The UTEP Theater Department fall production of Borderline, a play by El Pasoan Andrew Siañez De La O, staged a sci-fi story set in the old cotton fields of Socorro, Texas. Kim McKean, associate professor of theatre and director of theatre programs at the University of Texas at El Paso said the local setting and culture play an important part in the story. So much so that she and the play’s set designer took a trip out to Socorro, in El Paso County’s Lower Valley, before drafting the set.
“We went to the desert, to the place that Andrew, the playwright, was imagining for the play,” McKean said. She said the theatre department is always interested in representing local voices. “The department has committed to as much as possible, maybe in one show per season or one show every other season – telling a new play, a new story,” she said.
One thing that the coronavirus pandemic has allowed me to do is read. I’ve been able to connect with many stories, characters and settings through the turning of pages. But no matter how connected I can feel to any story, it is deeper with those that feature my homeland on the U.S., Mexico border.What all these books have in common is an understanding of what it is to be somewhere in between two countries – sometimes lost, sometimes more aware than ever. From an odyssey to an identity crisis, from an individual struggle to political battles, these books situate us in the middle of La Frontera and help us understand our history while informing our present.In times of COVID-19, what better way to pass our days than getting to know ourselves and our heritage?1. The Line Becomes a River by Francisco CantúThis book is a memoir from a third generation Mexican-American who is a former Border Patrol agent from Arizona.
Gloria Osuna Pérez spent less than 15 of her 52 years on earth in El Paso. But the Chicana artist continues to be celebrated as a local treasure decades after her passing. Marking the twentieth anniversary of her death from ovarian cancer, the El Paso Museum of Art is featuring “Beyond Portaits,” an exhibition in honor of her work and iconic style. Osuna Pérez was born in Madera, California in 1947. As the child of migrant farm workers she worked the fields picking fruit and witnessed the rise of the Mexican-American civil rights movement.
Border Tuner, a major new public artwork by internationally renowned visual artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, is set to take place in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez in November 2019. The interactive art installation will highlight the complex connections between Juárez and El Paso through a series of nightly conversations and performances that involve residents from both sides of the border and beyond.
The project is designed to shine a light on unity between the two sister cities and the people of both the U.S. and Mexico and aims to help the border community reclaim its own narrative in the national spotlight. “Those of us who live and work here in the El Paso-Juárez border know how interlinked our two communities are and know how important we are to one another’s culture and history,” said Kerry Doyle, director of the Rubin Center for Visual Arts at the University of Texas at El Paso. “As the nation’s attention has turned to the border increasingly in 2019, its important that we share our story and reclaim our narrative as one border community. This project aims to highlight the many ways in which Juárez and El Paso are interconnected.”
LAS CRUCES — The Esperanza Azteca Symphony Orchestra of Ciudad Juarez and New Mexico State University Philharmonic Orchestra came together to highlight “Music Beyond Borders” with joint concerts on both sides of the U.S., Mexico border. More than 100 student musicians performed a variety of pieces including Dvorak’s New World Symphony, Márquez’s Danzón 2, Gershwin’s Summertime conducted under the baton of teachers Simón Gollo of NMSU and Maestro Jove García of Esperanza Azteca. “This concert means a lot to me because it represents the union of these two countries and how we see each other,”said Grace Garcia, a student in Azteca Esperanza orchestra. Student musicians aged 12 to 24 years-old performed together. “Everyone is really talented I had the pleasure to play with them, I felt really comfortable and I loved all the pieces that we play,” said Ana Patricia Gonzalez, a University of Texas at El Paso student.
A new 3D printer gifted to the UTEP Department of Art will allow art students to break boundaries in the arts to create unique sculptures, models and forms that have the potential to go beyond what they can do with their bare hands and sculpting tools. “It provides an amazing opportunity for them to think about their studio practices in a different way,” said Vincent Burke, associate professor of art who specializes in ceramics. “It brings new technologies, new ways of thinking, new ways of seeing – so it’s a tremendous opportunity for the students.”
