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.

El Paso's DJs are bringing more diversity to their mixes. (Nicole Castillo/

El Paso finds itself dancing to the music

EL PASO – A new El Paso sound pounding through the air with different rhythms coming from all corners compels listeners to move with each pulsating beat and it’s a dance. “People are looking for change in the city. I’ve been one to push the envelope for our mix show ‘the bambucha,'” said DJ Johnny Kage of local radio station Hit F.M. 104.3. “I think hip hop had its time and place. The dance community has been so undergrounded.

Relevance leads to an internship epiphany in the neon desert

EL PASO — The music festival was a living, breathing organism of 11,000 blurry faces, bright lights and loud sounds. Walking through the darkness and seeing the excitement of people dancing frantically to their favorite artists made me understand that we all shared the same mutual amazement for the present. And I had helped to make it happen. Two months earlier, I had received one of these so called “suggested student opportunities” messages via email. I needed an internship I could care about and Splendid Sun Productions wanted interns to help put on a music and arts festival entitled Neon Desert Music Festival on April 30th, 2011.

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.

Building community with percussion

EL PASO — If you are ever passing by Rim Road near Scenic Drive in West El Paso in the summer on an early Friday evening, you might hear a throbbing sound of tribal drums pulling you in closer to the infectious pulse that is Echos in the Park. What started out as a series of relaxing outdoor musical improv sessions by heads of the local jam band, Stanton Street Collective, has evolved into a weekly fluid gathering at Tom Lea Park of musicians and percussionists from all walks of life. “There is something special about having an impromptu jam session with a bunch of people that have never practiced and sharing that feeling of camaraderie,” said Roberto Santos, organizer for the Barbed Wire Open Mic Series. Since getting its start nearly four years ago, Echos in the Park has been gradually growing its circle of amateur percussionists up on top of one of the most beautiful and accessible scenic points overlooking the Downtown El Paso and Juarez area. Though the event’s lack of centralized ownership, formal structure, legitimate promotion and fixed schedule, it has some how managed to continue to thrive efficiently and effectively with word-of-mouth throughout intimate circles of music lovers across the city.

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.”

Silenced memories gain a voice in the Memorias del Silencio book series

EL PASO — For longer than we can remember immigration to the United States has come mainly from south of the border and a silent majority of these migrants end up working as farm workers. They usually never regain a voice to share their experiences and thoughts, but in 2005, a book entitled Memorias del Silencio published some of their stories. Since that time, six volumes of their tales have appeared and a seventh is scheduled for publication this fall. Their objective is to develop new educational opportunities for farm workers and to bring awareness of their condition to the United States. Memorias del Silencio is a collaboration between BorderSenses, a non-profit literary organization and the El Paso Community College’s Community Education Program (CEP).

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.

Local comics strive to perform Chucano comedy

EL PASO — Amidst a drab beige desert of lame punch line jokes, a group of subterranean wise-cracking comedians are reclaiming funny in the name of El Chuco. Since 2005, the El Paso Underground Comedy Group (EPUCG) has gradually risen from the darkest cantina crevices to routinely packing weeknights in local hotspots in a town that would otherwise be devoid of many serious local jokesters. “It’s definitely grown,” said EPUCG founding member Jerry, “El Malkreado” Karnes, “when we first started I couldn’t get four people to come out and watch a show. Now I love the fact that [we] can bring in about 20-30 people to a bar and make them laugh.”

EPUCG frequents local watering holes such as: Bordercity Ale House, Coconuts Bar and Grill, Players Billiards and Smokey’s Bar and Restaurant. The troupe of six entertainers has been brewing a unique melting pot of styles that spring from the vast different cultural influences that make up El Paso.

Popular culture offers a different way to evaluate the immigration experience

EL PASO — Immigration on the U.S.-Mexico borderland is portrayed in popular culture as criminal and illegal to audiences that are disconnected from the reality of immigrants who cross the border to save their families from poverty and widespread violence. “Would you risk everything to come to the Unites States?” Dr. Richard D. Pineda asked an audience at the University of Texas at El Paso. He followed this thought with the example of an immigration raid in northern Iowa. Workers at several meat-packing plants were apprehended and taken to deportation facilities. “Even though that force was essentially gutted on that day, they’ve been replaced,” he added, explaining that those plants now show record outputs, “and I can assure you those are not workers working in high level jobs, but workers working for a minimum amount of pay.”

