Art, Identity and the Changing Narrative about Latinos

On Saturday, April 25th in Golden Gate Conference Room C at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco, a panel of four leaders in the worlds of art and art education discussed identity and the changing narrative about Latinos. Amalia Mesa-Bains, Cayetana S. Gomez, Raymond Telles, and moderator Ani Rivera opened up about legacy, art as a social practice, creative placemaking, and art in schools.
IMG 4973L to R: Nelson Colón, Ani Rivera, Amalia Mesa-Bains, Diana Campoamor, Raymond Telles, Cayetana S. Gomez
The conversation drifted between poignant personal anecdotes and thoughtful, critical discussion about the role of art in Hispanic culture. Amalia Mesa-Bains, MacArthur Fellow and Professor Emerita in the Visual and Public Art department at California State University at Monterey Bay, referred to herself as a “lifer.” “Art was from my inception a tool for understanding the world,” she said, “[through art] we can remake the world into the version we choose.” Cayetana S. Gomez, CEO of the Mexican Museum, added, “You cannot always describe art but you can feel it.” Moderator Ani Rivera, Executive Director of the Galeria de La Raza, pointed out that it’s not the object that moves people, it’s the experience, and it is these artistic encounters that lead to cultural awareness and social change.
Art is resilient. Art is about feeling, and passion, and it is deeply rooted and necessary insofar that it helps and lifts communities. “I’m hoping that in 10 years, Latino art will be seen within the larger American narrative,” said documentary producer/director Raymond Telles, “this concept of otherness cannot continue in the same way.” The solution? According to this panel: educate, document, and value. Bring art back into public schools, support institutions that include and highlight Latino art, and develop legacy funds to ensure that the vast library of iconic Latino art is not lost between generations. As Hispanics in Philanthropy president Diana Campoamor concluded, “art is not a frill, it is a human right. All of us, to be alive, have to have this creative expression.”