TUBA CITY, Ariz. - Four teaching artists and one student from the Multicultural Youth eXchange (MYX), a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that uses the arts to explore diverse cultures, recently spent two weeks in Tuba City painting a 125-foot-long x 15-foot-high mural on the side of the Tuba City Community Center with help from the Boys and Girls Club of the Dine Nation.
The mural project was part of MYX's Art of Community Service program which pairs Philadelphia high school students with youth from diverse and developing communities so that both groups form friendships by collaborating on an art-based, community-service project. Now in its fourth year, other ACS projects have previously taken place in Costa Rica and Ecuador.
"Art is a great way to connect kids from different cultures because it transcends language and cultural barriers," said Josette Bonafino, Executive Director of MYX.
Bonafino, who designed the Tuba City mural, said much of the artwork represents the individual and cultural identity of the participating students.
"The boys and girls painted a lot of Navajo symbols like the Four Sacred Mountains and hogans, but there is also a lot of personal imagery, including symbols of family and sports, that represents the kids as individual people," she said.
While in Tuba City, MYX visited the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum, drove to Monument Valley and the Painted Desert, saw the dinosaur tracks and toured the Hopi Mesas. Fifteen-year-old visiting student, C.J. Rettberg, was also invited to a sweat lodge and even received a Navajo name during a private initiation ceremony held by local Navajo teens.
"I think it's fascinating for East Coast students to see just how culturally diverse America is," said Bonafino. "For us Philadelphians, visiting the Nation is really like visiting another country. If the community wants us to come back, we'll gladly come and do another project."
MYX: Multicultural Youth eXchange is a Philadelphia-based, nonprofit organization that works to increase tolerance among young people worldwide by using art-based projects to explore diverse cultures and social issues relevant to all youth.
MYX was founded in direct response to the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001. It is our belief that culturally sensitive youth are the hope for a future society free of intolerance.