Juana Alicia

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Juana Alicia Araiza (born in the year 1953) is a muralist, printmaker, educator, activist and, painter. She has been an educator for thirty years. Juana Alicia is currently a full-time faculty at Berkeley City College directing a program called True Colors.[1] Her sculptural and murals can be seen in Nicaragua, Mexico, Pennsylvania, and in many parts of California, most notable in San Francisco.


Early life[edit]

Juana Alicia was born in Newark, New Jersey in the year 1953. She grew up in an all African American community near the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) in Detroit, Michigan. Her family was the only family within this community that spoke Spanish. Besides speaking English and Spanish at home, within her family she also spoke the language of Yiddish, which came from her mother's Jewish side of the family. Her neighborhood also influenced her upbringing, she lived down the street from one of the Four Tops, Abdul "Duke" Fakir and was immersed in the Motown culture from a young age.[2] Her godmother Dr. Cledie Collins Taylor an African American Sculpture was active in the visual arts. Her mother was active in the farm worker movement. Both her parents were interested in the arts. While in high school Juana Alicia left her town during the early seventies at the invitation of Cesar Chavez who she had yet to meet. She was working on posters for the boycott during the farmworker movement, when she met Cesar Chavez at a rally. She showed him a poster she had made -”Boycott grapes in A&P”- at a speech he gave.[3] He then asked her to move to Salinas, California to work with him on the El Malcriado, the newspaper in 1972.[4]


She attended University of California Santa Cruz earning her Bachelor's of Arts (BA) in Teaching Aesthetic Awareness from a Cultural Perspective along with a Bilinguall Cross-Cultural Emphasis Credential in 1979. She also received her Single Subjects Credential in Art Education in 1980. Three years later she earned her Fifth Year Certificate in Bilingual Education. Juana Alicia moved forward to receiving her Masters of Arts (M.A.) in Fine Arts, Drawing, and Paiting from San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) in May 1990. Finally, in 1998 she passed the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST).

Teaching and Other Jobs[edit]

Upon leaving Detroit in 1972, Juana Alicia moved to Salinas, California during the peak of the United Farm Worker movement. She said to herself “Oh, this is where I want to be.” She did not start working for union upon her arrival. However, she went to work in the agricultural fields. Juana Alicia felt that the cultural revolution was happening there. During the strikes in Salinas in 1973 and 1976, she worked for FreshPict a strawberry grower company.[5] She also worked in Interharvest which was the United Fruit owned lettuce company. She worked up intil September 1976 in the fields but then stopped because at the time she was seven months pregnant with her first son and had pesticide poisoning.[6]

After working in the fields, Juana Alicia moved to Salinas where she worked in a bilingual classroom next to the corralon and hiring hall for the United Farm Workers. Then her son was born in December 1976 and she never went back to work in the fields.

Juana Alicia has taught at Stanford University, University of California Santa Cruz, University of California Davis and San Francisco State University, and is currently a full-time faculty at Berkeley City College.[7] Dedicated to the development of young artists, she co-founded and co-directed the San Francisco Early Childhood School for the Creative Arts and the East Bay Center for Urban Arts. Through her teaching jobs, she has helped to foster several generations of young muralists and activist artists.[8]

Notable Murals[edit]

Las Lechugeras[edit]

Juana Alicia's first big mural project in San Francisco was, Las Lechugeras (The Women Lettuce Workers) went up in 1983 on the corner of York and 24th Street in Mission District, San Francisco. This mural depicted female workers and their struggles against working condictions and pesticide poisoning in California. Her experience as a female farm worker as well as an organizer for the United Farm Workers helped illustrate the creation of her painting styles and research. After it went up, the artists was given a 90-day warning that the mural would be destroyed because of water damage. Coincidentally, this opened way for her project that was much related to the Lechugeras.[9]

La Llorona Project, San Francisco[edit]

