Gallery Stroll: Mestizo Institute

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Painting: Ruby Chacon

Gallery Stroll is like a big love letter from Utah artists to the community. A lot of work and love is poured into each Gallery Stroll, making each month an individual experience—galleries open their doors and invite the public to peruse the art after normal business hours, mingle with the artists and ask as many questions as their hearts desire.

This month, I was moved by two shows exploring history, ancestry, communal purpose and social impact: Our America: The Latino Presence In American Art at the Utah Museum of Fine Art and the return of Ruby Chacón with special guest Natalia Deeb-Sossa to the Mestizo Institute of Culture and Arts. Both shows focus on the Latino community with scope and beauty that transcends heritage, yet reminds one of the relevance and passion of this talented and prevalent community.

Our America: The Latino Presence In American Art is an exhibit on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. The show opened at the Smithsonian in Oct. 2013 and remained on display until March 2014. It makes its Utah debut on Feb. 6 at the UMFA and can be seen up through May 17 of this year. The show features works by 72 modern and contemporary artists working in different mediums. Our America depicts the rich diversity of the Latino community in the United States, showcasing artists of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and Dominican descent, along with many other Latin American groups. In the mid-20th Century, many of these groups began to bond together to create a collective Latino identity. The show explores the political and cultural climate of that time, including the Latino reaction to the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s and ’70s, pop culture’s influence on them and how they have chosen to shape what it’s like to be a Latino in America. “Our America challenges preconceived notions of what it means to be ‘American’ and ‘Latino’ in our evolving national culture,” says Jorge Rojas, Director of Education and Engagement at UMFA. He goes on to say, “Exhibitions that celebrate the richness and diversity in our cultures are essential for strengthening cultural pride and identity.” To receive the most of your experience at UMFA, I urge you to visit their website, umfa.utah.edu, for visitor information and a complete listing of events and lectures surrounding their shows.

A goal of the Mestizo Institute for Culture and Arts is to celebrate cultural exchanges and enrich our understanding of diverse cultures while acknowledging commonalities through the humanities. Visionary artist and MICA co-founder Ruby Chacón returns to Mestizo in February for a joint show with UC Davis Chican@ Studies professor and photographer Natalia Deeb-Sossa. The show, entitled Creadoras de Cultura: Activismo y Espiritualidad, will explore the rich heritage of Chicana women as cultural producers and makers through painting and photography. The opening reception will happen pre-Gallery Stroll on Feb. 13. The artists will also be present for the closing reception on March 13. Mestizo Gallery is located inside the Mestizo Coffeehouse at 631 W. North Temple, Suite 700.

Two great shows, expanding our understanding of each other and ourselves—I heart Gallery Stroll. I hope you will, too.