The economic incentive for immigration is too high in the United States and a variety of tasks require a “disposable workforce,” one that comes in the form of undocumented immigrants, explained Pineda, an associate professor of communication at UTEP.

Woman boxer pounds away the obstacles in a male-dominated sport

EL PASO — Her swollen eyes gaze at her bloody opponent sitting in the opposite corner of the ring as her coach shouts out demands for the last round of the bout. Heavy hands hang on the ropes as she inhales and exhales trying to catch her breath while the mostly male crowd howls. Just as the bell sounds, she forces her body to her feet and moves guardedly to the center of the ring. She taps gloves with her opponent and the round begins. Jasmine Rodriguez, 20, a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso, entered the ring at the Sports and Health Expo held here in April to fight in one of the day’s only two women’s boxing matches.

Richard Yanez Celebrates the Sun City with his Writing

EL PASO – Cross over Water, the latest novel by Richard Yanez, captures the essence of the wayward El Pasoan – always feeling out of place outside of his home city and yet striving to achieve more than the city has to offer. “We’re survivors, resilient and proud in spite of our flaws.” Yanez spoke of El Pasoans. “You know El Pasoans because they are both glad they’re out but sad that they haven’t yet been back.”

Yanez, an El Paso native, uses this novel to bring the local creative writing landscape a tale of a young man named Raul who grows along the border, lives among relatives, loves women, and takes to his heart the sensations only this city could bring him. He often struggles with the sensation that he is stuck in place, or, as Yanez often metaphorically conjures, feels as though he’s drowning. “I nearly drowned when I was ten years old,” Yanez said “and I used that as a metaphor for the ways I could be drowned culturally, personally, and psychologically.”

This is Yanez’s second book.

More craft beer quenches thirst in the high desert

El Paso — Even as beer drinkers around the U.S. are still suffering from a recession hangover that has hurt major brewers, craft brewed beer is continuing to please more palates and this trend is finally showing positive signs in El Paso. “This trend has been increasing in the past four years [in El Paso], where as before it was almost non-existent,” said Adrian Perez, craft and imported beer specialist at L&F Distributors in El Paso. “Our craft beer selections have increased at 30-40% each month for the past year.”

Craft beers are defined typically as unique beer styles made by small independent brewers that are free from corporate large brewer ownership, such as Anheuser-Busch which produce more than 6,000,000 barrels a year. According to the Brewers Association based out of Boulder, Colorado, in the first half of 2010 the craft brew industry grew by 9% in volume and 12% by retail dollars, while overall beer sales dropped 2.7% by volume. Perez, also an active beer enthusiast, spends his spare time sponsoring craft and domestic beer tasting events at local restaurants and supermarkets to increase beer appreciation in the city.

Neon Desert Music Festival to light up the Sun City

EL PASO  – Skies will illuminate here and the Franklin Mountains will reverberate during the city’s first Neon Desert Music Festival that will take place Saturday, April 30 with international, national, regional and local talent. Zachariah W. Paul, one of the event’s organizers along with Gina Martinez and Brian Chavez came up with the idea in October, 2009. “We wanted to do a music festival in El Paso and we felt this is a market that doesn’t have anything like what we are trying to do,” Paul said. “We felt there is a demand here and the people would support us to do something like this.”

Paul said their vision is to create an event that is for the city of El Paso, by the city of El Paso. He said it will feature a combination of international, national, regional and local talent.

Artist Rigoberto A. Gonzalez paints Mexico drug violence baroque-style

El Paso — Dark colors and shadows transform the canvas into excruciatingly vivid scenes – a severed head laying on the ground, soldiers restraining an angry man in front of a crowd – of the bloody drug war raging along the U.S.-Mexico border, illustrating every disturbing emotion on the faces of the subjects while employing the classic beauty of 17th century Baroque-style paintings. Rigoberto A. Gonzalez ( 37, the artist of these deeply disturbing and meticulously painted images, is bringing his exhibition, titled Baroque on the Border/Barocco en la Frontera, to The University of Texas at El Paso at the Stanlee & Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Art of from May 26 to September 24, 2011. He was born in Reynosa, in the border state of Tamaulipas, Mexico and moved with his family to the border city of San Juan, TX when he was 9 years old. As a child, his mother and older brother inspired him to become an artist. This inspiration led him to obtain a bachelor’s degree in art from The University of Texas-Pan American in 1999 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from the New York Academy of Art in 2004.