Burke said ceramics is known to be labor intensive since most artists use their hands to mold clay. Although the 3D printer does help, it can still be challenging and time consuming as one sculpture can take from 45 minutes to three hours. “The clay has to be just the right consistency.
What began as casual coffee shop chats among five El Pasoans has developed into an ongoing friendship and a joint creative venture. Edward Reyes, Jacqueline Aguirre, Javier Hernandez, Carlos Humphreys, and Aryk Gardea met by being regulars at Joe Vinny and Bronsons Bohemian Cafe on Piedras Street in Central El Paso. After discovering a shared appreciation for art, they decided to work together to support their vision of a community gallery. They secured a narrow space next to the coffee shop and opened Galeria Cinco Puntos in January. Gardea, whose background is in art with a BFA in ceramics and painting from UTEP and a MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in sculpture, pitched the idea of launching the gallery with an exhibit featuring the Horned Toad Prints exchange.
It took three years to bring a love letter to El Paso to life in the historical neighborhood of Sunset Heights. Pearl Properties unveiled the mural, Love Letter to Sunset Heights, during the neighborhood’s annual tour of homes last fall. The mural is painted on the side of the Pearl apartment building at 220 Yandell, which overlooks I-10. The Pearl’s owners commissioned Alejandro Lomeli as the artistic director in charge of the painting, but the project didn’t happen overnight. Lomeli, who has lived in three different Pearl buildings – including the one where the mural is now – went off to work as a steelworker in Albuquerque for a while as funding for the project was secured along with permission from the El Paso Historic Landmark Commission.
The works of Mexican artist Betsabee Romero offered a reflection on themes of migration and belonging in an exhibit featured recently at the The Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center at UTEP. The exhibit of large-scale sculptures, prints and installations titled Tu Huella Es Tu Camino (Your Tracks Are Your Path) will be up through Friday, Dec. 14, 2018.
El Paso’s position as a multicultural border city is one of the most defining aspects of its unique character. For Romero, the Rubin Center was a natural landing for her exhibit.
EL PASO – Oaxaca has become known as a cultural center in Mexico with many art galleries and artisan crafts. An exhibit at the Stanlee & Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual arts gives a glimpse of life outside of the big cities of Mexico. Titled “Iconográfika Oaxaca: Contemporary Prints, and Works on Paper,” the exhibit showcases artwork that delves into topics of poverty, border relations, immigration, family, and indigenous culture in Oaxaca. The exhibit also features a wide range of art mediums including prints, photography, paintings, tile work, and sculptures. “I think that people coming to this exhibition can get a preview of…
EL PASO – An art installation that will transmit conversations back and forth across the border on light beams is among 14 finalists that could receive up to $1 million each in the 2018 Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge. UTEP’s Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, along with the Cities of El Paso and Juárez, teamed up to pursue the funding for a joint cross-border art installation. The UT El Paso Office of University Communications provided the following information in a press June 23 release:
“The Rubin Center has a dynamic history of presenting contemporary art that involves artists and audiences from both sides of the border,” said Kerry Doyle, director of the Rubin Center at The University of Texas at El Paso. “This partnership with the City of El Paso, the El Paso Community Foundation and our partners in Juárez highlights the strong connections we have with our sister city, and the importance of building bridges for the future.”
The proposed art installation is titled “Border Tuner.” The project, led by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, includes a series of light and sound installations that will connect El Paso and Juárez with robotic searchlights that make a bridge of light. The light sources open bidirectional live sound channels that allow people from each side of the border to communicate with each other from three stations at Juárez’s Chamizal Park and three at Bowie High School in El Paso. In February, Bloomberg Philanthropies invited mayors from U.S. cities with a population of 30,000 or more to submit proposals for temporary public art projects.
