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Juan Alberto Negroni spends a week painting ecological mural at San Luis Obispo Museum of Art

Upper School art teacher Juan Alberto Negroni spent a week at California’s San Luis Obispo Museum of Art painting an ecological mural, which was unveiled on Jan. 9.

Titled “Pacificarribbean,” this outdoor mural covers all sides of the building and represents a strong connection between art and nature through Negroni’s inspiration of his home town of Bayamón, Puerto Rico.

I kept in mind the way I paint and the way I conceive my artwork, which often has to do with my place of origin,” Negroni said. “[The mural] was inspired by abstract representation or portrait of everything that has to do with Puerto Rico, culturally and geographically.” 

Negroni did not want to lose his art style and wanted to stay true to the artist that he is. He did not want to stray far away from his artist practice, which consists mostly of small format paintings.

“I am not a muralist,” Negroni said. “I am not a street artist. I have never done anything this big. My idea and one thing I wanted was to not fall into the box of a street artist or a muralist, so I put my mind into a place where I could design a huge painting [instead].”

Emma Saperstein, the curator of the project, enjoyed working beside Negroni and experienced a time in which, COVID-19 did not dictate the piece.

“It was a fantastic experience ––both for me personally and for the community at large,” Saperstein said. “We had five local college students serve as Juan’s painting assistants, and the experience was really transformational for them. After a year of working from home, it was actually really wonderful to be back in installation mode.”

Students of Negroni observe and appreciate his artwork and find that he expresses and immerses himself in his work, which inspires them to do the same.

“I definitely see his expression and artistic vision in the pieces that I’ve seen,” sophomore Elizabeth Sawers said. “He has a specific art style that I really love: full of vibrancy and different colors. I think that his art really represents him, which makes it so beautiful and genuine.”

“[Art] is an outlet [to]explore the world and… understand the world that I experience every day.”

Juan Negroni,
upper school art teacher

Students alike feel very honored to be taught by Negroni, who possesses a Master of Fine Arts in studio arts from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, a Master of Arts in Education in art history and museum studies from the Caribbean University in Puerto Rico, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in printmaking from Puerto Rico School of Fine Arts. 

“I enjoy that Mr. Negroni brings a new perspective into our art class that none of us had really experienced or heard before,” Sawers said. “[He] teaches us… techniques that we will use throughout our entire artistic career… and touches on… how various cultures express themselves through art. He has… painted all over the world, so I think we were all really excited to learn from him and try various styles of art under his guidance.”

Saperstein said she does not regret choosing Negroni for this project and is beyond glad with the result of his hard work.

“I’ve worked with Juan before, and he was honestly the first person who came to mind for the project,” Saperstein said. “His creative vision, the way he works with people and the designs we settled on all just confirmed why his work was the right choice.”

Negroni tries his best to explain what art means to him and finds it comforting to be able to express his words through the pieces he creates. 

“[Art] is an outlet [to]explore the world and… understand the world that I experience every day,” Negroni said. “It [seems] cliche, but it is a way of expressing ourselves, even when you are saying something and people dont understand what you are saying. It codes my world and how I experience my world.”

Negroni was invited to the museum to bring art to the outdoors and to display it in a world that is presently closed off through masks and lockdowns.

“[SLOMA has] a new executive director, [Leann Standish] who came with… [many] new ideas, but she encountered herself in a situation where she couldn’t do much,” Negroni said. “One of the things she envisioned… was this mural project, to bring the museum inside out.”

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