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An Evening of Collective Art-making with Chicano Artist Mario Torero

(The following is a post by Catalina Gómez, Reference Librarian, Hispanic Division.)

Chicano artist Mario Torero speaking about his work, Hispanic Reading Room, Library of Congress (photo: courtesy of Catalina Gómez)

On Friday, May 3, 2019, together with the Prints & Photographs Division, we had the pleasure of hosting, here in the Hispanic Reading Room, a stimulating collective art session with Mario Torero, one of California’s most important muralists and activists from the Chicano movement. The event was representative of our new vision for our programs and our reading room: we are aiming to open more space to foster connections between LC users and creators, and offer encounters that promote creativity and collaboration.

Although originally from Peru, Torero, who moved to San Diego, CA at a young age, calls himself a Chicano (a term used by some Mexican-Americans in the U.S.). He became one of the most important artists and activists (he loves to use the term “artivist”) within the Chicano movement in the 60s and 70s. His striking murals are found all over the world, but most predominantly, in the historic Chicano Park, located in “Barrio Logan” (the Logan neighborhood of San Diego). Chicano Park was designated a National Historic Landmark in January 2017 and is on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.

The artist was in Washington, DC in early May to attend the opening of his exhibit “The Condor & the Eagle” at the Peruvian Embassy, a retrospective of both his work and that of his father, the late Guillermo Acevedo, who is known for his striking depictions of Native Americans and architecture of the Southwest. As soon as we learned of his exhibit, we planned this program and contacted Torero. He was delighted to return to the Library, which he had visited previously when LC acquired a selection of his works.

“Ojos de Frida Kahlo” (1985) Color pencil and graphite drawing (Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress). Use with permission by Mario Torero.

We enjoyed having an opportunity to listen to him speak about his artistic process and to join in as he led an art workshop with members of the public. During the workshop, participants produced a large-scale collective “paper mural” inspired by Torero’s famous “Ojos de Frida Kahlo” (Eyes of Frida Kahlo). Each participant created their own unique interpretation of the “Ojos” piece; and then, each individual drawing and collage was bound together on a large-scale paper – a collective mural that included everyone’s perspective and expressive energy.

The two-hour workshop went by in a flash! After the program, we all felt energized. The event reinforced the notion of how libraries are spaces where a community can come together and find creative/inspiring ways to learn from each other, a lesson that the former Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera also sought to convey. Throughout the workshop and art showcase, we revisited the important history of the Chicano movement and celebrated the power of art.

Participants in action during art workshop with Mario Torero in the Hispanic Reading Room, Library of Congress (photo: courtesy of Catalina Gómez)

Collective mural in process, Hispanic Reading Room, Library of Congress (photo: courtesy of Katherine Blood).

Close-up of final product (photo: courtesy of Katherine Blood)

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