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Mural celebrates Latino influence on valley

Rogue Community College students have created a mural honoring the contributions of the Rogue Valley's Latino community.

Showcasing railroad crews, orchard workers and college graduates, the triptych is displayed at the Multicultural Student Center in the B Building, 227 E. Ninth St., on the college's Riverside campus in downtown Medford. However, the three-panel design will enable the college to take it to conferences and other events, said Karolina Lemus Thompson, RCC's Latino programs coordinator.

The college's Oregon Leadership Institute, a group that provides mentoring and personal development opportunities for Latino students, got a $1,000 grant from the Arts Council of Southern Oregon for the project two years ago, she said.

They initially planned to paint the mural on the back of the college's G Building, but rules about large-scale paintings in the downtown core and on old buildings thwarted that plan, Thompson said.

However, she's perfectly pleased with the portability, describing how the institute and other student groups can take it to high schools on recruiting trips to inspire potential students to attend college.

Cesar Martinez, one of the students who helped paint the mural, said he can relate to the images.

"I have worked on a farm, so I know that part, and I finished my GED one month ago, so I know that part, too," said the Mexico City native who came to the United States three years ago and now plans to continue his education at RCC.

Ali Akay, an RCC student who earned her associate degree this spring, spearheaded the painting. The mural provided her with cooperative work experience required as part of her degree.

Working from a design created by the leadership institute, historic photos and her love of the Rogue Valley's scenic beauty, she made various sketches, which were then enlarged to make the mural.

"Now I feel like I can tackle any big project," she said.

Akay plans to move to Eugene to continue her art education, exploring fine and graphic arts.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.

Ali Akay, 23, and Cesar Martinez, 22, helped create a three-piece mural celebrating Southern Oregon’s Latino community for Rogue Community College. - Bob Pennell