Artist Diego Garcia works on a “Día de los Muertos” mask for an upcoming gallery opening.(Valeria Hernandez/

Mural painter finds an educational mission in graffiti

EL PASO – As Diego Garcia, driven by inspiration and the waves crashing on the shore, was on the very last stroke of his painting on the seawall at Venice Beach, next to mural-master Sano’s famous masterpiece, the beach patrol arrived and ordered him to stop painting and leave. “I found a wall and I started to paint. I took one section that was all messed up,” says Garcia, 21, recalling one of his most memorable pieces from two summers ago when he visited Venice Beach, California. “I remembered Sano’s piece from a movie I had seen on Netflix filmed in 1992. I thought it was insane that I could be painting next to his piece.”

From drawing Ninja Turtles and Dragonball Z characters when he was a first grader to working on his art education at The University of Texas at El Paso, Garcia’s talent shines.

Marfa, TX, a town of about 2,000 people is a hub for contemporary art in the Southwest. (Amber Watts/

Marfa – Tiny Texas town is a vibrant hub for contemporary art in the Southwest

MARFA, TX – An hour’s drive north of Ojinaga, Mexico, sits an isolated “little island of actors, writers, and artists of all kinds” as gallery owner, Ree Willaford, affectionately calls this west Texas town of 2,000 souls. Willaford is the owner, director and curator of Galleri Urbane, with locations here and in Dallas, specializing in contemporary art. In Marfa, the satellite exhibit lounge is located at the Thunderbird Hotel. Willaford and her family started in 1992 with “Contradiction,” an organic juice and coffee shop that also carried non-organic treats like tiramisu in historic Ybor City, the old Hispanic cigar-making district of Tampa, Florida. The Willaford family then moved to Silver City, New Mexico where Ree’s husband Jason, an artist, started open house showings with photographer Michael Burman.

Instructor Yasmine Ramirez (left) leads participants of the ForWord project at Glassbox, Crystal Acuna, Jasmine Flores and Perla Ramirez. (Yuritzy Ramos/

ForWord: A free creative writing workshop for El Paso teens

EL PASO – At noon on a recent Saturday, 16-year-old Jasmin Flores sits at a round table in a downtown storefront gallery and stares at a picture of a man wearing a tee shirt raising his two fists into the air. After thinking for a few minutes, she uses her imagination to write in longhand on a piece of paper a story about two boys playing together with a ball. These and many other activities are practiced each Saturday during a “ForWord” workshop that helps teenage students develop their creativity when writing from short stories to essays. Flores is been attending the workshops, sponsored by a local non profit organization, since the January sessions started. She said each workshop has been different.

U.S. Poet Laureate, Philip Levine, at a recent visit to the University of Texas at El Paso. (David A. Reyes/

U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine – A lifetime of giving a thundering voice to the voiceless

EL PASO – Poet Laureate Philip Levine, still as fit and funny at age 85 as he was as a young man working the night shift at a car factory, shared his special brand of earthy, poignant and insightful poetry – and a sizable measure of good humored repartee ­– with over 1000 fans at UTEP recently. The poet of the working class, who was born in Detroit to poor Russian Jewish immigrant parents, began writing professionally in the early 1950’s and has been giving “a voice to the voiceless” ever since. His message and poetry resonated with his El Paso audience in a city that is predominately Hispanic and working class. Asked by Sociologist Gina Nuñez what he thinks of the billions spent by the U.S. government erecting walls along the 2000-mile border, Levine responded: “The worst walls are the ones we can’t see because we are erecting interior walls. You say they’re dividing families.

