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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Record-breaking artist to paint mural at Wichita State

Wichita artist Armando Minjárez and Nathalia Gallego, or GLeo, discuss collaborating on art projects together. GLeo is well-known for her work as a street artist; in 2018, she designed the mural on the Beachner Grain elevator in north Wichita, which set a Guinness World Record. (Mia Hennen)

After breaking a Guinness World Record for her work on the Beachner Grain elevator mural in north Wichita, Nathalia Gallego is back, this time to create a mural at Wichita State University.

Gallego, known as GLeo, is a Colombian street artist and muralist whose work has been displayed all over the world. Her soon-to-be mural at Wichita State will be on the Duerksen Fine Arts Center amphitheater and is part of the university’s efforts to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

In a part-English, part-Spanish and part-Spanglish discussion hosted by the Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita artist Armando Minjárez and GLeo discussed their collaborative process in the past and how it will extend to the planned mural.

“When we work collaboratively, there’s a lot of emotion and feeling that goes into it,” Minjárez said. “You’re building a relationship with somebody or with a team or with your crew, and your vibes have to vibe, right?”

Kristin Beal, a curator of public practice at the Ulrich, introduces Nathalia Gallego, known in the art world as GLeo, and Armando Minjárez. The two artists discussed working collaboratively. (Mia Hennen)

‘Ripples of collaboration’

The artists’ relationship began when Minjárez reached out to GLeo via Instagram to work on the Beachner Grain elevator mural over five years ago as part of Horizontes, a community project that aimed to “connect two underrepresented neighborhoods in north Wichita.” 

“We’ve been saying that this (new mural) is done in the spirit of Horizontes,” Minjárez said. “What that means for us is that Horizontes … was about solidarity but also an understanding that those (Latine and other underrepresented) communities have been here in Wichita for a very long time.”

Minjárez said there are narratives that imply “that we just arrive, and then ‘Oh God. How do we deal with, you know, these Brown people that don’t speak English?’”

Minjárez extended this idea to Wichita State, saying he wants to see tangible support for Latine and Hispanic students, especially as the university attempts to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

“The university is wanting to recruit; a mural is not going to do it,” Minjárez said. “Hopefully it’ll start a conversation, but ultimately, the university needs to put more money into hiring more staff and faculty that can support those students.”

The WSU mural project began to take life with the work of Kristin Beal, a curator at the Ulrich, and Minjárez, who used to work in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Throughout the discussion, Minjárez and GLeo continued to return to “ripples of collaboration,” an idea they saw emerge throughout their time on the grain elevator mural, as well as other Horizontes projects.

“There’s layers, right, whenever you’re working, when you engage people in a meaningful way,” Minjárez said. 

GLeo said this idea became evident when trying to communicate as someone not fluent in English. She said throughout her work in Wichita, Minjárez and other community members took “care” to support her passion and work.

“When I’m in a collaboration, I really try to make sure that everything is working out for anyone involved,” Minjárez said, translating for GLeo. “It can also be difficult because as you’re making sure that you’re taking care of everyone else, you stop taking care of yourself … or you feel like you’re being egotistical by taking care of yourself.”

James Porter, exhibition designer and production manager at the Ulrich, listens to a discussion between two artists at the museum on April 11. (Mia Hennen)

Working with community

Initially, GLeo created potential designs for the mural, but upon meeting with students in the Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALO), she scrapped her ideas and began anew. 

Kariana Massingill, membership and retention coordinator for HALO, said much of the research and knowledge done by HALO for Belonging Plaza, a mobile monument, will be used in the GLeo’s creation of the mural. Recently, Belonging Plaza honored several Latine Shockers, an effort put together by the students in HALO.

“It was very fun, just like finding out more about people’s lives and how long Latino and Hispanic representation has been on campus and … how much it has grown,” Massingill said. “It’s very nice to see just how far we’ve gone and how much we can continue to grow from there.”

Massingill said it was exciting for students to meet GLeo and have a hand in the mural.

“From what (GLeo) told us, she’s just very excited and just happy to see students wanting to be involved and help as much as possible within this project,” Massingill said. “She’s very thankful.” 

For the rest of April, GLeo will be out at the amphitheater, painting. Her work can be found here.

Artwork from Horizontes, a Wichita community art project, on display in the Ulrich Museum of Art on April 11. (Mia Hennen)
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About the Contributor
Mia Hennen
Mia Hennen, Editor in Chief
Mia Hennen is the current editor in chief for The Sunflower. Before becoming editor, Hennen was the news/managing editor. They are a junior at Wichita State majoring in English and minoring in communications and Spanish, hoping to pursue any career involving writing or editing.

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