top of page


The Art Miles Mural Project Newsletter

VOLUME 2, MAY 2024 – 480 N. El Camino Real, Suite A 92057 and 

A project of the United Nations Association San Diego and the UNESCO Center for Peace (California and Baja)

Special Edition: Mural Magic, Measure X and (the People’s Mayor)

Today, May 24,2024 marks two years since the horrific mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.  According to the Washington Post as of May 2, 2024, there have been 404 school shootings since Columbine in 1999 and more than 370,000 students have experienced gun violence at schools and in 2022 there were more than 46 school shoots – more than any year since then.  Statistics continue to accumulate from 2023 and 5 additional shootings already in 2024.  With tears in my eyes, I keep wondering how any parent in our country, or any citizen for that matter can tolerate the use of automatic military style weapons for civil society use.   

The Art Miles Mural Project continues its quest to support the Culture of Peace by bringing people together by creating “healing murals” in addition to facilitating murals throughout the country and the world for educational and recreational purposes.  My tears seep from my heart and my brain with photos of those children and teachers who were killed flash through my dreams in my quest to at least provide our visual voices of grief at all levels to families of victims and to us, the public who although we cannot experience the unimaginable loss of our own family members, as humans, if we have a heart and compassion, we feel it.


 Buckets of Tears – Mural for Uvalde

By Joanne Tawfilis/May 24, 2022

Home. After a long drive to and from Las Vegas to the Annual Tejano Music Festival organized by the incredible couple and owners of Ingenuity, Sarah, and David Chavez. Home to Oceanside where the temperatures were in the breathing margins of mid-seventies and of glorious sunshine away from the sweltering heat of the Las Vegas desert and Westgate Resort sub-zero air conditioning, so it seemed!

Home after buckets of tears were shed by so many musicians and fans that stopped by our UNESCO Center for Peace for California and Baja’s, mural—a healing mural for the families, friends and survivors of the UVALDE mass shooting that slaughtered 19 children and two teachers, and the husband of one of the teachers that died of heartbreak. Buckets of tears that I shed sketching the mural frenetically prior to leaving for the ever-expanding Vegas night life, and more when seeing so many breaks into tears when sending messages and signing….so many teachers, so many that knew so many children, families impacted by yet another never ending series of these horrific and painful deaths of such innocents…. all of them. (Makes me tear up again, especially today, the anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica of more than 8,000 men and boys and where the Art Miles Mural Project first mural was created by orphans). 

The annual Tejano Fan Fest as most know it was “therapy” for me with all the joyful music and musicians that came from all parts of the United States along with families and fans. The incredibly beautiful women and handsome men alive and energetic and filled with warmth and friendliness, comradery, were easy to be with and to interact and reunite with our previous presence prior to COVID 19. It was the release after two years of restrictive travel and personal interaction, but along with the tears of sadness for UVALDE and the other now regular series of mass shootings, came the buckets of tears of joy to be able to hug and embrace each other again, to feel the heartbeats and heartstrings of the musicians, to “feel human again.”  That is what music does…it heals, as does the Art Miles Murals we continue to produce for over twenty years now. 

Home again. From the family members spotting the star with their small child relatives name on it and leaning over and gasping, crying, to the reaction of our team when I unrolled the finished murals filled with signatures to prep for sending to UVALDE, as the energy and healing prayers jumped off the canvas! Several of them jumped back, one could not bear to continue reading the messages and others had tears in their eyes and held them in their throats so as not to show such deep emotion. 

Home. To where tomorrow I start another “healing mural” for the now almost weekly mass shootings that will always bring on those “buckets of tears.”  Don’t’ know where to start?   Chicago? The young man shot 60 times. The list never stops, and neither will the tears.


Much has been said about “graffiti and tagging” and yet, throughout the country and the world, there is a genre of art called “urban art” and also “street art”.  Much of that terminology is confused or attached to what many relate to offensive spray-painted walls with gang symbols and bad language (from many cultures).

However, over the last several decades, street artists have transformed much of the art to expressions that represent traditions, cultures, history and for expressions and ideas that showpiece pleasant uplifting images bursting with color bringing smiles and cheers to viewers of all ages. The use of spray paint and mixed media have been used with expertise by experienced street artists that are amazing and beautiful, with much to be said about the expressions of many community artists and citizens, when creating images upon public walls.

Historically and as early as 10 years ago, there weren’t any city regulations in place in Oceanside to approve or disapprove what murals were created because most of them were painted in partnership with private owners of buildings.  However, once public owned buildings became canvasses for the artists,  a different  procedure is now followed by the city.  This is understandable because the city is responsible for maintenance of public buildings and has to clean up graffiti when it is offensive or destructive, and of course with tax dollars.  

3.8 miles of Art Miles Mural Project murals - Barnham Park, Denver Colorado


This is how we do it…yes, now more than 12 miles of murals that help heal, comfort, and communicate human to human with our own special Visual Voices that we will highlight and share with you on a regular basis. WHY? Because we are here to serve the public and to try in our own special way to illustrate what a Culture of Peace can be like on a personal basis.  That is why public art in our towns, cities, and states throughout our country is so important—we paint for peace and peace begins with ME (and you).  

And that’s when each of us can find our Visual Voices by sharing ideas as individuals and citizens within the town or city in which we live.  It doesn’t matter what age, race, religion, or other beliefs we have—creativity comes in many forms such as visual arts, music, dance, performance, spoken word and many other genres.  And murals can be made on walls, canvas, doors, furniture and using tiles and other materials and techniques that have been brought about by technology.  The truth is, it’s not just about murals, it’s really about bringing people together and creating Community Unity! 