Actresses (from left), Andrea De Anda, Lluvia Almanza and Paloma Pelayo are las vecinas, three characters that represent Chicano culture familiar to El Pasoans. (Kimberly Garcia/

Electra is a vieja from ancient Greece, suffering like a Chicana in East LA

EL PASO – Las vecinas walk in, brooms in hand, gossiping about neighborhood happenings like a scene straight out of a novela, only this time the situation comes not from television but from ancient Greek drama. This rendition of the Greek classic tragedy Electra, opened at the Theatre and Dance Department at the University of Texas at El Paso March 13 for a four-day run with a twist. According to director Rebecca Rivas, playwright Luis Alfaro used the Greek tragedy as a skeleton for Electricidad, his Chicano rendition of the classic, by placing it in an East L.A. barrio and infusing Chicano culture into his work. “He allows our culture to bleed in,” said Rivas, “and it forms it’s own really funny and heartbreaking play.”

The plot of Electricidad is the same as its ancient counterpart. The themes of revenge and family are there, but there are a few differences.

“This whole area I thought was just kind of mysterious for me. I liked the culture. I liked the desert. I found it fascinating,” said Welsh. (David A. Reyes/

Lawrence Welsh – Digging for verse in the deserts of the Southwest

EL PASO – The watercolor on the wall in Lawrence Welsh’s office gleams with warm sun spilling across the panorama, as if light lived inside every leaf, every strand of grass, every inch of wood and tin. The Associate Professor of English at El Paso Community College said it reminds him of his own deep “digging” for art, poetry and history in the desert lands of the Southwest. In his new collection of poems written from 1994 to 2009, Begging for Vultures, Welsh sweeps readers through voices and landscapes of the Southwest. His personal excavation began in Los Angeles where he was raised, and where he began uncovering his love for words and music, co-founding the punk rock band, The Alcoholics in the late 1970’s, then writing and editing on newspapers, and writing fiction and poetry. Now, he teaches at the community college.

Magnificent Warning Monument by Máximo González. (Jaqueline Armijo/

Ordinary objects challenge perception in Maximo Gonzalez’ art exhibit

EL PASO – Spectators are entangled in an intertwined mess of black cords connected to a red piggy bank, red back scratchers and other red knick-knacks that transforms the entrance of a conventional public building into a world of obsessive red. Maximo Gonzalez’s exhibit “Magnificent Warning” is one of the three current art exhibits featured at the Stanlee & Gerald Rubin Center at the University of Texas at El Paso. The exhibit will be showcased until March 15.  Gonzalez is a recognized Argentine artist who has left a profound mark in the art world. “The mission of the Rubin Center is to bring world class contemporary art to the El Paso region, and Maximo is certainly at the top end kind of the artists we bring. He’s got a really fantastic trajectory.

The Urban Art-Fitters League of El Paso working on "Winter wonderland" at Fourth St. (Iris Lopez/

Local artists intend to beautify downtown El Paso one alley at a time

El PASO – Sun City artists are showcasing their art in the sun. The main goal of the Urban Art-Fitters League of El Paso is to beautify the streets of downtown El Paso, one alley at a time.  Their theme is to “make love not war.”

After a tragic car accident took the lives of Jeannette Lazaro and Evalynn Rose, both close friends of Silver IsReal, he found a way to deal with the grief and keep the spirit of both girls alive. With this concept in mind, he and Carlo Mendo cofounded the Urban Art-Fitters Street Gallery project. “Make love not war was the last thing that Jeanette wrote on her mirror before she passed away, and it is something that I keep really close to my heart. I wanted to keep her and Evalynn’s spirit alive so I started the ‘Make love not war’ project” IsReal said.

El Paso Art Association organized the first annual "International Eye of the Camera". (Ernie Chacon/

The International Eye of the Camera focuses on El Paso photography

EL PASO – Photographs ranging from the beautiful scenery of the El Paso Mountains to the simplicity of a self-portrait dazzled spectators at the first annual “International Eye of the Camera” event at the Crossland Gallery. “We were most pleased for a first exhibit like this, with the number of entries and the quality of entries,” said Joyce Ewald, office administrator of the El Paso Art Association. The Art Association hosted the event November 30, which featured photographers from El Paso, Las Cruces, and Juarez.  The idea for the “International Eye of the Camera” came after the recent “Arts International” event, which excluded photographs because of limited space at the Crossland gallery. Ewald and a committee of four other members, decided to create an event solely for photographers.  “I felt that there were a lot of members who were photographers and I felt that they deserved a show too,” said Ewald. A total of 97 photographs were sent in, but the Art Association is hoping to see that number continue to grow at next year’s event.  “We need more photographers to get involved with the association.  If you want these events to happen you have to raise money” said Ernest L. Salazar, owner of ELS Photography, who also handed out one of the awards for the event.

