La Peña’s “Song Of Unity”: The Mural and the Silkscreen
The motif of the mural that dresses the façade of La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley, California clearly represents the unity of the Americas with the Wings of the Condor spanning left protecting a representation of peoples of South America, and the Wings of the Eagle to the right stretching across North Americans accompanied by a centrally placed beautiful long tailed Quetzal Bird for Central Americans, which was painted into the original composition to embrace the peoples and customs of that region. As a cultural and social activist center shared by Latin Americans and North Americans, La Peña happily celebrates an unexpected longevity of 40 years serving the community, now turning the reigns of leadership to a new generation. The original mural created in 1975 greeted the community with pride, hope, good cheer, and promise – when it was scheduled for removal (having worn with the years) a protest was mounted and resulted in fund raising for renewal of the mural and its theme but with some changes.
Responding to the public outcry to retain the old mural, which was beyond repair according to city ordinances for fire and safety, Radames Rivera directed the “Song of Unity” silkscreen project to create an edition of prints that retain the original mural. He collaborated with the Taller of Coco Gonthier of the Dominican Republic – silkscreen workshop - and artist and CODAP Director (Colegio Dominicano de Artistas Plasticas), Clinton Lopez to author the artwork to create a 32 color silkscreen in a faithful rendition so that the original image of “The Song Of Unity” would be preserved.
The silkscreen image is 35” x 11” printed on 200 gram Fabriano paper sized at 14” x 39 ½ “ allowing a border for framing requirements. The thirty-two-color fine art printing took almost a year to complete as each color requires a separate stencil to be designed and cut and each color is printed separately. A screen is built by wood framing methods to the size paper and a screen is stretched over it which may be silk, nylon mesh or even, today, a very fine metal mesh (silk fabric was used before other screen materials were developed to allow the inks to be pushed through with a rubber squeegee). The stencils block out areas not to be printed and only the area for the color chosen is exposed. The edition is printed in one color, and when dry then the next stencil and color is printed and the process is repeated as many times as the number of colors chosen to complete the image. Simple silkscreen prints can be made with a few, or even one color, while complex silkscreen prints have many colors used in the printing.
This Silkscreen is a collector’s piece made with skill and the finest art materials to honor La Peña Cultural Center, its dedication to social justice and to all of peoples of Latin America and North America working together to make a better world.