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City of South Bend Celebrates New Mural at La Casa de Amistad

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South Bend Tribune
/
Greg Swiercz
South Bend-Based Artist Freddy Rodriguez at the mural dedication on Dec 12, 2022. Rodriguez worked with students from Notre Dame for roughly four months to finish the mural.

On one of the busiest streets of South Bend is a bright and colorful mural - telling the story of immigration and naturalization of the city’s hispanic and latino population.

For almost 50 years, La Casa de Amistad’s mission has been to empower the Latino/Hispanic community within Michiana. The center provides educational and cultural advocacy services in a welcoming bilingual environment. The community center sees roughly 4,500 people a month. The staff sees and hears diverse stories of naturalization and immigration.

Mike Hebbeler is the program director for the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns. Last spring, he met artist Freddy Rodriguez, who was interested in painting a mural at La Casa de Amistad.

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South Bend Tribune
/
Greg Swiercz
Mike Hebbeler, Program Director for Notre Dames Center for Social Concerns - speaks at mural dedication on Dec 12, 2022

"We were hosting an arts in dignity workshop. And Freddie was attending that. And I had known that one was very interested in a mural at De Casa A And so at the end of that workshop, I asked Freddy, if he could be interested in such a collaboration, and Freddy said yes,," he said.

In making the mural, La Casa de Amistad partnered with Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns as part of a class called art and social change. Students were able to hear stories of naturalization and immigration.

"And in that preparation, stories were shared, and relationships were formed. And it was the students’ task, to listen to those stories and help translate them into visual language that would ," Hebbeler said.

Rodriguez said the mural represents three parts in a three dimensional space. And they all connect together through first, the foundation of the bricks, which are painted in a way that resembles miracles. That kind of repetitious pattern repeats itself throughout the bottom of the mural.

It represents, everyone, and no one.

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This is part of Rodriguez description of the mural:

"In the first panel, the smallest wall, it starts kind of like at the beginning of a journey, also at the beginning of an age range, and ties in together with the beginning of the transition from Caterpillar to butterfly. So you see a little girl with a caterpillar in her hand, and she's staring at it staring at her. And in the background, you see the translation of gradients of the colors, which shows the landscape. And then beyond that bound, the boundary for that is the Polish eagle, which I stylized to be more generic so that it could just encompass a wider range of people and immigrants that have come through this community in the past."

The community center is one Michigan street — one of the busiest streets in South Bend. Cars driving towards the building on the left see any ordinary building - but on the right side, you see the beautiful mural.

The response to this mural has been an explosion of excitement. Mike Hepley said the response expanded far beyond just this center, but to the community at large. La Casa de Amistad executive director, Juan Constantino said every response represented the beautiful intentionality in Freddy’s vision of the mural.

" One of our students asked her mother a question. And then the mother kind of tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey, Juan, I have a question for you.’ Let's come on, Margarita. And she said, ‘Well, my daughter, Jimena just asked me if the little girl in the mirror was her," he said.

"I sat there for a second and said, ‘Well, no, it's it's no one particular student, as Freddy had mentioned.’ But how beautiful was it that one of our elementary kids saw themselves in the mural," he said.

South Bend is a diverse city and the mural represents just how important La Casa de Amistad is to the community and how much it is loved.

Rachel Schnelle is a Reporter/Assignment editor for WVPE. She can be reached at reschnelle@wvpe.org.
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