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Making Connections: Chancellor Khosla Forges Community Ties in Visits to Campus Mural, Chicano Park

Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Sophomore Graciela Uriarte might not be attending classes at UC San Diego today had it not been for “Chicano Legacy – 40 Años,” a permanent campus art installation that depicts the struggles and dreams of underrepresented communities and pays tribute to social justice.

Uriarte shared her story and what “Chicano Legacy” means to her with Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla and a group of UC San Diego students, faculty and staff at a meet-and-greet Saturday that kicked off a full day of activities themed “We Learn: Exploring Chicano/a/Latino/a Culture and Heritage.” The day, which was part of the Making Connections plan to introduce Chancellor Khosla to the campus and community, started on campus at the Faculty Club. Khosla met with members of the San Diego County Chicano/Latino Concilio on Higher Education, and then visited with students at the Chicano Legacy mural. The group then traveled to Chicano Park in Barrio Logan to see the artwork that inspired our campus mural.

Uriarte comes from California’s Central Valley, where both her parents are agricultural workers, picking bell peppers, cotton and almonds. She recounted that when she was deciding on her college path, she brought her father to a campus she was considering—UC San Diego.

“When my dad saw this mural, depicting leaders such as Dolores Huerta and César Chávez, he wanted me to come here,” recalled Uriarte. “To see people who made a difference in the Central Valley means a lot. These people helped my parents.”

Khosla talked with the students about the personal feelings that art can evoke and thanked them for taking the time to share with him what “Chicano Legacy” signifies to them.

“I love this mural,” said Khosla. “Every time I walk by, I stop and look at it. And each time, I see something new. Now, I appreciate the depth of this piece even more.”

“Chicano Legacy” is a 17-by-54-foot mural located on UC San Diego’s Peterson Hall. Made up of thousands of pieces of colored glass, it features a rainbow of vibrant colors and iconic figures such as Huerta and Chávez. The art project was envisioned by students of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) several years ago as a way to express Chicano/a/Latino/a culture, and then brought to fruition by San Diego-based artist and mural creator Mario Torero.

The day continued with a visit to Chicano Park in the Barrio Logan neighborhood, where Khosla toured the park with UC San Diego students, staff and community members, including Chicana muralist and staff member Carmen Linares-Kalo; Tommie Camarillo, chair of the Chicano Park Steering Committee; and Carmen Sandoval, chair of the Chancellor’s Community Advisory Board (CCAB).

Designated an official historic site by the San Diego Historical Site Board in 1980, the park is home to the country’s largest collection of outdoor murals as well as various sculptures, earthworks and an architectural piece dedicated to the cultural heritage of the community.

 “This kind of event is great to show San Diegans that UC San Diego is part of the community and that we have a strong connection to the region,” said Sandoval. “Since we’re in La Jolla, north of central San Diego, we have to make it known that everyone is welcome on our campus.”

Linares, who has contributed to many of the park’s murals and to the campus’s Chicano Legacy mural, explained to Khosla the history of the murals in Chicano Park, which were recently restored by some of the original artists who made the large public artworks 40 years ago.

“This area is much more than a park,” Linares said. “People from all over the world have looked to Chicano Park for inspiration.”

She added, “We really appreciate the Chancellor’s interest to come here with the Chicano Park Steering Committee. He has shown a commitment to the people who built this community.”

Following the tour of Chicano Park, the group headed to the Barrio Logan College Institute (BLCI) for a community luncheon. BLCI promotes higher education for first-generation, low-income students, and is a partner of UC San Diego.