Venerable Losang Samten. (Luisana Duarte/

UTEP’s sand mandala elicits eternity through impermanence

EL PASO – Dressed in brown robes and a white dust mask covering his mouth, a Buddhist monk hunches over and inspects the mandala – a circle decorated with multi-colored sand he is in the process of constructing on a wooden scaffold. The monk then straightens up, takes a deep breath and hunches back down. He meditates about peace in the borderland while scraping a few grains of colored sand off a metal tube and depositing them on the forming artwork. The monk creating the mandala, the Venerable Losang Samten, is a retired professor and spiritual director at the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia and has been visiting El Paso for over 20 years, almost since he first came to the United States. “I was born in Tibet, but when it was attacked I moved to India with my family, I was 11 years old,” Samten said.

(Graphic Design by Raul R. Saenz)

My personal Fever Chart perspective on the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict

EL PASO – I am extremely content to have been part of this risky play, The Fever Chart. It changed my perspective of the Arab-Israeli conflict and I hope the production taught other young minds to not be oblivious to a continuing war that is happening this very second. The Arabs and the Israelis have been ripping each other to threads ever since I can remember. War kills love and joy, along with piles of people. And the only question I ask myself is this.

Rembrandt, Rubens, and Golden Age of Painting in Europe, currently at El Paso Museum of Art. (Christina Duran/

Understanding the Baroque through paintings, music and theater

EL PASO — Using words such as chiaroscuro, castrati, and rima to describe paintings by Caravaggio and other Italian artists, Jon Seydl explained the blend of music, poetry, and theater in Baroque paintings. ‘The Lute Player,’ a painting by Caravaggio in the late 16th century was one of the images explained by Seydl. It portrays an androgynous figure believed to be a castrato in a camerino, a small room in houses used for private performances. In the image, the castrato is playing a lute, a violin, a tenor recorder, a spinetta, and a musical score in front of him. This painting is a perfect example how the different aspects of the Baroque culture are shown in the paintings.

San Elizario’s unique revival gathers local history, gardening and hundreds of artists

SAN ELIZARIO, TX – There’s only one place in El Paso County where a family can see work by hundreds of artists, visit a veteran’s museum, get a homemade empanada at a café, see a live band at a restaurant that’s right next to the jail that once housed Billy the Kid, then walk a few blocks down the street to a community garden. This is the San Elizario Historic district, also known as “San Eli,” home to the only art district in the county, located about 10 miles east of the city limits. “We started this madness out here in 2009 with the Main Street Gallery and things just quickly grew,” said Al Borrego, a self-taught artist who invests most of his time promoting San Elizario and all the artists. “I take pride in my community and I think with the history and talent out here, it’s the perfect place for something like this.”

There are over 100 artists exhibiting their artwork in about 40 galleries, with more venues on the way. The artworks range from traditional acrylic and oil paintings, to iron and woodwork as well as sculptures, stained glass and jewelry.

The Plaza Theatre reopened as the Plaza Theatre Performing Arts Center on March 17, 2006. (Oscar Garza/

The Classic Film Festival to welcome Al Pacino at El Paso’s historic Plaza Theatre

EL PASO – Nostalgia is a wonderful thing when you are well along in life. The memories of youth many times built around classic films are resurrected during the very rare film festivals held from time to time. Well, more than 80 classic films will be shown in El Paso in August. The Plaza Classic Film Festival will be held August 2 – 12 at the historic Plaza Theater. The festival was created in 2008 to celebrate this country’s rich cinema history and rekindle the joy of going to the movies.

