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It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month

Local exhibit showcases art by, and inspired by local Latinos; Evansville Latino Center has workshops and fun contests, events

A bold and colorful exhibit is being held at the Arts Council of Southwest Indiana (ARTSWIN) — “La Vida,” the Latino Heritage Exhibit. It runs through the 23rd to commemorate National Hispanic Heritage Month.

“I love the use of multimedia in all of the different pieces of art. They all seem very tied together in different ways,” said Melinda Roberts, who is perusing the gallery with Emma Pollard. Both are from Evansville.

“I think we need more experiences with multicultural art and cross-cultural communication and artistic expression,” Roberts said. “And so I think it's very exciting to bring that to the city.”

This was the whole goal of the ARTSWIN event on Saturday — to bring people and cultural appreciation together. In this case, hispanic culture includes visual art, but also music and dancing.

ARTSWIN brought in a mariachi band from Indianapolis. José with Mariachi Alegre played for several hours. Before that, a dance club from the Signiture School performed to classic latin music along with hits by pop artist Selena.

“And they kind of like, mix it up a little bit with hip hop to bring a modern twist to it. It was fantastic,” said Abraham Brown, director of the Evansville Latino Center. He worked closely with ARTSWIN on the overall event.

He said National Hispanic Heritage month is not only about raising awareness of the food, art and music.

“But it's actually the contribution of Latinos in every extent,” Brown said. “From education, from a business standpoint; how many Latinos are doing businesses in the area, how many jobs Latinos are opening for our local economy? That, through the celebration of our culture.”

The Evansville Latino Center is also hosting cultural awareness workshops with the Evansville Police Department, and a piñata making contest through the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library system.

Both activities can be accessed through the respective partner websites.

A member of the mariachi band José with Mariachi Alegre, strums his ukulele Saturday night.
Tim Jagielo
A member of the mariachi band José with Mariachi Alegre, strums his ukulele Saturday night.

Downstairs in the gallery, Jack and Cher Mahoney of Vincennes pose for a photo with granddaughter Kayla Farve before Cher’s artwork. It’s a lush, boldly-painted depiction of a statue of a god, enshrouded in the jungle flora of Honduras.

Mahoney is not Hispanic.

“I'm Scotch-Irish-German-French-Italian-Indian-gypsy,” she said with a laugh.

But she appreciates the language and the exotic places connected to the Hispanic world. And this is kind of Abraham Brown’s favorite part of such an exhibit.

“When people want to create art for the Latino community or are inspired by the Latino community, it's a bigger celebration of integration,” he said. “For us, it's an honor that people want to contribute to the celebration of Latino art, by producing their own art.”

This exhibit wasn’t accessible only to Latinos in the area, and neither is the piñata contest.

The immigration experience is another important aspect of the community that can be expressed through art.

Fernando Lozano of Vincennes produced the First-Place winning piece that became a bit of a centerpiece to the gallery. It’s called “Locked in Limbo — Dreaming Behind the Fence.”

It’s a large piece spread across six square canvases. It’s essentially an American flag painted across a chain link fence.

Behind the fence are the faces of frustrated “dreamers” waiting for their legal chance to become U.S. citizens.

“Either you are behind the fence, or in front of the fence,” Lozano said. “Depends on how you think about yourself.”

Lozano came to the United States from Mexico at age 16 to enlist in the army. He said such an event is a good reminder that the United States is built on immigration and embracing cultures.

“It is very important to have this show because it represents another voice another thought another mind state of mind, the Latino mind that wants to be part of the United States,” he said.

Brown said the highlight of the month is Fiesta Evansville, being held on October ninth.

“We're going to be bringing entertainment from different countries, food from different Latin American countries, and a great opportunity to celebrate Latino culture.”

Check out the EVPL website for more information about the piñata contest and Evansville police for the workshops.

Hispanic National Heritage Month runs until October 15. While September is Mexican Independence Day, Brown says he wants to celebrate the diversity of the Latin world.