When students and staff at Higley’s Coronado Elementary School decided they wanted a mural in the front office, they found their artist in an unlikely place. “I told one of the teachers I know how to paint,” said Carlos Mendoza, the school custodian.
Mendoza did a sample painting for principal Theodora Schiro, and she agreed to let him paint the mural, which now spans two walls in the school’s front office.
Mendoza, 56, did his first oil painting when he was 8 or 9 years old, he said. He credits his art teachers at Yuma’s Kofa High School for helping develop his skills.
“I loved my art teachers in high school,” he said. “I’ve always (been) inspired by what they taught me.”
Mendoza continued painting as a hobby and side business. He’s also painted a wall in the office at Higley’s Gateway Pointe Elementary School, and did an aquarium mural at a Big Lots where he used to work.
Mendoza said he always tries to paint a scene that tells a story. His mural at Coronado is Arizona-themed, beginning with a desert scene and a family of coyotes, the school mascot. It also includes rabbits, quail and horses, and ends with the red rocks and Oak Creek in Sedona.
“I really like the coyote,” Schiro said. “Usually you see the howling coyote, but ours is a family. That’s what we’re all about, is taking care of kids.”
The mural, completed over just three weekends during the summer, has drawn rave reviews from the Coronado community and teachers have already commissioned Mendoza to paint murals in their classrooms and in their homes.
Mendoza has also painted murals — one featuring Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk, and the other, a baseball scene — for his two grandsons.
Schiro said other schools have begun asking for murals as well.
“We’re lucky to have such a beautiful mural, and such a talented member of our staff,” she said.