Standing outside the church on Guadalupe Street, MidNite Flores talked about the colorful new mural on the wall of the church he relied on when he was homeless only a few years ago.
On Saturday, the families of students involved with the project joined members of the church, the International House of Worship, to celebrate the mural’s unveiling.
The mural, titled “Hands Shaking Hands,” was designed and painted by children in the San Anto Cultural Arts After School Arts Program, where Flores works as a youth coordinator. It depicts hands in a rainbow of colors surrounding a tree that bears fruit and vegetables.
The design, a collaboration among students in the program and leaders of the church, signifies the church’s support of those in need, support that helped Flores turn his life around.
“I survived on that,” Flores said. “I have now gotten to a place where I am now offering assistance to people and trying to inspire them, and it turns out that I helped create a mural on the walls of the church that used to feed me.”
Flores said the student who served as lead artist on the project, 11-year-old Salome Castaneda, is now the “the youngest female lead artist to complete a full-size external mural in the City of San Antonio.”
Casteneda’s twin sister Argentina will serve as the lead artist on a second part of the mural to be painted on the other side of the church’s wall.
“Argentina’s our main artist in the house; she loves to do the drawing part,” said their mother, Lisa Riojas. “Salome is more determined. … She’s the main one who says, ‘If I’m going to start something, I’m going to go to the end.’”
San Anto Cultural Arts is planning to have kids in its after-school program create two murals per year, Flores said. Funders for this mural included the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, the San Antonio Area Foundation, and the Russell Hill Rogers Fund for the Arts.
After a short ceremony, church members served nachos inside the building, which also held racks of clothing and other items that members planned to give away. The church considers its mission to support those who need it most, Pastor Jesse Meek said.
“The real ministry’s outside, it’s not in a church building,” Meek said. “When Jesus was here, he came to serve, he didn’t come to be served.”
Before the children painted the mural, someone had marred the outside of the building with graffiti that church members said was gang-related. Flores noticed it on bus rides past the building.
“I would always see the graffiti on the wall,” he said. “Being a budding mural artist, … I’m looking for new canvasses to paint on, and covering up graffiti is the easiest way to get in on a new project.”
Only after speaking with church leaders did Flores realize the International House of Worship was the same church he had received help from when he was homeless.
“It was actually really difficult,” said Flores of turning his life around. “You have to want to change, and do everything you can, and don’t let anybody get in your way. It’s pure determination and passion to be different and better.”
Flores also has some advice for other kids interested in making art of their own.
“To become a true artist, don’t listen to people when they say you have to color inside the lines,” he said. “Go outside the lines as far as you can and express yourself.”