Last April, National Geographic photographers Dominic Bracco, Tyrone Turner, and Amy Toensing brought Photo Camp to Cd. Juarez to encourage young people to share their perspectives on life on the border through photography and writing. Now, a year after photo camp, some of the participants reflect on their experience and how their lives changed after participating in this workshop. “This was a really interesting workshop because I didn’t have any knowledge about photography. Although what stayed with me the most is the human side before taking a photo, they made us get to know the person before capturing their portrait,” said Miriam Cortez, 21 years old, a participant of the Nat-Geo photo camp.
The entertainer Cheech Marin is well-known for his “Cheech and Chong” movies and his upbeat, unapologetic humor that has brought laughter to homes around the world for decades. Marin is no longer making movies but he is an avid collector or art, some of it by Latino artists. An exhibit of his collection, Papel Chicano Dos, is now on display at the El Paso Museum of Art through July 17. It features Chicano artists from different border cities such as San Diego and Los Angeles. The show includes 65 different pieces by 24 artists.
EL PASO – Art History Major Alejandra Valdez recently spent an hour at the DoArt Faculty exhibit on the UTEP campus where she had the chance of seeing for the first time the work of her instructors. She said the experience was “inspiring.” “I felt inspired,” said the 21-year-old Valdez. “I found that some of my professors participated in the exhibit. My art appreciation professor Alexandra McGovern displayed some pieces, my art history professor supervised a description of an art piece that a student wrote and even my advisor Terri Bauer was involved,” she added.
In Northeast El Paso is a small shop with B.B. King on the loudspeakers and bold green letters that read “Framing Concepts.” This is Alfredo Sanchez’s domain – a frame-making mecca that helped display the works of Gaspar Enriquez, Tom Lea, and Hal Marcus. Sanchez, now 67, has been framing for over 40 years, opening his own frame shop in 1995. “I’ve always been interested in art. High school, college, and stuff like that.,” he said.
La policía federal de México decidió darle una nueva cara a la institución, creando una orquesta y un mariachi conformado de policías que tienen vocación por la música. “Como parte del Mariachi de la Policía Federal nuestro trabajo es la proximidad social”dijo la policía tercera Norma Casillas, de 31 años, cantante del mariachi. “Tenemos que estar cien por ciento entregados para crear vínculos con la sociedad”. Los policías de la sinfónica han estudiado música en diferentes escuelas del país, tanto como en el conservatorio nacional de música. La idea principal de crear la orquesta fue establecer un vínculo con la sociedad y fomentar y difundir la cultura musical.
Con diversos colores y un sinfín de detalles artísticos, el Consulado de México en El Paso tiene programado estrenar en el próximo mes un nuevo mural el cual promueve la unión de México y los Estados Unidos al igual que la bi-nacionalidad. Paloma Vianey Martínez, artista creadora del mural, es una estudiante de historia del arte y pintura en la Universidad de Texas en El Paso. Martínez, que nació en Ciudad Juárez y tiene 21 años de edad, fue recomendada por la Presidenta de la Universidad Diana Natalicio para que fuera ella quien llevara a cabo esta ardua tarea. “Paloma es un talento de UTEP y la propia doctora Diana Natalicio me la presentó y me comentó que ha sido una persona que ha destacado. Tuve el interés de conversar con ella y pedirle que pudiera aportar al consulado su talento y su arte,” dijo Marcos Bucio, Cónsul General de México en El Paso.
Walking the halls of the Roderick Artspace lofts, bright colors, quotes from famous authors on seizing the day, and indie music leaking through closed doors can all be experienced before even entering the resident’s lofts. An eclectic variety of people fill the 51 lofts in the new Roderick Artspace apartments in
downtown El Paso, especially people who make around 30% to 60% of the area median income and would like to dedicate themselves fully to their craft. Found on 601 N Oregon Street, Artspace is a location for both artists and local businesses looking to attract artistic commerce and improve the city’s cultural representation. Though not having long since the first residents began to move in, the Artspace is charged with creative energy. The first floor provides space for businesses that are attracted by the area such as the Kalavera Culture shop and El Paso Opera.
