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County Supervisor Phil Serna Funds Artwork by the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF) Artist Collective for the Golden 1 Center

On Monday, June 13, 2016, the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission (Commission) voted unanimously to approve the direct selection of the Royal Chicago Air Force (RCAF) members Esteban Villa, Juanishi Orosco and Stan Padilla to design and produce an artwork inside the Golden 1 Center, the highly anticipated entertainment and sports center in downtown Sacramento. Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna (District 1), whose father, former Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna, Jr., was a member of the influential collective, will be the lead funder of the project. 

In addition to commissioning a new work of art, a mural located on the downtown parking garage on 3rd and L Streets by the same artists will be updated and fabricated in a permanent material.  Titled “Metamorphosis,” the mural includes an image of a giant swallowtail butterfly and was commissioned by the Arts Commission in 1977 (photo below). The restoration of the mural and the unveiling of the new artwork at the Golden 1 Center will coincide with the Commissions 40th year anniversary in 2017. 

"Metamorphosis" by RCAF artists

While the new design has yet to be finalized, Serna highlighted the opportunity to conceptualize the two project elements as “bookends” and the chance to thematically and physically connect the two artworks across the Downtown Commons and into the Golden 1 Center. 

“The Royal Chicano Air Force represents one of our region’s great arts traditions, and it is entirely appropriate that their contribution and legacy be in full public view” said Serna.  He adds that “the envisioned artwork will not only grace the space within the new Golden 1 Center, it will also serve to tell the story of change and who we are as a proud, diverse community.”

Arts Commission Chair Rebecca Garrison noted that “The RCAF has been deeply rooted in the Sacramento community for almost 50 years with a long history of using art to communicate ideas and issues specific to our community.  It is for this reason and many more that the entire Commission is so pleased to support this important project at the Golden 1 Center.”

The artists are expected to begin work on designing the mural for Golden 1 Center as soon as full funding for the project is identified. Supervisor Serna’s office will be making the lead contribution in the range of $75,000 - 100,000, and will work closely with the Commission to identify and raise additional funds for the project’s completion.  

RCAF artist Stan Padilla expressed the significance of the opportunity to restore “Metamorphosis” and to design a new artwork that pays homage to the past while looking toward the future, stating “It is an honor and a great creative opportunity for us to be able to bring to the Golden1 Arena a new artwork. We will express our vibrant cultural roots and the seeds of our common humanity in an innovative project respectfully dedicated to the Sacramento community and region." 

While the RCAF member artists Villa, Orosco and Padilla and the site has been approved, the Commission will make recommendations on the budget and artwork design once completed. 

Rendering of inside Golden 1 Center 
Rendering of potential site for the new RCAF artwork in the Golden 1 Arena.

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Royal Chicano Air Force: Originally named the Rebel Chicano Art Front, this artist collective was founded at California State University, Sacramento in 1970 by Esteban Villa and Jose Montoya to foster the arts of the Chicano/Latino community, educate young people in Chicano culture, promote political awareness and foster support for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. The RCAF was instrumental in leading the Chicano Movimiento’s push for social and political rights and is best known its murals and art posters, though they were also active in music and the literary arts.  Montoya’s posters helped define the United Farm Workers Movement in California’s Central Valley from the 1960s to 1980s and collections of RCAF posters have been donated to CSU Sacramento and CSU San Jose. At CSU Sacramento, Montoya and Esteban taught silkscreen printing, drawing and mural painting to a generation of artists. Their Barrio Art Program continues today at the Washington Neighborhood Center in downtown Sacramento. The RCAF also established programs that bring the arts to youth offenders within the California Youth Authority. The La Raza Galeria Posada continues to operate in Sacramento.  In 2014 artworks by Villa, Orosco and Padilla were featured in an exhibition at the Matsui Gallery in Sacramento City Hall.

Esteban Villa: Esteban Villa is a professor emeritus at California State University, Sacramento who also taught at Washington State University and University of California, Davis. He has conducted art programs in the prisons system and his artwork played a key role in the Chicano movement of the late 1960s and 70s. In addition to “Metamorphosis,” Villa has created murals for Sacramento’s Southside Park, and Chicano Park in San Diego. His work has been exhibited at the Crocker Art Museum and the Galeria Posada, both in Sacramento.

Juanishi Orosco: Juanishi Orosco taught with Villa and Montoya at CSU Sacramento and created numerous poster designs for the Chicano Civil Rights Movement. In the 1995 documentary on RCAF entitled "Pilots of Aztlán," Orosco stated "Cesar (Chavez) recognized early on the importance of the artists' community and how to best utilize them for the United Farm Workers movement."

Known for his vivid murals depicting his Mexican, Chicano and indigenous cultural roots, Orosco is also an arts educator who has provided outreach and training to hundreds of young artists throughout Northern California. In addition to his work on the mural “Metamorphosis,” Juanishi helped to restore the Chicano Park mural in Barrio Logan, San Diego. He completed the mural “Capaces,” for the Chicano Service Center in Woodburn, Oregon in 2013.  Orosco's paintings are in permanent collections at Harvard, Yale and the Smithsonian Institution, and he has overseen mural projects in New York, Chicago and Miami, among other cities.

Stan Padilla: Stan Padilla is a multi-media artist whose disciplines include drawing, painting and silversmithing. Stan is also an educator and social activist who for many years has worked to promote multi-cultural and cross-cultural exchange. He is an arts coordinator for a Chicano and Native American gallery in northern California and maintains an art studio in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in northeastern California.