Using Art to Revive Tijuana
Mexico has a dynamic and rich art history and a deep cultural appreciation of its artists. From Diego Rivera to Frida Kahlo to emerging graffiti street painters, the country has many gifted artists–but they struggle. Today in Tijuana, the city of three million people is experiencing an explosion in their art community and everyone is waiting to see how this new revolution will play itself out.
Graffiti artist Frank Romero opened his gallery Local 29 two years ago. He works in both silkscreen and on the sides of buildings. Romero works in graffiti because he says, “Art is for everyone. If it’s in the streets, everyone can see it. The city becomes the art gallery and no one can limit the audience.”
Romero and many of the TJ artists talk about working hard to change the image of the city. They say their work is a natural response to their frustration with the perception of a violent city and a stereotype that every city in Mexico is the same. Tijuana’s crime rate has dropped by 40 percent since 2010 and 2011.
“When the violence was at its height in 2007 and 2008 and America was economically failing, the rest of the world felt the effects of that. We locals decided to take back our city," Romero said.
He said spaces along the tourist street Revolucion were empty. He said artists asked owners if they could rent them buildings at low rates.
"We filled the spaces on streets like Pasaje Rodriquez and more recently Paseje Gomez, with our studios, bookstores, and coffee shops," he said.