La Llorona (The Weeping Woman), Juana Alicia's latest mural project, replaced Las Lechugeras. This mural depicts environmental struggles involving women around the world. The mural takes its title from the widespread Mexican myth of a woman who allegedly drowned her children and spends the rest of her life weeping for them. La Llorona mural illustrates stories of women in Bolivia, India, and the Mexico-United States border together. It helps highlight Bolivians in Cochabamba who have advocated to keep Bechtel Corporation from buying the water rights in their country. Indian farm workers in the Narmada Valley who advocate against government’s irresponsible dam projects that damage their homes. Finally, the women in black protesting the unsolved murders of women in the city of Juarez, in the Rio Grande and the maquiladora (sweatshops).

She created her in the spring of 2004 at the corners of York and 24th Streets. With sponsorship by The San Francisco Women’s Center and the Galeria de la Raza, the support of Las Trenzas Latina Student and Alumnae Organization of UC Berkeley, and funding from The Potrero Nuevo Fund, The San Francisco Mayor’s Neighborhood Beautification Fund, the Greppi and Leone family and private donors, the artist was able to complete this mural project.[10]

True Colors Mural Project[edit]

Juana Alicia is the founder and director of the True Colors Mural Project. True Colores is a public mural program at Berkeley City College. Through her Mural Design and Creation course at BCC, and also in collaboration with the City of Berkeley's Youth Works Program, Earth Island Institute and other community based organizations. True Colors helps create one or more public murals each year. This project aims to support the development of young artists and activists for the improvement of the urban environment through a creation and collaboration of public murals. The purpose of the murals is to both educate urban residents. Also, beautify the urban environment with positive messages and images that advocate for ecological sustainability, conservation and restoration. The project recruits, engages and employs under-served, at risk youth from Berkeley and the greater East Bay, in vital community environmental mural arts projects. True Colors trains young artists to design and create community murals with social and environmental justice themes.[11]

The ESAY/Fulbright Project[edit]

Juana Alicia works and has worked in Mérida, Yucatán, México at the Escuela Superior de Arte de Yucatán (ESAY) where she is teaching workshops in Chicano Mural History, Design and Technique. The workshops will finish in a mural at the university's new location, in the neo-Mayan art deco train station. Which is an architectural landmark in downtown Mérida. ESAY is a multidisciplinary arts university, featuring visual arts, music, theater, dance and film/multimedia.[12]

The Spiral Voice: Codex Estánfor Juana Alicia’s New Murals at Stanford[edit]

In 2007, Stanford's Centro Chicano wrote to Juana Alicia, offering a new commission for the Centro. Since a mural that she had created with the Yo Puedo Program during the mig-eighties had been destroyed during a renovation. The Centro requested that she create a new work of art in its place. After touring the site, Juana Alicia drew up several proposals for th exterior and interior walls. She proposed an exterior mural that resembled her work she had recently created for the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center in San Francisco and in Mexico at the Universidad Tecnológica Metropolitana (UTM). She began the process by creating new murals for the Centro Chicano. The theme of the murals depicted the legacy of Latin American and Indigenous literature. The working title for the piece is “Ojas de nuestro legado/Pages from Our Legacies”, a play on the words pages of a book and the ojas or pencas del nopal.[13]


  • 1982-National Endowment for the Humanities, BIRTH MURAL Best Visual Art Work with a Chicano/Mexicano Theme, through the University of California, Santa Cruz.
  • 1992-Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, Master Muralist Award.
  • 1992-Distinguished Visiting Professor, Oakes College, University of California, Santa Cruz.
  • 1993-NACS (National Association of Chicano Studies), for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts, Academia and Our Communities.
  • 2000-Woman of Fire Award, Women of Color Resource Center, Berkeley, Ca.
  • 2004-California State Senate, Outstanding Contributions as an Oakland Arts Educator.
  • 2006-2007-Fulbright Fellowship, Escuela Superior de Arte de Yucatán (ESAY), Visiting Professeor in Mural Arts/Painting.


External links[edit]