By BECKY FARRAR, arts intern
“I use art as a tool for the transformation and education of our country,” said Favianna Rodriguez during last Saturday’s ChicaChic Intergenerational Panel, hosted by The Arts at CIIS. “It’s a human right to have access to arts and culture.”
Rodriguez joined fellow ChicaChic artist Angelica Muro in conversation with local artists Patricia Rodriguez and Lorraine García-Nakata to discuss art’s role in shaping the future. Moderator Viva Paredes and the artists discussed the shifting concerns and circumstances of artists of Chicano and Latino descent in relation to their work, audience, and community.
Art by Favianna Rodriguez
The event was held in conjunction with the ChicaChic exhibit at CIIS, which features the works of five contemporary Chicana artists with Bay Area roots. While the works of these artists explore contemporary issues, the artists show reverence for the tireless visionary work of the veterana/os, the artists who emerged during the Chicano civil rights movement of the 1960s and 70s, also known as El Movimiento.
For instance, art-based campaigns and public service announcements were common forms of expression during El Movimiento, reflecting shared ideas about community and audience. The ChicaChic exhibit was promoted partially through BART campaign; posters were plastered in BART stations throughout San Francisco, which brought the work of these five artists to a wide, diverse audience.
The challenge for "la nueva ondo," the new generation of Chicana artists, is to address the emerging conditions of the millennium, such as environmental degradation and the dangers of consumerism, while still honoring the legacy of El Movimento.
Saturday’s panel discussion focused on the importance of art as a means of catalyzing change. Muro, a professor at California State University, Monterey Bay, described the challenge of teaching her students that art can be created with a purpose and not simply for the sake of making art. García-Nakata echoed Muro's concerns and said that creating art as political work is crucial, arguing that now more ever it’s critical for people to step up.
García-Nakata knows firsthand the importance of building community to generate change from the ground up. During the 1970s, García-Nakata was one of the primary members of the renowned Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF). The mission of the RCAF was to bring together the Chicano civil rights movement with the labor organizing work of the United Farm Workers of America. They formed a community; bilingual/bicultural artists found avenues for public, artistic, cultural, and educational programs and events. For the past 40 years RCAF has continued as a collective to engage communities, celebrating their culture and history, and supporting the continued struggle for equal rights.
Rodriguez was a key contributor to the Chicano civil rights movement through the Mujeres Muralistas (The Women Muralists) collective from 1970-79. Rodriguez’s home on now-famous Balmy Alley in the Mission District was the meeting point and hangout spot for the Mujeres, and from that centerpoint the Mission mural movement continues to grow today. After the 1980s Rodriguez became one of the first Chicana artists to teach in the University of California system. Today she continues to create art and pushes youth to do the same.
Throughout the discussion the panelists encouraged the audience to redefine community and expressed the need to cultivate and support the development and visibility of artists of color. As Muro put it, “There should be more of us!”
The ChicaChica exhibit will run through March 18. Visit the Arts at CIIS website for more information.