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Celebrating culture through art: A day at the Antonio E. Garcia Arts & Education Center

Maybe you haven't met Mayra Zamora or Monica Marie Garcia, but chances are you've seen their work around Corpus Christi!

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — This Hispanic Heritage Month, 3NEWS is recognizing those in our Coastal Bend community who continue to make it a great place to call 'home,' while also celebrating our culture and heritage. 

Two local muralists, Mayra Zamora and Monica Marie Garcia, aim to do just that, one stroke of a paint brush at a time. 

Maybe you haven't met them just yet, but you've certainly seen their work! Their murals can be seen in downtown Corpus Christi, La Palmera Mall, K Space Contemporary, at the Antonio E. Garcia Arts & Education Center and more. 

The center is where they work to create a fun, inclusive and creative space, where art, education and culture all come together. 

It's named after Antonio E. Garcia, nicknamed the "Michelangelo of South Texas," having taught generations of artists across the region, Mexico and Corpus Christi. Stretching across one of the rooms, look up and you'll see one of his pieces on full display dating back from 1953. 

It's a full circle moment for Mayra Zamora, a local Chicana artist, muralist and educator, who shared she would visit the city's west side growing up. 

"So, for me to already be coming to the Latino side as a kid and now I get to work on this side of town, it’s a blessing in disguise," Zamora said.  

"I like to say that the center is a hidden gem in Corpus Christi, so that’s why I'm always talking about it! Because they’re here, and they’re here to serve you as well.” 

The center works with local youth to combine art and education. For Zamora, she says she feels it's also important to educate her students about Civil Rights leaders and have important discussions about what's happening in the world today.

"To tell you the truth, they [students] have something to say," Zamora said. "I'm so proud of the opinions that they have and I know right now that Corpus Christi is in good hands with the next generation coming up."

Monica Marie Garcia is a Corpus Christi born and raised muralist. She works alongside Zamora at the center, K Space and wherever the two are able to collaborate on their talents. 

Their current project: a mural made up of self-portraits at the entrance of the Garcia Arts & Education Center. The self-portraits, made by students, on how they see themselves. The mural will be fully unveiled next month, but the two artists were able to give 3News a preview!

"This is your self-portrait, how would you like to portray yourself to the future, to the world? How would you see yourself? I think they did a fantastic job of that!" said Garcia. "Not only did we get to see their creativity, some of them had never painted before! This was the first time for a lot of them to touch a brush, and for that fact, we are very impressed." 

Lifting up the next generation through their talents: sharing stories through art that celebrates a proud heritage and a vibrant culture

"The same thing that we all have in common is that we’re very passionate. Very family gatherings. Para la familia, also we love color and... We love color! What can I say?" said Zamora.

"To Hispanic is to be Latina, to be Chicana, to be Hispanic to be all these different things within that community. Also, when you’re talking about Hispanics you’re talking about 22 different countries that make up the Latino background, so for me I'm a proud Chicana, I'm a proud Mexicana." 

"Everybody is now celebrating it [Hispanic Heritage Month] it’s not being ignored," said Garcia. "I also love the fact that more people are becoming aware of their culture, myself included, I'm learning a lot about my culture as well!"

To learn more about educational opportunities for youth at K Space Contemporary, click here. 

To learn more about education opportunities at Garcia Arts & Education Center, click here. 

You can keep up with both artists on social media where they showcase much of their work!

Mayra Zamora on Instagram: @miramayraart

Monica Marie Garcia on Instagram: @shiningstar2mg

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