and The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.  A question that needs to be explored however is, does Fort Worth have a place to further foster the talent of these extremely talented and accomplished students?  If we look at careers and opportunities in the arts, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra comes to mind.  Back in 2016, the symphony ended a three-month strike due to pay cuts to musicians according to this article.  What other professional opportunities does Fort Worth, Texas offer its talented and diverse population?   We will need an answer for that soon for a new cultural hub is in the making, and it is taking place in non-other than the Northside of Fort Worth.

While the city figures out what careers and opportunities it affords to ALL of its citizens (and not just legacy families and well-to-do networked people) we will be busy creating a space for our voices to be heard, for our creativity to flourish, and for our local Northside economy to grow.  However, this requires the active and conscious participation of our community members.  Now, many people have seen my posts about Franko’s Market on social media and may be wondering what is going on with that.

Franko’s Market is a local landmark full of history and stories. Those of us who grew up around this 3rd generation family-owned business, have fond memories of shopping, paying our bills, or simply visiting this corner market.  As hard as it is to believe, the above photograph is Franko’s Market circa 1960’s.  This is Franko’s Market now:

What happened?

There are many sides to a story, and while some people blame the current owners of Franko’s Market for its appearance and “letting-go,” it is important to explore ALL sides to the story because if you look around, you’ll notice that Franko’s is not the only abandoned-looking building.  This falling apart phenomenon has plagued and still plagues our culturally rich neighborhood, along with other minority populations in our city of Fort Worth.  Coincidence? I think not.

A little over two years ago, soon after Comunidad 27’s inception, I approached Pat Franko who is one of two brothers currently running the store.  I approached him not knowing how to say “Hey, your store is kind of an eye-sore and could use some upkeep.”  My intentions were not to be critical, but rather to invite him to join our community’s efforts to take charge and make changes. As an artist, I saw potential to transform Franko’s.  To what extent, I did not yet have an idea, but I could not sit there and watch as one of my childhood destinations, and member of our community, fell into further despair.  What is happening to Franko’s is a symptom of what is happening to our society.  This is where Franko’s story of unfortunate events comes in.

Over the years, mega corporations like Wal-Mart came into our communities and completely disrupted and even destroyed our local economy.  There have been documentaries on this topic.  Add to that crime in our neighborhood and the way we treat our local businesses.  It is no secret that hard drugs (ex: meth and cocaine) and gunshots are a constant and even normalized behavior in the Northside. You hear and see comments on social media defending or dismissing this behavior as “That’s Northside,” or “welcome to Northside.”  For the record, it is not normal behavior, and the origins of this orchestrated criminal market, once again in a minority community, is an intricate trap that ultimately destroys our communities. This website provides insight.

Back to how this has affected us locally, one of the Franko brothers was murdered in Franko’s Market.  Later, a vehicle crashed into the left window display at Franko’s, which prompted a wall to replace the destroyed window structure. More recently, teenagers threw a brick at the last intact window at Franko’s, completely shattering it and forcing the owners to board it up.  One has to step into Franko’s shoes for a minute and imagine what it must feel like to be a long standing local business with that kind of history.  I’d say it is quite traumatic.  To add insult to injury, we as a community trash their property as evidenced by this picture posted by a concerned Northsider: 

However, let us not dwell in misery and instead seek solutions and create a better future for ourselves and ALL members of our community.  Out with the old and in with the new.  A whole generation of talent and hopeful people depends on it.  Let us create the Northside it was meant to be.  With or without the city’s help, we can do this, TOGETHER.   Participate in our community meetings, hear and share stories, and let’s take one step at a time.

In the coming months, Comunidad 27 ( a local crime prevention group) and any other concerned and enthusiastic members of our community, will be painting murals (funded by Make Art With Purpose), hosting events, and creating varied arts&culture programming (funded in part by the Nasher Sculpture Center’s microgrant) within Franko’s Market. Supporting the local economy along with having a space where we can meet and create solutions and opportunities for all of us, are some of the goals.  This is possible and there are people rooting for us so let’s believe in ourselves.

