Kick off Hispanic Heritage Month with exhibit honoring Austin muralist Raúl Valdez

“Hillside Miracle” mural at the A.B. Cantu Pan-American Recreation Center. Jay Janner/American-Statesman 

For 50 years, his murals have nourished Austin’s soul. They’ve awakened our spirit and fed our minds.

But for artist Raúl Valdez, the countless murals he’s uplifted us with, which can be found anywhere from schools to the streets, aren’t about the finished product.

“It’s always been about the process for me,” he says. That’s because he’s never made painting a solitary experience. Over the years, Valdez has engaged community in his work by inviting neighborhood input and involving youth and residents to be part of his projects.

In 2012, the City spent $52,000 to restore one of Valdez’ iconic murals, which sprawls across a 3,000-square-foot-canvas in East Austin. Valdez’ original 1978 piece, which features images inspired by Chicano culture and Mexican history, serves as the backdrop to the outdoor Hillside Theater at the Oswaldo A.B. Cantu/Pan American Recreation Center.

“Hillside Miracle” mural at the A.B. Cantu Pan-American Recreation Center.  Jay Janner/American-Statesman 

RELATED: Mexican American Cultural Center eyes expansion

Now, after half a century of producing artwork and inspiring a new generation of Austin artists, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center will honor Valdez’ life and work. The exhibit “Vida y Obra: 50 Years of Art and Activism” opens at 6 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the cultural center’s Sam Z. Coronado Gallery. The prominent exhibition kicks off a weekend of events celebrating the MACC’s 10th anniversary.

“It’s very humbling,” Valdez says of the exhibit, which will include archival photos, documents and articles that’ll give a holistic view of Valdez’ life from his rock band days to his encounters with farm worker movement leaders including Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

In 2011, Valdez lost his home in the Bastrop wildfires. “It was a tragic loss,” he says. Manuscripts of books he’d started to write vanished and artwork turned to ashes. Now, Valdez has rebuilt his life and career in downtown Austin and has no plans to slow down. Often he’s asked to name what mural he’s been the most proud of creating over his lifetime, but he always has the same answer: “My next one.”

Visit to learn more about the MACC’s 10th anniversary events, which include an open house with family activities starting at 4 p.m. on Sept. 16, followed by music and dance performances.

MORE CULTURAL ARTS: Check out the Cultura en Austin blog

Mexic-Arte Museum’s Young Latino Artist exhibit opens July 14

Artist Daniela Madrigal used discarded clothing on a wire to create the “Ahora” piece.

During a time of increased anti-immigrant sentiment across the country, racial tensions and a spotlight on the U.S. and Mexico border wall, young Latino/a artists constantly navigate what that means for the American Latino experience today.

For the Mexic-Arte Museum’s annual Young Latino Artists’ exhibit, eight artists under 35 from across Texas will give viewers a unique insight into gender restrictions, privilege, cultural heritage and immigration politics. The “¡Ahora!” (Now!) exhibit opens with a public reception from 7-9 p.m. on July 14 with live music by the Tiarra Girls.

Emerging artist Ashley Mireles’ “Dorothea Novak” piece is part of the YLA “Ahora” exhibit.

The selected artists — Nansi Guevara, Daniela Cavazos Madrigal, Mark Anthony Martinez, Michael Martinez, Paloma Mayorga, Andrei Rentería, Ashley Mireles and José Villalobos — “delve into personal negotiations of being Latinx today,” says the exhibit’s guest curator Alana Coates. “Power disparities in the world are at the core of their practices.”

CULTURA EN AUSTIN: Check out more Latino Cultural Arts Coverage 

In her artwork, Cavazos Madrigal, of Laredo, explores the struggles with language translations in bicultural communities. She uses fabric from bulk thrift stores for her creations, which incorporate text-based embroidery and family heirlooms.

Through new media and textiles, artist Michael Martinez shows the pressure endured by LGBTQ members of the Latin American diaspora. Coates, who is the associate director of Ruiz-Healy Art in San Antonio, will speak about all the featured artists as well as her curatorial process during her curator’s talk on July 15 from 2:30-3 p.m. at Mexic-Arte.

The exhibit, which runs through Aug. 27, also includes additional programming such as a YLA poetry night, members brunch and family day. Cost for the opening night reception is $10 for general admission and free for museum members. Visit for more information.

Evolution of graffiti art captured in Nathan ‘Sloke’ Nordstrom exhibit

Nathan “Sloke One” Nordstrom with his work at the Sam Coronado Gallery at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center on Wednesday, January 25, 2017. The show, titled “Another Side” ran through March 25. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin native and veteran graffiti artist Nathan “Sloke” Nordstrom just wrapped up a solo show of graffiti-inspired abstract art last month, but he’s already back with another exhibit featuring new work at the Austin Community College Rio Grande Campus Kramer Gallery. “In the Public Eye: New Work by Nathan ‘Sloke’ Nordstrom,” which shows the progression of graffiti and how it’s changed over the years, runs through May 14.

Nordstrom, whose art has taken him around the world painting murals and participating in art shows, says the exhibit shows the power of the art form. The installation exemplifies the various graffiti styles from bubble letters to an intricate form of graffiti called wildstyle. The exhibit was curated by ACC Instructor and Art Historian Erin Keever.

Related: Aerosol artist strengthens spray can art, teaches new generation of artists

On April 19, the former ACC student-turned-internationally-recognized artist will also participate in a panel discussion at 6 p.m. at ACC’s Rio Grande Campus Auditorium (Room 201, Building 1000) following a free screening of the 1983 film “Style Wars,” a documentary about the early days of hip-hop and graffiti. Nordstrom will be joined by fellow graffiti artists Mez and Wake.

