Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center fosters local community solidarity through creative collaboration between newly arrived immigrants and visiting Oaxaca artisans.
New art in public places (AIPP) installation celebrated at recent presentation by ESB-MACC artist in residence, Margarita Cabrera.
MACC's first artist in residence, Margarita Cabrera.
Our, two visiting Oaxaca Mexican artisans, Ranulfo Sergio Santiago Ibañez and Lucila Sosa Luria.
According to ESB-MACC's first visiting "artist in residence", Margarita Cabrera, "transformative" was the operative word at the recent evening event held in the main auditorium on July 19th, 2012.
Searching for the right wood.
Gathering the wood with the help of the City's arborist.
Transforming pieces of dead wood, selectively gathered at Austin's Guerrero Park (under the expert direction by one of the city's arborist).
Mexican folkloric dancers perform a ritual to honor the wood.
• Transforming discarded pieces of wood into appreciated scared objects through ancient Native-American ceremonial dances.
Our visiting artists, Ranulfo Sergio Santiago Ibañez and Lucila Sosa Luria working on pieces.
Transforming these same pieces of dried wood into objects of great beauty under the loving direction of two masters, members of a long line of Mexican artisans.
Examples of Alebrijes style art that will soon adorn the hallway and the entry way to the MACC's educational wing.
•Transforming a simple entryway into the educational wing into a magical passageway exciting the imagination of our young students and encouraging their inherent creativity.
Everyone involved received plaques of achievements.
Transforming the lives of 18 new immigrants into becoming proud and integral members of the greater Austin Latino community.
A group picture showing pride of collaboration.
Finally, helping to further transform the ESB-MACC into a vehicle for enhancing the sense of community that the Center has always strived to achieve.
Margarita Cabrera, a well-respected El Paso artist, explained that she believes she was chosen by the "Art In Public Places (AIPP)" selection committee exactly because of her history of collaborative community projects. She proposed using her art installation project, titled "Uprooted Dreams" as a way of giving the local immigrant community a sense of enhanced belonging. Equally compelling is her belief that each of us individually has the ability to make substantive differences in the world around us.
One of the finished "Alebrijes" pieces, a giant phantasmagorical mosquito.
Working sketch of the ceiling layout for placement of final pieces and the hallway and the entry way to the MACC's educational wing that will be transformed by the beautiful installation.
This evening's event itself was rather unique. Whereas most AIPP events are intended to unveil the finished piece, this event was formatted to highlight the creative process itself by bringing the community into collaboration with the artists themselves. By having each artist explain the inspiration behind their art work, the entire community becomes part of the creative process.
The MACC staff came up with a creative way of displaying the "Alebrijes" that our artisan visitors brought with them from Mexico. A Taco stand!
Margarita Cabrera at the podium in the MACC's main auditorium.
The first part of the evening took place in the beautiful main auditorium. Margarita showed a short documentary she produced. Shot in a small Zapotec village within walking distance of the ancient ruins of Monte Alban just outside the city of Oaxaca, Mexico, we are introduced to our two visiting Mexican artisans, Ranulfo Sergio Santiago Ibañez and Lucila Sosa Luria in their home workshop.
Full house at MACC's main auditorium.
There, we were able to view the actual process of combining ancient Indian craft traditions and the newer artistic style called "alebrije" (meaning "god is content".) Utilizing the scared Copal tree's wood (a totally renewable resource), these beautiful sculptures are now sold throughout the world. This unique style was created in the 1970's and is generally recognized for its wild colors and phantasmagorical creatures.
Samples of the "Alebrijes" created by our artists.
In the video, we are shown how the division of labor falls between the genders: women paint the wild imaginative figurines, men gather and carve the wood with sharp knives. We learned how this relatively new cooperative business venture gives local women a new and much welcomed sense of empowerment within the traditional (and sometimes abusive) "macho" Zapotec culture. Later the whole family takes Margarita to the ancient ruins to show her how centuries' old Copal trees have always played a significant role in Zapotec history.
Segment from the video Margarita is creating about her project at the MACC.
We then saw two short video segments that will eventually be incorporated into a documentary about this project at the ESB-MACC. Lucila explained that while making the art, creative energy from the artisan enters the sculpture, and after completed, the same benevolent energy continues to radiate outward. I look forward to see the completed documentary when the project is done.
Upstairs tour of the workshop area.
Once in the workshop area, each artist explained the inspiration behind their particular piece. They also spoke of their personal challenges, of separation from family, and country and the difficulties of being a stranger in a strange land. Each one spoke graciously of the kindness they found at the ESB-MACC, the solidarity they felt being a member of the team, and the hope for a better future that this project has given them.
Joy of Collaboration
It was very poignant and for me a real demonstration of the validity of Margarita's vision of the power of collaboration and the healing potential of this art work.
Joy of exploring ones own creativity.
Joy from belonging.
Margarita at work.
MACC staff Linda Irizarry Crockett and Herlinda Zamora, both pleased after an event well done.
We look forward to the exciting unveiling at the project's completion.
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