The newly renovated San Jacinto Plaza has not only received attention from El Pasoans, but also from many talented photographers – both local and worldwide. “I’m a hobbyist. I’ve dropped a lot of money on photography, so I’m pretty obsessed with the whole hobby,” Jay said. Jay, also known as “that1duder” on Instagram, is a photographer from Seattle who traveled to El Paso three years ago to pursue his hobby of photography. “Coming down here, I didn’t know what to expect.
Galleries and museums are embracing local artists like never before, giving them more exposure as the El Paso creative community begins to prosper, artists say. “Before I moved to Los Angeles, the only places I would see local art was like at bars,” said Matthew Martinez, better known by his alias JAM! “That was my first experience with seeing really talented artists in a bar setting. Seeing that, I really wanted to give people an opportunity to have something in a traditional, real, contemporary gallery because I feel like there’s a lacking for that,” Martinez said. Martinez opened his gallery and store, Dream Chasers Club, 200 S. Santa Fe St., in 2015 after living in California and on the East Coast.
Natalie Scenters-Zapico, who was an undergraduate Creative Writing major at UT El Paso, has won the prestigious 2017 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry, for her collection of poems “The Verging Cities.”
“From her undergraduate writing career at UTEP, she went on to become a fully-funded graduate student at the University of New Mexico, and is now one of our country’s most literarily-recognized emerging writers,” said Sasha Pimentel, assistant professor of poetry and creative nonfiction at UTEP. Judges for the award said the collection, published by the Center for Literary Publishing, Colorado State University, shows Scenters-Zapico is an “an important emerging poet whose formal and tonal range in The Verging Cities is impressive and disarming.” Scenters-Zapico’s style brings the border to life, the judges wrote:
“Her voice is honest, engaging, and complex as she explores the liminal space of the U.S./Mexico border with vivid imagery that moves fluidly between Juárez and El Paso. At times both tender and funny, she writes so that the border becomes not just an idea, but a rich and real world. With poems that are as intelligent as they are urgent, Natalie Scenters-Zapico offers a necessary poetic voice in these perilous times.”
EL PASO – If this border city’s culture could be captured on a T-shirt, the Proper Printshop is probably the place that is printing it. The spirit of the Sun City is at the heart of the central El Paso shop at 800 Montana where owners J.J. Childress and Alan Hudson embrace the language, the people and the city itself in their designs. The owners and employees work are also passionate about helping clients transform their own ideas into works of art. “We don’t want to be the shop that you go into, you have a bad design and they say OK and just print it,” Childress said. “We want to help you improve and shape your artwork.”
The print shop is not only known for creating art, but also promoting El Paso’s unique culture and local art scene.
With altruism as the main drive behind his art collection, UTEP librarian Juan Sandoval has amassed over 1,000 works of art that he keeps in his modest Sunset Heights apartment. “I always had poor friends growing up, so I would help them out by buying their art,” said Sandoval. The first time he bought a piece was in 1975 to encourage a friend. “In college, I used to buy original works of art for $25,” he joked. The works Sandoval has acquired throughout the years range from simple Native American tapestry to intricate and abstract lithographs made by prominent artists such as Luis Jimenez, Francisco Toledo and Marta Arat.
The El Paso Museum of Art makes its home in the heart of downtown El Paso in the world’s largest international border community. Because of this border community, we see art that is rich in the culture and reflects the surrounding areas and history. Many people visit the museum each year but many locals don’t know the unique facts, history or resources that the museum offers. Here are some things worth knowing about our El Paso Museum of Art (EPMA). 1.
WASHINGTON – When someone looks into a complete stranger’s eyes he gets a glimpse of the stranger’s personality or character. When the person notices the stranger’s mud-covered feet, she might understand the stranger’s hopes or desperation. Gazing at these strangers for a moment can spark an interest in who these people are and what their stories are. These are the kinds of emotions Gaspar Enriquez and Rigoberto Gonzalez, two of the three Latino artists chosen as finalists for the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, hope to provoke through their paintings. Every three years, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery seeks work from artists from all over the country to highlight the art of portraiture.