School district budget cuts kill jobs and crimp the arts

EL PASO – In 2010 the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) was looking for ways to cut $2.5 million from the district’s budget. Part of the solution came last week with a sting – the EPISD saved $5.6 million by cutting 116 positions. Before that decision, the situation had escalated to the possible closing of two elementary schools, Schuster and Zavala. Kenneth Parker, chief officer for the EPISD said the closing of the two elementary schools would save the district about $2.5 million. In the past five years the district has cut $43 million from the budget, without hurting academic courses.

Rock-and-roll music springs from Latino roots

EL PASO — From rumba to mambo to cha-cha-cha, Latin music rhythms played an important role in the development of rock-and-roll music, strongly influencing songs like Rock Around the Clock and Tequila. “I would consider rock-and-roll music a Latin genre because there are so many Latin connections to it and Latin music was part of it from the very beginning, ” said Dr. Roberto Avant-Mier an associate professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. His book Rock the Nation: Latin/o Identities and the Latin Rock Diaspora explains how Latin rhythms form part of the foundation of rock-and-roll music. Born and raised in El Paso, Avant-Mier told UTEP students and faculty recently that Rock around the Clock by Bill Halley was a song based on the clave, which was a Cuban rhythm. Scholars believe this rhythm came from Africa and is a foundation for Cuban music.

El Karaoke-Lounge llega a El Paso

EL PASO — A unos segundos de pisar el escenario con el micrófono en la mano, la joven se mueve al ritmo de la música y entre gritos y aplausos de la audiencia toma un paso hacia adelante y comienza a cantar una de sus canciones favoritas. La audiencia  aplaude más y sus amigos esperan ansiosos para animar a quien en instantes se convertirá en una de las tantas aspirantes al canto. “La verdad es la primera vez que vengo a este lugar y el ambiente está padre y me agrada. No suelo cantar en público pero el ambiente aquí te motiva”, dijo Stephanie Gonzales, estudiante de El Paso Community College. De acuerdo con la Cámara Hispana de Comercio en El Paso el crecimiento dinámico de está ciudad ha sido acreditado a un comercio internacional con Ciudad Juárez.

Creative Kids: ten years motivating youth through art and more

EL PASO — When Andrea Ingle invited her husband Stephen to teach her special education class at Canutillo Middle School with the little left over art supplies she had, the couple had no idea it would lead to their life’s work providing an artistic outlet to children and teenagers throughout the border region. That classroom experience combined with their own backgrounds in the arts was the spark for creating a non-profit organization, Creative Kids Inc., that uses the power of the arts to help youth, including teenagers at risk of dropping out, to achieve academic and personal success. Ten years later, Creative Kids has a main studio and gallery in a 16,000-square-foot warehouse called the OLO Gallery (Other Learning Opportunities) at the recently renovated Union Plaza Arts District in downtown El Paso. The organization serves over 600 youth a year ranging in age from 4 to 18, and provides special programs for children battling cancer, children with disabilities, and disadvantaged and at-risk youth. It also has a long list of impressive local, regional and national sponsors, from the National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts to the City of El Paso and the Hunt Family Foundation.

The Miner Movie Makers

EL PASO — At the beginning of the school year in the fall semester of 2009, Bobby Gutierrez had an ambitious group of students in his Intro to Video class. Among those students were Stephanie Soto, Joel Gannon, and myself, Michael Huante. Through the course of the semester, the three of us worked on projects together and with other students, and forged a friendship that holds strong to this day. Stephanie Soto, a senior Digital Media major, came up with an idea by the end of the semester, and told Joel and I about it. She expressed her thoughts on the fact that UTEP didn’t have much going in the area of film, and that something had to be done about it.

