Lucy D. Barker 6:13 p.m., May 23
News that the artist, teacher and social activist Michael Schnorr died recently has cast a pall on the Chicano Park artistic community. Members say that Schnorr apparently took his own life by jumping off the Coronado Bay Bridge last Friday, June 29th. The irony was tragically rich. Schnorr was a non-Latino artist who painted many of the murals under that same bridge, as part of an internationally-recognized collection of social, mythical and political art pieces. Together, they comprise the largest group of outdoor murals in the United States.
His colleague, David Avalos, fellow artist and arts professor at CSU San Marcos, writes, “With a broken heart I am saddened to report that one of Chicano Park’s great muralists, Michael Schnorr, [has] died […] Chicano Park’s acclaimed Mural Restoration Project was inaugurated last year with the completion of Michael’s magnificent Undocumented Worker mural. Last week scaffolding was removed from ‘Voz Libre: Pedro J. González’ (a mural painted with Victor Ochoa, Guillermo Rosette, Yasue Sano, and Todd Stands).”
Avalos and Schnorr were cofounders of the Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo (BAW/TAF) in 1984, a border region art collaborative whose works, Avalos says, “have been exhibited at venues including San Diego’s Centro Cultural de la Raza, and Museum of Contemporary Art, San Francisco’s Galeria de la Raza, New York’s Artists Space, and internationally at Venice’s Biennale, and Sydney’s Biennial."
He says Schnorr was an extraordinary social activist as well, “working with Tijuana’s Maclovio Rojas neighborhood members to build a community center offering art classes and tutoring, develop the community cemetery, and host art project residencies for local and international artists.
“Michael also participated in the Cross Project’s art installations memorializing thousands of border crossers whose deaths have resulted from the federal government’s Operation Gatekeeper.”
He says BAW/TAF worked in conjunction with the California Legal Assistance Foundation Border Project in San Diego and Casa del Migrante and other migrant shelters in Tijuana and Mexicali, Baja California.”
He was also involved in international projects in places like Afghanistan. Film too was one of his specialties. Mr. Schnorr taught in the Fine Arts Department at Southwestern College in Chula Vista for 39 years. “Students reported that he changed their lives and views on art," Avalos writes. "He encouraged critical thinking and stimulated captivating class discussions. Students appreciated how he presented art with a social consciousness.”
A memorial service is being planned for 1:00 p.m. at Chicano Park, on July 14.