LAS CRUCES, NM — The best things in life are made by hand and that holds especially true for Jim Patterson of Patterson Hornworks, currently one of a handful of designer-makers of custom hand crafted French horns in the U.S.
Patterson and his wife Cora work together from their home with their sons, Philip and Ian. They have lived and worked here since 2005. This unique world-class instrument making facility started with a repair shop in 1995 in the Los Angeles area. “This all started from doing repairs,” says Jim as he looks over a Double Descant French horn brought in by a customer. Jim, 59, originally from the Los Angeles area, started his musical career at an early age.
Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Arturo Avalos grew up in area of town known as Segundo Barrio, one of the oldest immigrant neighborhoods in the city. As a first generation Mexican American, Avalos said the discrimination he experienced as a child growing up has had a deep impact on his art and life. In elementary school he discovered his passion for drawing and was often scolded by teachers to complete his classwork instead of doodling. At the age of 12 he became a young activist after the mostly Mexican-American workers at Farah, a garment manufacturing company where his sister and neighbors worked, went on strike because of low wages, no medical benefits, work quotas and better working conditions at the company. “I volunteered and did what they needed, handing out flyers, explaining our position,” said Avalos.
A faint sound of a motor engine rumbles in your ear as you enter the building. When you look to your right, high above the ground, there’s a video of a couple of people floating in air and you automatically feel like you’re in space. The flying, the colors, and the vast, clean space make “Territory of the Imagination,” the Rubin Center’s exhibition and the celebration for it’s 10th anniversary, entertainingly futuristic. “In our tenth anniversary we wanted to think about where we were at and so in a playful way, we are looking towards the future. These are all futuristic topics and imagery,” Kerry Doyle, managing director, said.
EL PASO — Translucent white porcelain clays, rulers, pencils and pieces of guns are scattered in Margarita Cabrera’s workspace as she peacefully sits inside her sanctuary surrounded by her sculptures and creations. Cabrera, a local sculptor, educator and mother of two, focuses her art on the difficulties related to immigration. “I address issues of cultural identity, labor practices, craft, community, empowerment, and violence,” Cabrera said. Cabrera, 42, was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, but moved to the U.S. at around the age of 10, when her family was in search of better opportunities. Her inspiration to become an artist began in childhood.
The UTEP Centennial Museum opened its doors to the Icons & Symbols of the Borderland exhibit this past October, featuring art from 22 JUNTOS artists, demonstrating the story of the borderland, through their own personal interpretations. Founded in 1985, JUNTOS Art Association is a non-profit organization promoting cultural appreciation of the diversity of the border community through the arts. The exhibit was the brainchild of artist and curator Diana Molina, who is also executive director of JUNTOS. The objective of the exhibit is to “provide a more powerful depiction of the borderland,” by including a diversity of artistic representations of the border. According to Molina, many of the personal interpretations in the exhibit take into account the European and Indigenous influence on border culture.
For bilingual, bicultural border cities like El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, the story of two lovers whose miscommunication leads to their tragic death does not sound far fetched. Although Shakespeare’s plays were originally written in English, many, like Romeo and Juliet and Othello, have been performed all over the world in bilingual fashion to attract a broader audience. For this year’s 27th season of the local acting company, “Shakespeare on the Rocks,” Artistic Director Hector Serrano directed for the second time a bilingual version of Romeo and Juliet at the binational Chamizal National Park near downtown El Paso. The bilingual Romeo and Julieta play embodies the mission of The Chamizal, which commemorates the diplomatic negotiation between the United States and Mexico through the Chamizal Treaty. This new treaty, which ended a border dispute over land in 1848 when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo established the Río Grande River as the international boundary, negotiated the borderline because the river had naturally moved leaving Mexico with less land than was originally granted in the 1848 Treaty.