Sun City thaws for the Super Bowl

El Pasoans celebrate the Super Bowl

EL PASO, Texas — The frigid cold from the worst winter blizzard to hit the Sun City in a decade didn’t stop Super Bowl fans here from overheating. Record low temperatures in El Paso that caused citywide blackouts and water restrictions didn’t stop fans from celebrating one last Sunday of football. While over 100,000 spectators watched the Green Bay Packers drub the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL’s 45th Super Bowl game February 6 at Dallas Stadium in Arlington, Texas, millions celebrated at home and bars across the country. El Paso predominantly a Dallas Cowboys fan-base, voiced a share of cheers for both teams.

Local sporting goods stores took advantage of the popularity of the teams, Sports Xplosion manager Oscar Moreno noticed an increase in sales this year compared to last year’s Super Bowl, which featured the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints, “It’s been real busy. We’re up about 30 percent compared to last year at this time,” Moreno said in the days leading up to the game.

The art of recycling

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Art created from recycled items is now a fast growing and popular niche, but Carlos Egan (“The Country Gentleman”) has been incorporating recycled items into his art for years. Egan’s Rustic Art was most recently featured at the 39th Annual Renaissance Arts Faire in Las Cruces. But, for 27 years Egan has been traveling and selling his work at fairs all over Texas and New Mexico. “I go out into the desert with my daughter and look for wood pieces that have been weathered by the sun and rain. I mostly go where people throw stuff away.

These dancers don’t dance to salsa – they make salsa

EL PASO, Texas – Dancers covered themselves from head to toe in tomato juice to express their love for food at the annual Chalk the Block art festival. “For this piece I really wanted to create an environment in which people could come inside and get immersed in all the living plants and the green. Then, hopefully take home some ideas,” said visual artist Christine Foerster about Bio.Domo.Sis, her latest installation. Emily Morgan, a University of Texas at El Paso Dance department instructor, collaborated with Foerster to incorporate a dance that would highlight locally grown food. Foerster focuses on a couple of ideas that help put together the Bio.Domo.Sis.

Los Pistoleros de Texas’ Music Straddles Two Texas Borders

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Texas has no shortage of musical groups influenced by the norteño and conjunto music that evolved along the U.S.-Mexico border. Los Pistoleros de Texas one-ups those groups by throwing another border into the mix: the Texas-Louisiana border. The band stirs up a spicy, accordion-driven gumbo that combines the border’s traditional Tex-Mex sounds with the Gulf Coast zydeco, country and blues prevalent in its hometown of Houston. That diverse musical approach drew enthusiastic applause at the recent 2010 San Antonio International Accordion Festival, where Los Pistoleros performed in October.  It’s also helped the band attract fans from across musical genres, leader Roberto Rodriguez explained.

Sidewalk spectacle takes art to the people

EL PASO, Texas — The metal giant’s arm reached out and grabbed a blue, two-door sedan with its six-foot long hydraulic metal fingers, raised it up as high as the street lights and then dropped it letting it crash on the asphalt below. Half a dozen junked cars waited for destruction inside a circle of steel barriers blocking off a section of downtown at Oregon and Mills St. at this year’s Chalk the Block art festival, The cleverly named Hand of Man was one of the main attractions, stopping crowds in their tracks as pieces of broken plastic and car hoses shot out at the feet of on-lookers. Crew-member Nathan Oswald explained that artist and creator Christian Ristow, “…wanted to be able to build something participatory.” Unlike many art pieces, the idea behind this installation, Oswald said, is to be something fun for the crowd to become a part of. Mario Castillo won a chance to control and set the sculpture in motion, through a local radio station’s call-in contest.

Exhibición de fotos capta la violencia de vivir en Ciudad Juárez

EL PASO, Texas — Fotógrafos fronterizos de El Diario de Juárez capturan la batalla de vivir día a día entre caos y temor en la ciudad más violenta de la frontera. Ahora todos podemos ser testigos de ese ambiente de terror. El 30 de Septiembre se inauguró la exhibición fotográfica Las Otras Batallas, presentada por fotógrafos de El Diario en el Centennial Museum de la Universidad de Texas en El Paso (UTEP). “Esta exhibición es un ejemplo de lo que se puede hacer si las dos ciudades unen esfuerzos. Tomó coordinación e interés binacional y con la participación de personas de los dos lados todo salió muy bien”, dijo la Dr. Moira Murphy-Aguilar, profesora de UTEP y del Centro de Estudios Inter-Americanos y Fronterizos.