Mario Acevedo Torero was born in Lima, Peru in 1947. He learned to paint and draw from his father, Guillermo Acevedo, who was an accomplished artist living and working in Lima. In 1960, when Mario was twelve, his family immigrated to the United States in search of art, freedom and opportunity. They landed in San Diego, California and made the seaside city their home. From the very beginning, art and the artist’s life permeated Mario’s upbringing. His father quickly became a well known artist in San Diego, serving as a model to the new immediate first generations of the young Chicano Art Movement, which Mario was very much a part of.
In 1970, Mario became a founding member of the Centro Cultural de la Raza and of Chicano Park, all part of a civil/social revolution where art became a powerful tool of cultural expression. Through these protests, activism, and ensuing creation of the famous Chicano Park, he found his true calling as an ‘Artivist”. Between San Diego and the city of San Francisco, Mario resided and participated in the evolution of the revolution, primarily painting canvases and murals throughout the region and eventually the world. Mario’s murals in Chicano Park are among many known worldwide and are a major attraction of the area.
In 1976, long before San Diego’s downtown area was the bustling center it is now, Mario and his father opened Acevedo Art Gallery International off 8th and Broadway – downtown San Diego’s first art gallery. By 1977 it became the first ever multicultural art center, known as the Community Arts Building. In 1978 Mario painted a 15 x 50-foot mural of the Eye’s of Picasso on the building’s fourth floor, which immediately became a point of reference for many and the icon of San Diego artists, helping to establish the Downtown Art District. Fans watched and noted as the “Eyes” were destroyed and repainted many times throughout the downtown area.
Through the years, Mario continued to paint, exhibit, and publish his artworks. With his father, he managed many influential art galleries throughout the city, including the very successful Acevedo Gallery in Mission Hills from 1984 to 1990. Mario was a member of the founding board of the San Diego Commission of Arts and Culture, where he served from 1988 to 1993. From 1999-2009, Mario’s sculptural installation, “Los Voladores,” welcomed every visitor to the San Diego Airport. Mario was a leader in the 2012 restoration of the beloved murals in Chicano Park which helped the site ascend to its current placement on the National Registry of Historical Places.
Known as El Maestro, Mario believes in teaching youth about art and how art can create community. He spends many voluntary hours devoted to his Kosmic School of Art, teaching people of diverse age and experience the skills and values associated with public social art. He continues to give student tours of Chicano Park and has an ongoing exchange with the students of Bowling Green University in Ohio. Two projects on local university campuses are especially meaningful to Mario. The first is a 17 x 57-foot glass mosaic mural completed at UCSD in 2011. This permanent mural was the first installation to offer color on an otherwise bland campus, serving as a Welcome Home to many students, including students of color. The second mural was completed in 2016 on the campus of SDSU as part of a graduate class on Artivism. This is a temporary re-visitation of the Eyes of Picasso, once again a large splash of color on an otherwise white-walled campus.
Mario continues to make pilgrimages back to his birthplace of Peru and has also traveled to Paris, Japan, Prague, Barcelona, Mexico, and China to collaborate and share his art and vision. He continues to be passionately involved in the preservation and advancement of the Centro Cultural de la Raza, the establishment of a Chicano Park Museum adjacent to the park, and the continued success of the thriving Barrio Logan Arts District. In 2015, Mario helped curate a year-long special exhibit of his father’s works at the San Diego International Airport. These works were on display along the Terminal One pedestrian bridge and inside the West End Gallery as part of the city-wide centennial celebration, “Balboa Park & The City: Celebrating San Diego’s Panama-California Exposition.” Mario currently runs the Mundo Gallery in University Heights where he exhibits his and father’s works. He teaches classes on Artivism for the La Jolla Athenaeum Music & Arts Library at Bread & Salt in Barrio Logan. In 2016, approximately twenty of his original sketches on paper were purchased by the Library of Congress for their permanent collection.
Mario continues to paint and curate shows, bringing meaning and vigor to the term “Artivista.”