Carissa Garcia is an interdisciplinary artist who approaches her work as a storyteller and poet. She considers herself a “greñuda filmmaker”, working on untamed methods of documenting and reversing erasure as a decolonial means of creating and recuperating knowledge. For the past 4 years, she has been pursuing her Ph.D. at UCLA with the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies, as an advisee and mentee of Judy Baca. Her research concentrates on the relationship between place and memory for Chicana artists in California’s Central San Joaquin Valley, where she was born and raised.

She is currently working on a publication about the erased histories of Chicanx muralism throughout Fresno County and an anthology centering methods of art production and aesthetics of the Central Valley. This research is the basis for her film for The Big Tell, “Valley of Murals.”

Carissa is interested in making this film because she believes in the power of artists as storytellers and as agents of change. She says that murals are not just acts of beautification but are sites of public memory, sharing community stories that intermingle with our everyday lives. Her interest in murals is sustained each time she passes by a mural, wondering more, who, what, when, where, why? Making this film is an effort to answer those questions and to share that story within our community but also to put our local stories in conversation with similar work throughout California and the nation.

Visit www.creativefresno.com for a map of murals in the Greater Fresno Area

A true collaborator, Carissa is making this film in partnership with Samuel Contreras. Samuel was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and at the age of eleven, his family immigrated to the United States, settling in the City of Fresno. He received his MFA in Social Documentation at UC Santa Cruz. His thesis film, “The Battle for Matheny Tract,” is a documentary that raises public awareness around water rights issues, imposing decision makers to create sound policies that will ensure safe, clean,  and affordable water for all communities in the San Joaquin Valley. The film has been invited to several film festivals including the prestigious Margaret Mead Film Festival in New York.

As an emerging filmmaker, Samuel is committed to social change and to documenting people power, capturing the beauty of diverse cultures and immigration, and creating the space through the art of filmmaking for individuals and communities to tell their stories and contribution to social change. ”

Arte Americas encouraged the creation of this film as they are interested in showing the film as a part of the Central Valley Latino History project. Arte also has a long history of working with local muralists and their archive has several correspondences and photos of early murals.

The purpose of this film is to preserve community stories attached to the historical production of muralism. On the border of urban and rural, Fresno provides a unique spatial landscape that intertwines ideas of race, identity, reclamation of space, and a “make do with what you have” culture.

“Muralism has become central to Fresno’s identity, especially in Downtown’s Mural District, yet few know the story surrounding the impetus of mural-making in Fresno and the artists who put Fresno on the map,” said Carissa.  “Almost all of the early murals have been whitewashed or destroyed giving the larger public a feeling that muralism has only surged in the past decade. This film seeks to connect the generations and show how the practice of muralism has been passed down through generations, taking on new forms and creating new ideas.”

Enjoy the premiere of “Valley of Murals” at The Big Tell Showcase on Friday, October 19 at 7 pm at the Tower Theatre in Fresno.

The Big Tell, presented by Bank of America, is a regional filmmaking initiative for ten Central Valley filmmakers creating 5-minute mini-documentaries about incredible people, places, and events in the Central Valley. All ten films will be screened at The Big Tell Showcase: Walk the red carpet starting at 6:00 pm before the show at 7:00 pm. For more information and to reserve a seat for this free, all-ages show, visit www.thebigtell.org.