Take a look at more historic Franko’s Market photographs:


Noches de Horchata 2: Housing

In a continued effort to reach the greater community of Northside in Fort Worth, Comunidad 27 hosted Noches de Horchata 2 in Franko’s Market.  This time around, district 2 councilman, Carlos Flores, attended our meeting to hear our concerns over development in our neighborhood that could lead to displacement due to outsider gentrification.  Real estate professionals as well as professional artists whose work deals with these issues, like Giovanni Valderas’ ‘Casitas Tristes’, were present to provide insight.  A major take-away form this meeting was the idea of property ownership as a powerful tool.  The way neighborhoods lose control of their community is through land grabs that developers initiate. These developers buy up enough property from uninformed (usually Spanish speaking people) to build housing units or business buildings, and then sell at a high price.  Long time members of the community are not able to afford these prices, so outsiders who have no roots or interest in the existing community’s well-being (affordability brackets) start changing the neighborhood and catering to even more outside influences, until the host community no longer has a voice in matters concerning their neighborhood. Cities do not help and make things worse when they want to cash in as well.  They do this by increasing taxes in those neighborhoods. Sometimes taxes can go from $1000 up to $5,000 per year, as is the case in east Austin, where a similar demographic lived.

Why is this a concern in the Northside?  Keep in mind that the Fort Worth Stockyards is undergoing a huge development  of over $170 million.  The Stockyards is in the Northside so any surrounding businesses and housing will be impacted by this type of investment.  This multi-million dollar investment will attract more investment, and with that higher prices.  We already see an aggressive “We buy houses” campaign, and these are companies trying to get ahold of as much real estate as possible.  Advice from our panel of professionals at the Noches de Horchata meeting is “DO NOT SELL!”   If you must sell, sell to people you know (family, friends, neighbors) Never sell to these companies or “flippers.”  Ask questions and find out who they are.

In that same vein, if you are able to, you should buy more property and hold on to it.  Property is the best investment as trends tend to favor real estate and values increase over the years.

We asked councilman Carlos Flores to be conscious of our concerns and to help us navigate coming waves of gentrification by hearing our concerns, notifying us of coming development plans, and being transparent about negotiations with developers.

We will continue having these discussions and plan on having more Noches de Horchata meetings where we  will create programming of all kinds, and very soon we will  provide artistic opportunities for our youth, through mural paintings in our neighborhood!

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask.

Noches de Horchata

March 13, 2018.

Noches de Horchata is a community social/meeting where the Northside community was invited into Franko’s Market, the longest standing locally owned grocery store in the Northside of Fort Worth.  The goal was to introduce the community at large to Comunidad 27’s crime prevention efforts through meetings, socials, beautification projects, and cultural events.  Just as important, we invited Code Compliance, our Neighborhood Police Officer, Graffiti Abatement, and our Crime Prevention Specialist, and they all showed up.  Having representatives of the city of Fort Worth attend this meeting is significant, for the narrative that the city has held of the Northside communities and vice versa, has not been a very good one up until now.  This is us writing a new narrative together.

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The next Noches de Horchata will take place on April 19, from 7-9pm at Franko’s Market.  We will address the Fort Worth Economic Development Plan, housing in the Northside, defining gentrification, and creating a plan to navigate and potentially benefit from this process. (Trying to stay optimistic).

Fort Worth Murals Tour!

In an effort to build more bridges between the Northside community and the rest of the city of Fort Worth, we decided to venture out of the Northside and see what other communities have been doing. To our surprise, we discovered Murals!

After reaching out to our District 2 Councilman, Carlos Flores, he put is contact with the Graffiti Abatement program of Fort Worth. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that this department covers up graffiti with colorful murals.  Comunidad 27 proposed the idea of having a tour to see these community led efforts to revitalize parks, bridges, and all types of spaces, through art.

Comunidad 27 will be creating murals on our very own Northside walls, and the Graffiti Abatement Program has agreed to sponsor us by supplying our materials and helping us to recruit more local volunteers in the Northside.  We were also awarded the Make Art With a Purpose grant of $1,500 to fund our murals, which will be called Convivio: Murals of Community and Inclusion.

The goal of Convivio is to bring members of our community together, to create, take ownership, and continue working to make our Northside community the best it can be.  Through these murals, we will send a visual message that our community matters, we are invested in our own community, and we celebrate now through art as well.  More on Convivio in coming posts!

Below are photos of our day out in Fort Worth during our murals tour!