The Lounge also works as an art gallery. (Kristopher Rivera/

Music and art now pervade the ambiance of the Sumatra Hookah Lounge

EL PASO – A new lifestyle is sprouting on the corner of Mesa and Rio Grande where the Sumatra Hookah Lounge weathered by a blend of cultures and creativity has become a point of origin for many talented artists in the area. “The culture is kind of growing into more of like a musical inclined thing,” said David Zubia (bass/vocalist) of Squids Ltd. “We have a lot of electric music scene, and it’s kind of cool to see these rock bands come out and then connect with the crowd, have a good time with the crowd, and involve them.”

The Genesis of this movement began with the ambitions of David Aver, owner of Sumatra Hookah Lounge, took over the tavern from its previous owner on December 2010. “With Sumatra it was primarily a hookah but there were so many young artists that would come and visit my establishment that I decided to kind of make it my mission to contribute to the community by providing an outlet for local musicians,” Aver said. “So as far as on the music side we’re having a lot of people and everyone’s welcomed.”

David Zubia, Stan Zubia and Manuel Hernandez have played a few shows at Sumatra and are an example of the local talent that use the venue as a starting platform.

Centro de Trabajadores Agrícolas Fronterizos at Oregon St. and 9th St. (Annette Baca/

Puro Borde murals show the colors of hope in the border cities

EL PASO – Local artists from El Paso and Ciudad Juarez have joined together in a network that spans the border, dedicated to painting the streets of both cities with hopeful art to refocus the minds of many who see this area as a war zone. The network known as Puro Borde, consists of more than two dozen artists from the El Paso-Juarez area who help each other exhibit their murals, turning their cities into more colorful communities. They also place their work in local galleries. Self-described “border artist” Arón Venegas, is a member of Puro Borde in El Paso who believes that art communicates with power. Venegas, a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso, has worked on a variety of murals with Puro Borde and has exhibited his work in both Mexico and the U.S.

As for creating a sense of pride in a community through public art, Venegas suggests that a single mural cannot have the power that many with the same objective can.

Coroto Magazine's website showing its second issue focused on Japanese Literature. (©Coroto)

UTEP Resources Help Launch Magazine

By Sandy Hicks

EL PASO – Webster’s dictionary describes serendipity as “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.” UTEP Master of Fine Arts in creative writing students Daniel Ríos Lopera and Daniel Centeno, and 2011 graduate Diego Bustos, could have written the book on serendipity – or rather the magazine – and it seems they have. Revista COROTO is a slick literary magazine brimming with poetry, prose and photographs contributed by more than 20 writers, some of them Nobel Laureates and Cervantes Prize winners from five Latin American countries as well as France, Japan and England, all translated into Spanish. The first issue, printed in December 2011, is a compact, full-color edition with the theme El Fin de la Inocencia (the end of innocence). The weight of its 150 pages makes it feel more like a softcover coffee table book than a magazine, and the cover has a velvety feel. The circuitous swirl of serendipity began when Columbian international students Ríos from Medellín, Columbia; Bustos from Bogota, Colombia; and Centeno, from Puerto de la Cruz, Venezuela, met in UTEP’s Department of Creative Writing while pursuing their MFAs.

Hearts of Fire exhibition at La Galería de la Misión de Senecu. (Erika Lopez/

Women in the arts hope to inspire “Hearts of Fire” in their students


EL PASO – The artworks along the hallways displayed rich colors and vivid patterns of nature, people, and religious motifs, images that sprang from women artists creating their own art. The exhibition, “Hearts of Fire,” at La Galería de la Misión De Senecu Ysleta ISD Fine Arts Department, was presented recently by the Art Swap program of the Union de Viejas Artistas (UVAs), a group of practicing and retired women art teachers who support art education and encourage personal artistic growth. However, they confess that their true devotion lies in providing their young art students with the best possible education. “Educators have little access to support and professional development. That is how the group came to be,” said Lorena Williams, the founding member and creator of UVAs Art Swap.

