I couldn’t help but notice all the beautiful murals while we were in Mexico City. Almost every corner, almost every building, held the works of a famous painter/muralist: Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Arnold Belkin, to name a few. Wait, Arnold Belkin? That name didn’t ring a bell. So I decided to do some research on him to find out who this famous muralist with an Anglo name was.

Come to find out, Arnold Belkin is a Canadian artist who was inspired by Mexican muralists as a young man. He saw an article about Diego Rivera in a magazine when he was 14 years old and attending a school for the arts in Vancouver. When he saw that article, he knew he wanted to be a muralist. After he graduated high school, he moved to Mexico City to attend an art school. Arnold wanted his murals to make a difference, so most of his murals tackle social injustice and poverty. I guess that’s why they call him the “Canadian son of Mexican muralism.”

Arnold Belkin Mural

Arnold Belkin Mural

Some of his earlier works went unrecognized because the works of the famous muralists overshadowed the up-and-coming artist. But Belkin won the hearts of many Mexican critics when he painted a mural on the Mexico City Penitentiary. It was called Todos Somos Culpables (We Are All Guilty) and it followed the life, trial, jailing, and freedom of a convict. That was the mural that opened people’s eyes. After that, Belkin was able to work with his idol, David Siqueiros, and many other artists.

Another famous mural by Arnold Belkin can be found on the wall in a playground in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. It’s called “Against Domestic Colonialism.” It’s such a shame, but it’s starting to rub off the wall. Time and the elements have not been kind to the mural. But there are many more murals still standing. He has some in Canada, Europe, Mexico, and in other places in the United States.

I was wondering how Belkin could do all of these murals alone. Some of them were two and three stories high! I read that sometimes he enlisted the help of students during the big projects. I imagine he had help when he did four ginormous murals at the Metropolitan University in Mexico City. It’s just awesome to me that even though he wasn’t born and raised in Mexico, Mexicans are proud to have adopted him.

Activities:

  1. Why is Arnold Belking called the “Canadian son of Mexican muralism”?
  2. What is the story behind the mural Todos Somos Culpables?
  3. Who is your favorite artist and why?