Today, May 24, 2023, in my role as the contracted “facilitator” of a City contract to facilitate murals in Landes and Balderrama Parks, I reflect on the proactive role initiated by the heartstrings of a mayor that understands the history, culture and traditions of people that are brown, black, white and others and the diversity of how our differences can unite us.  It is her interest that stimulated activities that encouraged community participation versus hiring an individual muralist. She supported the hiring of a contractor by the city that could facilitate the mandate of Measure X whose objectives are to foster positive action, COMMUNITY interactive participation, educational and economic development in communities throughout Oceanside, and of most importance to her--to support youth programs and the prevention of violence.  And she was firm in her direction that ALL people should be recognized and acknowledged and to participate with their visual voice, whether they be local artists, “old-timers” living in the neighborhood, or historical records to be researched with the city historian.

She did this with heartfelt love of community and her own cultural heritage as the first Latina woman to be elected to the office of Mayor in our city. I can say with great conviction that many people do not understand what it is like for “those of us of color”, who were born in neighborhoods to families where most of us are first or second generation descendants. Life was normally different some decades ago.  In many instances these neighborhoods existed where bigotry and prejudice forced families to live in areas where we were made to feel not necessarily welcomed. It is fair to say that many people also lived there and may or may not have been people of color, who did welcome families.  These were instances where a “neighborhood vibe and identity” often evolved over decades, where growing up and going through school together, playing together, living next door or on the same streets or around the corner, created a cultural bond and many memories passed down and lasting through generations.  So it was in the Eastside neighborhood, likely the oldest neighborhood in Oceanside.  Great stories unfolded during the community meetings to prove that and in future newsletters you will read them.

However, today, we may believe much has changed and it has.  Diversity can also contribute to causing divisions among people and at times it is inevitable that there still remain “differences” in some processes and in systems. In a situation as what may sound as simple as painting murals, it would seem improbable that any kind of differing treatment would even exist.  Differences in attitudes, viewpoints, discussions and tone of voice can be given and taken by both sender and receiver.  In most situations, it is important to note that a variety of circumstances do and can happen at any given time during a process, realized or not. To be able to communicate with calmness and a willingness to communicate, and not carry anger or resentment is a definite goal toward working together for peaceful resolutions. And professionals are those we look to and sometimes it takes real courage to open up conversations that  can no longer be ignored as in the past.     We should try to remember, “peace begins with me”.

In the interest of fairness and clarity, often times words or actions can be miscommunicated or taken personally, and events such as these divide us rather than unite us. Advocates for peace and unity at every level,  work hard to practice equality and fairness and hopefully our visual voices can come together in harmony as it has with the two mural sites where the residents contributed.  It was and is through an interactive process, in a sincere effort based on this mayor, to memorialize the rich heritage and diversity of it’s past of its heroes and rising stars.  As a witness to, the concerns and intentions of this “people’s mayor” an elected official,  we witnessed how on several occasions, she stood up and tried to communicate what she believed to be “different treatment”. For this level of courage, bravery, and support within the structure of city management, she truly touched and moved those of us working on the project from deep within.  She  questioned the process that seemed different to her (and perhaps some of us) than other contracts.  If you were to know her, one would realize immediately that she was speaking honestly and openly from that place of community support, because she loves her community, all of it as well as her consistent outreach to all city neighborhoods and citizens.  As a former diplomatic level Director of Human Resource Management Services with the United Nations, I can say how important her questioning was.  If different treatment was felt for a variety of reasons, and she brought it up, wasn’t it better to bring that as a possible issue to the forefront rather than let is fester and divide individuals and group and lose that sense of “community unity”?  We must all begin to live in the here and now and look forward and plan well with open communication for the future. 

For those of us on the ground, including the artists and children working on the walls, we watched our mayor rise to the occasion even early on when the large group of community artists had gathered wanting to transform the entire park vs just two walls, into a showplace they could be proud of.  As the “people’s mayor” when remained present at almost all community meetings. It was during this now historic  first of a series of contract meetings, (different than former required ones) and, responding to their request, she got on the phone and called the City Manager (after hours) and inquired about such a possibility. 

 It was her sensitivity to the artists that provided a sense of caring about them, from the city.  And what followed has already reaped the fruits of those conversations and efforts to make some of the residents fulfill a dream—to have beautiful art to showcase their talent and the past, present and future. She supported residents to make the neighborhood an area that would be attractive and one in which “native pride” would take hold to prevent  tagging and graffiti. More importantly, she had the wisdom and experience to know how these murals would touch people’s lives in ways difficult to find words that can explain it. There are many—be they spiritual, memorable, or truly causing  heartfelt feelings of awesome joy.  

Going through the motions consisting of numerous and sometimes emotional meetings, resulted in unifying the artists and attracting residents of all ages to help and support each other.  All ideas, even from school children were considered, and the artists ensured their designed drawings were transferred to the first of many walls to come!  Some neighbors even donated refreshments to the hungry artists and simply loved watching the mastery of both brush and spray paint happen,  from the heart and the hands of several talented and dedicated artists.  This group of painters has been led by a passionate and caring lead curator who has dreamt of the evolution of Balderrama Park and because of his ability to motivate and inspire people, has managed to get an invitation become the “Sister Park” to the historic national park and cultural district of its own--the famous Barrio Logan Chicano Park. Talk about an historic unification!

Finally, in this newsletter, as special to me as it is, I appeal to each and all to please let unity among us be the catalyst serve as the continuation of a success story, where violence can hopefully be in our past history.  Let’s all work together, including women leaders supporting each other, with integrity and honor to make Joe Balderrama Park a testimony to honor ancestors, highlight the colorful traditions and the bright colors of a diverse community and a reflection upon how mural art and its process, brings people together with an example how this “people’s mayor” with Measure X understood how much our differences can unite us.



2 views0 comments


Commenting has been turned off.
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page