As far as the eye can see. (Ezra Rodriguez/

Viewing the world through photography keeps the artist motivated and inspired

EL PASO – When my passion for photography started six years ago my sensei, friend, and fellow photographer, Victor Peña told me that photography was like marriage. “Many people think that being a photographer is a piece of cake, but it is much harder that it appears to be,” he said. He also told me that to achieve a successful marriage a person has to work hard to get it. Photography is not much different. I have found that not all days are going to be happy and cheerful; there are days when things are not going to be as one plans.

Stands were scattered across Lincoln Park as people danced, enjoyed oldies music, savored delicious Mexican food, and enjoyed a variety of artwork. (Cassandra Morrill/

Community groundswell advocates for the preservation of the historic Lincoln Center

EL PASO — Hundreds of El Pasoans gathered here recently in a peaceful protest to  remember Chicano activist César Chávez and to demand that the city reopen the Lincoln Cultural Arts Center, El Paso’s first school and the city’s first Hispanic art center. The Lincoln Center, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, first opened as a school and later changed into an art gallery. It is located near the Chamizal neighborhood, were 97 percent of the population is Hispanic. Traditionally a place for children to keep busy, instead of causing trouble on the streets, the Lincoln Center  also provided the community with computers and Internet access. The Center was shut down by the city due to a mold infestation after heavy rains in 2006 and  according to Hector Gonzalez, the head of the Lincoln Park Conservation Committee, which is dedicated to saving the center, city officials say it will cost $3.6 million to reopen the center.

Roberto Perezdíaz.... (Oscar Garza/

Más sabe el diablo que el escritor Roberto Perezdíaz

Read this story in English

EL PASO – El viejo ­que solo puede ver en blanco y negro, mientras que platica con un muchacho se da cuenta de las diferencias de la vida para poder experimentar y entenderlas. Un rito de pasaje de la niñez a la vejez es un tema fuerte en las escrituras de Roberto Perezdíaz. Él describe cómo a través de la madurez una persona es capaz de recorrer los senderos de la vida y los coloca en el desierto de la frontera. Con el lanzamiento de su nuevo libro Más sabe el diablo, Perezdíaz ha reunido una colección de cuentos que exploran temas de inocencia y cinismo, a través de cuentos que incorporan el humor y la introspección. “Cada cuento con la excepción de El papalote y Tomasito es de una verdadera idea independiente.

Roberto Perezdíaz.... (Oscar Garza/

The devil knows more than author Roberto Perezdíaz

Lea esta historia en español

EL PASO – The old man is color blind, but as he converses with the younger man he brings to life the contrasts and dilemmas they must go through in order to understand la vida. A person’s rite of passage from childhood to adulthood is a powerful theme in Roberto Perezdíaz’ writing.  He describes how maturity makes people more adept at walking the paths to life and he places them in the desert of the borderland. With the release of his new book Más sabe el diablo, Perezdíaz has assembled a collection of short stories that explore themes of innocence and maturity through a collection of funny, insightful stories. “Every story with the exception of El papalote and Tomasito are independent ideas. But I noticed that one of the themes bubbling through the surface of the stories is that of oneself and the more you mature, the more knowledgeable you become,” Perezdíaz said.

Phtographs from “The Beatles Illuminated: The Discovered Works of Mike Mitchell” were auctioned by Christie's on the 20th of July, 2011. (Photo courtesy of Mike Mitchell)

Light itself is a spiritual quest for famed Beatles photographer Mike Mitchell

EL PASO – A sense of adventure, a camera and a little bit of luck marked the beginning of a young photographer’s career, tools that paid off nearly 50 years later for Mike Mitchell. At the age of 18, Mitchell was living in Washington, D.C, and starting his career as a photojournalist. Having already developed a love for photography in his early teens, he set off to do what naturally comes next –find a way to get paid for doing what he loved. In 1964 he began an internship at the Washington Star newspaper and also did freelance photography for magazines and other publications. That year also saw the first Beatles U.S. concert tour.

