Monica Maldonado drew from her childhood as the daughter of an immigrant mother, and in collaboration with _OFCOLOR organized Latino Art WKND.
By Cy White
Monica Maldonado understands firsthand feeling isolated from the greater community. As the daughter of a single immigrant mother, she had to navigate two worlds: her Mexican heritage and the expectation to fit in. Her upbringing also gave her a deep appreciation for the arts. That and her desire to ensure Black and Brown artists and their communities get the representation they deserve drove her to collaborate with _OFCOLOR. Thus the birth of both Black Art WKND and Latino Art WKND.
Maldonado took some time to answer a few questions ahead of Latin Art WKND.
Can you tell us a little bit about your experience as the daughter of a single immigrant mother?
As the daughter of a single immigrant mother, in my childhood I found myself feeling embarrassed and confused. In some sort of way I wrestled with my identity. This came from being first-generation and trying to embrace being both Mexican and American. My mother only spoke Spanish and never learned how to drive. She relied on me to be her translator while most of the kids in the neighborhood had bilingual parents. Plus, since we didn’t own a car, my mom relied on public transportation to get her to work. I have very vivid memories of taking the bus or walking to get groceries. While very humbling, it made me feel embarrassed. Now I recognize those things made me who I am today, a resilient Latina woman.
How has your experience growing up and living in Austin as the daughter of an immigrant shaped your perspective of Austin and its arts community?
I know firsthand the power that art and music have in bringing people together. With my mother being an immigrant and at the time undocumented, we didn’t dare steer too far from our neighborhood. As a child, we spent a lot of time at the neighborhood park, Gillis. The pavilion at Gillis had murals painted on it, and occasionally music concerts would be hosted there too. Back then, the neighborhood between the Meadowbrook Projects and Wilson St. was mostly home to Brown and Black residents. We would all come together at the park to go swimming and, of course, attend the free music concerts. Uniting, seeing our reflection in the murals, dancing to music and, for a moment, forgetting our struggles is forever embedded in my soul. Over the years, the art, both the murals and music, faded away, but the passion stayed.
What specifically got you so deeply invested in Austin’s arts community?
The seed was planted in me many years ago. I acquired my first piece of art when I was 14 years old. Now, 30 years later, it’s still in my possession. Over the years I collected art, but I never saw myself as an advocate for art or a curator. It all changed for me in 2018 when I returned from spending over a year in Phoenix for a job assignment. Although it was a short time period, upon arriving in Austin I felt like a stranger in my own city. I immediately went in search of art and music because that’s where we tell stories and where we can find ourselves. I recognized that there was a lack of representation of art from the Latino community.
Identifying this underrepresentation hurt, and I knew I wanted to invest my energy and resources into cultivating change. At the core of my investment in the Austin creative community is ensuring that art is made accessible to underserved neighborhoods. I drive my my investment in Austin’s art community through the work my nonprofit, MAS Cultura. The mission of MAS Cultura is to use art and music to celebrate the soul of neighborhoods. Honoring cultural traditions and embracing new ones. By providing culturally enriched events, creating opportunities for artists of color and advocating for better policies and representation within local cultural programs, MAS Cultura ensures that our vibrant Latino culture remains a cornerstone of Austin.
While the arts are a huge part of Austin’s culture, it’s fair to say that certain communities (particularly predominantly Black and Brown communities) have seen a lack of real investment. How have events like Latino Art WKND and Black Art WKND helped to inject these communities with the support they deserve?
Driven by authenticity and intentionality, events like Latino Art WKND and Black Art WKND create opportunities for underrepresented artists of color and amplify support throughout the city. Austin has historically overlooked and underserved Black and Brown communities. Through movements like Latino and Black Art WKND, we create space for our artists to be recognized and celebrated.
Can you talk a bit about the collaboration with _OFCOLOR?
The collaboration with _OFCOLOR came about when the founder, Steven Hatchett, shared with me the inspiration behind Black Art WKND. Through that initial conversation, I learned that Steven is originally from Chicago. Home to Pilsen, one of the most vibrant Latino communities in the nation. There was an immediate connection on the basis that we were both in search of more art from our communities. We believe that together, _OFCOLOR and MAS Cultura can provide greater visibility and support artists of color in the ever-changing growth of Austin. This collaboration stands on knowing that unity in diversity is our greatest strength.
What are you most looking forward to for Latino Art WKND?
There are so many things to look forward to. From over 50 exhibiting artists; over 125 works of art, music, community; and custom lowrider cars. If I had to choose, what I am most looking forward to is the exhibit of Jose Francsico Trevino. Mr. Trevino played a major role in Chicano art in the ’70s and is highly respected in the art community. I recently had the honor of spending time in his home. His wife, Modesta Trevino, a Chicana activist and educator, took me on a toured through his art studio. Before leaving their home, Modesta graciously gave me permission to select the pieces of art for Latino Art WKND.
Thinking about it brings me to tears. Five out of seven pieces I selected have never before been seen. This is a true honor because Mr. Trevino has not had a major exhibit in several years. It is truly the highlight of Latino Art WKND and a must-see. Mr. Trevino’s exhibit will be on display at the Springdale General location.
What is your vision for the future of this event?
To grow into a platform that includes more forms of art beyond visual and music. That people recognize both Black and Latino Art WKND as events that bring enrichment to the city and can continue for many more years to come.
What is the main thing you want attendees of Latino Art WKND to take away from the event?
For them to see themselves in the art or hear themselves in the music. I want all attendees to celebrate the impact Latinos have on the history and culture of our city.
Any final thoughts?
There is so much we can do when we come together and move in the sane direction to grow. We should always make sure we create opportunities for others. I am a girl from South Austin. The daughter of an immigrant mother. Everything I know I owe to her and the community. From mentors to neighbors, it is through community where I learned and was exposed to art and music. Let’s always remember the power of art and music. Their power to bring people together. Let’s always remember and celebrate our shared experiences, traditions, identities, struggles and aspirations.
Tickets for Latino Arts WKND are available at the _OFCOLOR website.