Latino Art and its importance in the local/national dialogue

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By Armando Vazquez, M.Ed.

Latinos were the flavor of the month, on and off, throughout the 1980’s for many disingenuous politicians and the news media in America. Television and news publications became enamored (delusional) with what appeared to a sure fire upward trajectory of Latino political influence. So while the Latino masses watched with jaundiced eyes, the media in collusion with both major political parties manufactured a phony two-dimensional American upward mobility/assimilation story. They hyped it up with dubious statistics that highlighted the supposed rise of the Latino Decade. Their unequivocal conclusion was that Latinos were an ethnic power to be reckoned with as legitimate soon-to–be- equal partners with the rest of the American population going forward into the new millennium. Of course, it did not work out that way because we were never involved in the franchise. We were pimped and many of our so-called leaders betrayed us!

Here we are in 2017, and the Latino population still lags behind, and in some cases is falling further behind the general population in economic and political gains that had been temporarily achieved three decades earlier.  With Trump in the White House the economic, political and social justice outlook for Latino America looks grimmer than ever. On a local and national level we have little to no political clout; and as such we are pathetically impotent in our new incarnation have become the “whipping boy/girl” minority for Trump and his horde of rabid economic nationalists that want nothing more than to round us all up and ship “all those Latinos” back to our country of origin –Mexico. This ignorant group-think is as dangerous as it is infectious. We Latinos must be smarter and stand up to this evil.  Our art and culture are our powerful redemptive weapons of non-violent resistance, self-determination and unity.

Indeed, where the Latinos have made incremental, yet notable, progress in American life is the arts. And the reason why we have made such notable progress is due largely and to a very significant degree because the “product of creation “is in our hearts and hands, and can’t be easily ripped off, although American capitalism never stops trying. Art in all its glorious manifestations and mutations is a magical, transformational, and universal power that we Latinos must embrace and exercise exponentially. This is why Latino art and culture is so vital, and so important; not for one artificially designated token month (September 15- October 16 designated as Latino Heritage Month) but for the entire year, for a lifetime.

Currently in Oxnard and throughout the Ventura County we are commemorating and celebrating three major Latino events concurrently; Independence Day for Guatemala, September 15th and Mexico’s Independence Day, September 16th. Secondly there is Latino Heritage Month, September 16–October 17; as well as the Getty Foundation’s funded, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA a celebration and tribute to Latino Arts. In Oxnard and throughout the Southland area there is a tremendous amount of passionate and focused energy and talent that is driving some very significant Latino arts and cultural events currently taking place.

We, at the Acuna Arts Collective, have partnered with the city of Oxnard and are currently showcasing Latino Visions in Oxnard-2017. This is a historic and comprehensive art exhibition that features the extensive Latino/Chicana art collection of Armando Vazquez and Dr. Debbie De Vries and others. In this vast collection we features world  renowned Latino/Chicana artists: Jackie Biaggi, Frank Romero, David Flury, Frank Martinez, Magu, Margaret Garcia,  and Mely Torchez along with notable local artists like Ruben Renteria, John Del Rosario, Elisa Torres, Alfredo “El Casper”, Felipe Diaz. George Becerra  among others. The art exhibition is being housed in a city of Oxnard building that had been abandoned and not utilized for many years.  With the creative partnership of the city, local artist and the Acuna Art Gallery Collective, the old abandoned city building is now an active hub of art and community activism and sharing.

During the opening art exhibition weekend we had hundreds of visitors to our two art galleries in the downtown area. We will be hosting children and parents from local school districts in the coming weeks, and plan to have a variety of arts and educational forums and presentations that include: Oxnard Writers Forum, September 29, 2017;  multiple One Love Dance Company of Oxnard performances, and the Meet the Art Masters of the Oxnard Community Forum in mid-October 2017, as well as other hosting interactive arts programs for the entire community.

The Ventura County Museum is currently exhibiting the Ayer y Todavia Art Exhibition curated by the Latino Advisory Board. They report that they had spectacular attendance with close to 600 folks in attendance for their opening night.  The Ayer y Todavia Exhibition has some of the greatest iconic Chicana(o) masterworks to be found anywhere. This is a historic art show not to be missed. This great exhibition runs from September 15th through November, 2017.

CSUN is showcasing The Great Wall of Los Angeles: the 2,754 feet long mural that runs along the concrete wall of the Tujunga Flood Control Channel and into the heart of the San Fernando Valley. The Great wall was the brainchild of renowned artist Judith F. Baca in 1974. The Great Wall Mural depicts important events in California and CSUN’s University Galleries will host the Great Wall of Los Angeles; Judith F. Baca’s Experimentation in Collaboration and Concrete.  The exhibition will run from October 14, through December 16, 2017

CSUCI is hosting El Museo de Historia, Arte y Cultura Revisitado retrospective. This important Chicana retrospective runs from September 14 through November 17, 2017. The archival material and master Chicana(o) art work is on  displayed at the Broome Library and the Napa Salon.

In Santa Barbara there is a lot of wonderful Latino art exhibitions, symposium and community workshops that are taking place from UCSB, to Westmount College to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and other venues.  Vleska Soares: Any Moment Now Exhibition; will take place at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, from September 17 through December 31, 2017.The Schoolhouse and the Bus; Mobility, Pedagogy, and Engagement, are two Projects by Pablo Helguera, and Susanne Lacy/Pilar Riano-Alcala, will take place at the Art, Design and Architecture (ADA) Museum at UCSB, from September 27 through December 8, 2017. Sacred Art in the Age of Contrast: Chumash and Latin American Traditions in Santa Barbara at the ADA of UCSB from September 15th through January 14, 2018.

Arte cura mucho mas que la locura. Art creation and sharing is a magical elixir for the heart and mind that helps us become art gods of creation and liberation. In the fifty plus years that I have been painting, writing and teaching these art forms to our at-promise youth in my community I have found nothing that comes close to the magical transformational power of the arts to liberate the soul. Art is a wondrous mighty thing, and who knows: it may yet infuse itself into the American psyche and liberate it from our current national nightmare threatening to rip this country apart. Art is the divine, magical and creative glue that can and will hold all America together in a loving caring embrace. We must actively embrace and promote our art and culture so that it weaves its magic into the hearts and mind of all Americans.

Crazy Love by Amando Vazquez


Armando Vazquez

Armando Vazquez, M.Ed.  is Executive Director of  Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A, Executive Director for The KEYS Leadership Academy and Chairman of the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health/coalition


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