Taking the canvas out of the frame

EL PASO — I belong to art and photography groups in El Paso and a couple are non-profit organizations. In one, I serve on the Board of Managers. The President of that association was looking to change the style of leadership that had been used. The President empowered the Board saying take charge of your responsibilities, think outside the box, if you need assistance let me know. How did I become involved?

Imperial Valley Desert Museum opens for limited use

OCOTILLO, Calif. – The Imperial Valley Desert Museum will finally open here on June 17 more than three years after the $700,000 building was completed. But, it will still only be open for very limited use through the summer. The opening of the museum was made possible by a $2,000 grant through the Imperial Valley Community Foundation, and another $3,000 in donations and fundraising monies, according to museum director Neal Hitch. Hands-on coiled pottery classes for kids will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays at the museum throughout the summer, free of charge.

Behind the scenes of "Annie" at Palmer Auditorium in Brawley, Calif.

Behind the scenes of “Annie” at the Brawley Palmer Auditorium

BRAWLEY, Calif.—The classic Christmastime play, “Annie,” was presented by the North County Coalition for the Arts at Palmer Performing Arts Center here in May, with local lead actors Georg Scott as “Daddy Warbucks,” who shaved his head just for the part, and 11-year-old Molly Wilson as “Annie.”

But, as any theater aficionado knows, all the magic begins back stage. Most of the stage crew consists of high school students from the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program under the instruction of Jason Contreras, known fondly as Mr. C by his students and colleagues. The following video is a behind-the-scenes look at the production.

The artist’s life – a tale of love and war

EL PASO — Watercolor paintings of wild horses, wild flowers and cacti in vibrant colors hang on artist Kenge Kobayashi’s walls, but the bucolic scenes tell little of a life that was interrupted by interment in a Japanese-American prison camp during World War II. Kobayashi, who had his first solo art exhibition in March, at the International Museum of Art on Montana. He said the scenes he brings to life are from places he has visited. “It was good, a lot of people came.” He said. He is now seeing what to do next.

Imperial Valley’s cosplaying blacksmith heads to Comic-Con

MEXICALI, Mexico–When the sun rises Edgar Mayoral’s hammer strikes the iron on the anvil, creating an ear-piercing clanging sound that resonates throughout the neighborhood in this border city. The 23-year-old El Centro, Calif. resident has a talent to shape cold, lifeless sheets of iron into fantastical and vibrant wearable armor that would make you believe Mayoral has been transformed into a live-action Japanese anime character. A skill that cosplayers—short for “costume play”—and non-cosplayers alike marvel at. “This character has a higher fan base in Mexico than in the U.S.,” says Jerry Travis, 21, an anime scholar from Brawley, Calif.

Vicente Cardenas

Student artists ready for new Imperial Valley College gallery

IMPERIAL, Calif.–Clouds of black smoke hover over a rendition of Earth as three teenagers watch from below the globe, drinking and taking long puffs from cigarettes in their hands, while at their feet little green creatures lay on the ground suffering from unknown maladies. Surreal, yes, but with one final dab of paint, and a few brushstrokes, Vicente Cardenas’ untitled painting is ready for the new student art gallery at Imperial Valley College. “It’s pretty radical,” said Cardenas, 19. “Never had my stuff shown to the public before. It gives you the intense feeling that you’re being heard.”

Imperial Valley has its first film and art festival

EL CENTRO, Calif.–A new and different kind of life was breathed into the abandoned Anchor Blue store in the Imperial Valley Mall over the weekend. Where teen togs once filled the retail space, the Imperial Valley’s first-ever film and art festival took place. The Inaugural Imperial Valley Film Festival & Artist Showcase featured works by artists who live in or were raised in the Imperial Valley. All films were produced by valley residents or were shot in the valley by independent directors. Most of the art was heavily influenced by the experiences of living near a depressed border.