Oak Lawn Gets a Colorful Facelift

Story by Renee Baker, Edge Publications, Aug 21, 2008.

Juan Miguel Aguirre

For Juan Miguel Aguirre, Oak Lawn is “Our Town.” It is the place the Dallas gay community can claim as its own piece of the pie, and to claim a piece of respect. Aguirre came out to his family at the age of 14 – an experience he calls a tragedy. Luckily, he found a safe haven in Oak Lawn. It meant so much to him that he wanted to give back to this community, by using his gift as an artist.

Yesterday he finished a project that’s sure to brighten up his favorite neighborhood. He donated his time and money to produce One Human Family, a giant rainbow mural covering the northwest side of the entire Nelson-Tebedo clinic on Cedar Springs Blvd. Centered in the mural many diverse faces representing all of humanity are Bill Nelson and Terry Tebedo, two pillars of the Dallas gay community. You can’t miss the mural driving through the Gayborhood now, while perhaps wondering what was there before.

The idea of the mural sprang to life when Aguirre and his partner Raphael Lauraeno were vacationing in Florida. They were driving through Key West when they were surprised to see an equality bumper sticker on the side of a big, old pickup truck. In boldface, it read “One Human Family”. They were so struck by those words that they couldn’t let the idea go.

Aguirre, who holds an associate’s degree in design and merchandising, felt he had to somehow make an impact. As he walked the streets near Cedar Springs, he kept thinking something was needed for the “whole gay area, something to make it stand out and be a beacon for the whole community.” He wanted all people to know “they are welcome to our community, that it is a community, and deserves a certain level of respect.”

Aguirre also wanted something that represented all people. He said as you walk the streets of Oak Lawn, you see a great diversity – young and old, rich and poor, and differing levels of education. “I wanted to portray that in my mural.”

The location for the mural became obvious. Aguirre says the Nelson-Tebedo clinic is a “gateway” point to the community. When he learned how special these two heroes were, the project became “something more.” At that point, he realized this work would be done for free, part of his heart work. Aguirre donated over two weeks of his time and all of the paint and supplies.

But the project almost never got off the ground and was a close call. Aguirre came to the Nelson-Tebedo clinic to pitch his idea, but he accidentally brought the wrong art portfolio. The one he brought was empty, except way at the back there was still one mural, which just happened to be an award-winning mural at the La Piazza del Arte Chalk Festival in Denver, Colorado. They loved it and he got his chance.

The Resource Center of Dallas embraced the idea of the mural, but before pressing ahead, they wanted to make sure the Cedar Springs Merchants Association had its say. Rafael McDonnell, Strategic Communication and Program Manager for the Resource Center, says “we wanted to make sure everyone was part of the whole process. This is our heart. This is our core. And we want everyone on board.” They contacted Scott Whittall, President of the Merchants Association, and made sure they had his blessing.
McDonnell says when they looked at the original proposal, they were struck by it. “I think it has turned out wonderful. It has exceeded our expectations.” He says when you drive past it, it is a thing of inspiration. And not only that, when you fly over head, you can look down and see where the Gayborhood is in Dallas now.

Aguirre says he hopes his mural does indeed inspire and has hopes that this is a positive attraction for the community. He hopes we can all recognize that we are indeed, just One Human Family.

To contact the artist and see more of his work or commission a mural, visit his website at www.jma-designs.com. To learn more about the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic, visit the Resource Center of Dallas at www.rcdallas.org. You may see the mural at 4012 Cedar Springs Road in Dallas. Oh, and if you are still wondering, the scene on the wall, prior to the mural, was that of a scenic castle.

For the full story plus comments, please go here.

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