Hearing new voices: Anderson Ranch launches fall Latinx community arts programming | AspenTimes.com

Hearing new voices: Anderson Ranch launches fall Latinx community arts programming

Children about to play Crosser or La Migra at the Denver Art Museum's exhibition, ReVisión: Art in the Americas. These video games were shown alongside other art works that had been created in ancient, colonial and contemporary techniques.
Courtesy of Justin Ankenbauer

Anderson Ranch Art Center has released a new set of programs targeted at strengthening services to the regional community through Latino arts and culture offerings. The multi-faceted program will run for three years, with the goal of uniting artists and art enthusiasts around a shared interest in Latino arts and culture.

“I think the core of the programming is really to get at the lack of representation of Latinx artists in what we consider mainstream art programs and in the art world,” said Olivia Martin, Latinx arts community leader and children’s coordinator at Anderson Ranch Arts Center.

Many of the programs scheduled are aimed at addressing the lack of representation of Latinx artists and considering voices that have yet to be heard, Martinez said.

“We’re trying to address those shortcomings in a community-based way,” she said. “Art and our understanding of our world can help us better connect with who we are, our community and the people that make up our community.”

According to the Anderson Ranch Arts Center website, programs under this initiative include the Latinx Visiting Artists Program, Teacher Training Program, Latinx Art Curriculum, Community Celebration, Latinx Youth Summer Workshop Scholarships and more outreach programs.

Artist Ricky Armendariz will be visiting the Anderson Ranch Arts Center Oct. 2-15.
Courtesy of Ricky Armendariz

On Oct. 8, Anderson Ranch Arts Center is hosting Finding Your Voice: Culture and Community in Latinx Art. This discussion, moderated by Anderson Ranch Arts Center board of directors member Alex Sánchez, features a panel of Latino artists, educators and community leaders who will discuss the impact of Latino culture, history and experiences on creative communities and voices.

Sánchez, the son of two Mexican immigrants, grew up in El Jebel and attended Basalt High School. As a longtime member of the valley, he has noticed the growth of the Latino community.

“I remember growing up, we used to be far less in terms of numbers. We are now almost 35 percent of the entire region,” he said.

In addition to being on the board at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Sánchez is one of the founders and the executive director of Voces Unidas. Voces Unidas is the first Latino created and led advocacy organizations in the region.

“The arts culture and community are intertwined. As an arts institution, the Ranch has a place to be able to bring community together, but I think more importantly to continue to build community,” Sánchez said. “I think this program allows the Latino community to experience art, to see relevant art that will speak to us and to practice art-making in a world-class facility like the Ranch.”

Sánchez said that he is proud of the efforts of the Ranch in bringing in a diverse group of artists and ensuring that local community members have access to the world-class facility and art-making experiences.

The Latinx Arts and Education workshop is another part of the program that both Sánchez and Martinez are excited about. The workshop brings together local teachers and community leaders and gives them the opportunity to engage with the visiting artists and learn curriculum to bring back to their classrooms, Martinez said.

Children participate in a Day of the Dead art activity at Anderson Ranch Arts Center.
Courtesy of Anderson Ranch Arts Center

“This is something I am really excited about, because at the Ranch we have so many amazing artists come through here and sometimes it’s hard to make sure everyone connects with those artists,” Martinez said.

The Anderson Ranch Arts Center is working with a curriculum development company to create curriculum about the visiting artists and their work for educators to use. Martinez said this curriculum is especially valuable because children will get to see themselves in their schooling and realize there are people who look like them and share their experiences.

“Regardless of what community you are a part of, other young kids can learn about these amazing artists and cultural traditions,” said Martinez. “Cross-cultural connection is really important whether you identify as Latino or not.”

“I think these are great pipeline programs to be able to expose young minds and young people to the arts and for them to see themselves as part of this arts community. The long-term impact of that is invaluable,” Sánchez said.

According to Sánchez, in many mainstream art programs, Latino students may not feel safe or welcome and do not see themselves reflected in the experiences. Art institutions strive for programs that focus on engaging the creative minds of children, however most programs fall short when it comes to diversity, Sánchez said.

“What the Ranch is modeling is a program where young people, who in this case happen to be Latinos, experience curriculum that has been curated to ensure they see themselves,” he said.

From Sept. 18 to Oct. 15, Rafael Fajardo will be a visiting artist working at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center. Fajardo, a Latin American immigrant, creates socially conscious video games as an art form. He is also slated to be on the panel for Finding Your Voice: Culture and Community in Latinx Art and the Arts and Education Workshop.

Artist Rafael Fajardo will be visiting the Anderson Ranch Arts Center from Sept. 18 through Oct. 15.
Courtesy of Roddy MacInnes

As a Latin American artist and immigrant, Fajardo said he has always been conscious of the absence of Latinx voices in mainstream media. When he started exploring the idea of creating video games with heavy subject matter 20 years ago, the consensus was it could not be done.

“Our first experiments really took gameplay from the most popular video games at the time and changed out the visual artwork in those games. We demonstrated that you could indeed have video games that talk about serious subject matter,” he said.

“We took the gameplay of Frogger, which was one of the most commercially successful arcade video games of all time, and changed out the visual artwork from a cute frog to a cute brown person,” Fajardo said. “We located it at the U.S.-Mexico border and put the player in the role of embodying a cute brown person trying to cross the U.S. Mexico border.”

This image was captured from a moment early in the game Crosser. It shows the player character, Carlos Moreno, in his starting position at the bottom of the image.
Courtesy of SWEAT Collaborative

Fajardo was living and working at the U.S. Mexico border at the time he created the game. The game represented both a personal investment and narrative for him.

“That game had a very specific set of messages. On the one hand, it was a critique of video games that had come before. It was also providing representation of people who were not present and providing stories that weren’t present in the media. It showed that the medium is capable of handling diverse representation and diverse storytelling,” he said.

Although exploring video games as an art form and medium of expression is fairly new, Fajardo said that there are now many others finding identity and voice through creating video games.

“I am honored and humbled to be considered worthy of being a role model for communities,” he said. “I’m hoping that I can actually help somebody find their voice and help somebody find a pathway through art.”


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