An empty, grassy lot across from Puyallup High School is starting to see some activity.
By the end of the month, it will become the permanent home to a mural made by internationally known artist Roberto Salas.
The 8-by-16-foot mural will sit on a wooden display beside a community garden used by PHS students and depict various vegetables and nature images.
“This is a reflection of the garden in a sense,” Salas said about the mural. “When it’s not blooming, this will be a visual.”
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Both sides will be painted, one by students and community members, and the other by Salas.
He traveled to Puyallup this month from his home in El Paso, Texas, begin working on the mural after getting an invitation from Chuck Fitzgerald, a Puyallup-based sculpture and member of the Immanuel Lutheran Church.
“It’s a beautiful opportunity for collaboration,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a beautiful opportunity to work together.”
The two first met while Salas was working on murals in Seattle. Fitzgerald invited him to be a keynote speaker for Arts Downtown, a public art group in Puyallup.
Salas, who grew up in El Paso, Texas, has been teaching youth workshops in art since the 1990s, and has been painting even longer. He studied art at San Francisco Art Institute and the University of New Mexico. His public murals and sculptures can be found around the world, from Alaska and California to China.
He estimates he’s created more than 100 murals and sculptures.
By engaging students with art, Salas hopes to encourage them to pursue their passions.
He was encouraged to pursue art in the classroom. While watching a movie in second grade, he was captivated by a scene where a photographer was painting beneath a piece of glass.
“I didn’t want to splash paint. I wanted that freedom that he had,” Salas said. “That’s what sealed the deal. I was chasing the freedom of being able to do that.”
On Thursday, Salas led a painting session with 30 preschoolers at the Immanuel Lutheran Church. They drew inspiration from Salas’s mural, drawing vegetables on paper taped to the floor.
Throughout the week, students and community members joined in painting the mural.
Salas said he draws inspiration from those he teaches.
“They’re a wide range of things you can be if you study art,” he said. “You cannot dismiss that passion — if the child has that passion it should be encouraged.”