OAKLAND (KSNT) – The replica of a local artist’s work found it’s way to Topeka’s LULAC Senior Center, but the story behind this piece goes beyond the frame it’s been placed in.
It’s a small print taken from a mural that’s painted in the basement of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Marlo Cuevas-Balandran Activities Center. Emil Spaeth, the owner of the Brass Rail Tavern in Oakland, came across the piece in a thrift shop in NOTO. Once he learned the history behind the piece, he knew it had to be shared with others.
“I just didn’t have any room for it in the bar,” Spaeth said. “And that’s where it became like ‘Well what can I do with this?’ I can’t put this in a room where nobody else can see it, it can’t be in my bar where no one else can see this. It needs to be in a place where people can see it and appreciate it.”
He donated to LULAC, which is right next door to his restaurant, last week. The piece is one of several prints taken from the basement mural called ‘Our History,’ painted by local artist Andy Valdivia. His paintings line the walls of the activities center.
“I’ve been painting since grade school,” Valdivia said. “I went to grade school here [Our Lady of Guadalupe]. I even won an art contest. I won a picture of Christ.”
The Topeka native said art is his way to give back to his community. He started ‘Our History’ in 2012, and has been adding to it since, making for 4,574 hours worth of work. The mural is Valdivia’s tribute to Hispanic history, Oakland’s history and his own.
“I put so many families, groups of people,” Valdivia said. “So when anybody and everybody from this community comes here, they can look, and they’ve already done this, this is probably what grabs my heart, ‘Oh that’s my grandfather, that’s my dad, that’s my brother, that’s my great grandfather.”
He even painted his own parents, as well as a portrait of him and his wife in the mural. There’s so much history to share in his work, Spaeth felt the piece he found needed to go somewhere where it could be seen.
Spaeth’s original idea was to raffle the print off for scholarship money to help students attending Our Lady of Gaudalupe. He wanted to get it done by this year’s ‘Fiesta Topeka,’ but that didn’t happen, so he donated it to LULAC. Spaeth hopes someone will work with Andy and take up the scholarship project.
“If I could help somebody else go to school, get a degree,” Valdivia said. “It may be just a little bit, but it’s something. It would mean a heck of a lot. I would sign it if they want because yeah, I’m very proud of that.”
Valdivia is actively working on other murals in Oakland. His mission is to showcase as much of the community’s history as possible.