ACC Rio Grande Campus Kramer Gallery is featuring a new exhibit by Nathan Nordstrom. Contributed photo

Related: Exhibit shows ‘Another Side’ of Austin graffiti artist

Over the years, Nordstrom has become a mentor for a new generation of emerging artists and his commission work includes clients such as Nike and Google. Admission to the gallery is free and gallery hours are Monday -Thursday 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday 7 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Saturday 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.


Toma Mi Corazón exhibit at La Peña turns 25

The Toma Mi Corazon exhibit at La Pena raises funds for its  community outreach, art and education programs. A wooden heart by artist Brian Joseph will be among the those auctioned.
 A wooden heart by artist Brian Joseph will be among the those auctioned.

For 25 years, the Latino art gallery La Peña has been opening up its heart to Austinites with the popular Toma Mi Corazón, or Take My Heart, fundraiser. The gallery distributes wooden hearts to crafty Austinites, from artists to local celebrities, who then convert the pieces into artwork. The hearts are auctioned at the Toma Mi Corazón annual exhibit, which raises funds for the gallery’s community outreach, art and education programs.

Even Austinites without celebrity status can create a corazón if they swing by the Congress Avenue gallery to pick up a heart and drop off the donated artwork by 5 p.m. Saturday.

Over the years, the Toma Mi Corazon fundraiser has grown in popularity.

At a time when Austin faces the ongoing displacement of arts and music venues, supporting the longtime organizations promoting Latino arts and culture has become even more significant. La Peña, which launched in 1981, has a $10,000 fundraising goal. Veteran Trinidadian artist Brian Joseph will be among this year’s contributors.


The Toma Mi Corazón party begins at 4 p.m. on Feb. 11, followed by a silent auction at 6 p.m. Keep celebrating at the after party at 8 p.m. with food and refreshments. Admission is $10. Visit for more information.

U.S.-Mexico border imagery shines in ‘Icons & Symbols of the Borderland’ exhibit

Artwork by Richard Armendariz is among the pieces featured at the "Icons & Symbols of the Borderland" exhibit.
Artwork by Richard Armendariz is among the pieces featured at the “Icons & Symbols of the Borderland” exhibit. Photo contributed by Mexic-Arte Museum

When I close my eyes and think of the Texas borderlands, my home, I see snapshots of the symbols I’ve carried throughout my life — the elaborate images on a soft San Marcos blanket or the street vendor peddling garapiñadas — the bright red sugar-coated peanuts — on the international bridge.

The borderlands, the fluid place between two giant worlds, inform everything about my identity. Often, it’s the icons and symbols of a place you connect with that can offer glimpses into your own life.

The Mexic-Arte Museum’s latest exhibit, “Icons & Symbols of the Borderland,” shines a light on the cultural imagery of the U.S.-Mexico border. Sometimes it’s the landscape of the area that resonates the most in the artwork; other times it’s the food culture or religious iconography.

The latest exhibit at Mexic-Arte, which runs through Nov. 13, features the artwork of Miguel Valenzuela.
The latest exhibit at Mexic-Arte, which runs through Nov. 13, features the artwork of Miguel Valenzuela. Photo contributed by Mexic-Arte Museum

“In an age where visual representations are fundamental to communication and lifestyle, icons and symbols are the key to ethical precepts, inspirations and beliefs,” guest curator Diana Molina, director of the Juntos Art Association in El Paso, said in a written statement. “They provide a framework for ideals, emotions, philosophy and, ultimately, patterns of behavior.”


The exhibit, which runs through Nov. 13 in the museum’s main gallery, includes the work of more than 20 Juntos Art Association artists. A poignant photo collage by Molina examines the wall that already exists in different border communities from Texas to California. A painting by Antonio Castro titled “Rebirth” depicts an agave growing out of dry, cracked ground in Ciudad Juárez. Agaves, which can survive in the harshest of conditions, bloom after many years. It begins to die after a giant, flowering stalk grows from its center, but it leaves behind seeds for new life. In Castro’s painting, the agave sits in the middle of a desolate road peppered with bullet casings. Instead of a flowering stalk, a newborn baby offers a symbol of another kind of new life.

Museum admission is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and students and $1 for children 12 and younger. Visit the Mexic-Arte Museum for free every Sunday. The museum, at 419 Congress Ave., is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 pm. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Visitors can also catch an exhibit of Day of the Dead altars through Nov. 13 in the adjacent annex gallery. Keep an eye out for our upcoming story on each of the elaborate altars this year.

‘Taking to the Road’ exhibit gives inside look at farmworker life

Artifacts, oral history interviews and photos, like this one of Mary Montoya Hohenstein's brothers, will be part of the upcoming "Taking to the Road: The Austin Migrant Farmworkers Connection" exhibit. Photo contributed by Mary Montoya Hohenstein
Artifacts, oral history interviews and photos, like this one of Mary Montoya Hohenstein’s brothers, will be part of the upcoming “Taking to the Road: The Austin Migrant Farmworkers Connection” exhibit. Photo contributed by Mary Montoya Hohenstein

In my hometown on the Texas border, I grew accustomed to my classmates leaving the school year early or enrolling late. As seasonal migrant farmworkers, they followed the harvest to northern U.S. states with their families and worked in fields or canneries to provide the fruits and vegetables that would eventually end up on someone’s kitchen table.

Although I stayed behind and watched as they left each year, eventually my father began leaving to work in the fields, too. As a kid, places such as Michigan and Illinois seemed like a world away, but the seasonal pilgrimages my father took provided for our family. I didn’t realize it then, but the connection to the migrant farmworker life would later help shape my identity as a Mexican American woman.

I recently shared some of these experiences during an oral history interview tied to the powerful upcoming exhibit and event series “Taking to the Road: The Austin Migrant Farmworkers Connection.” The multi-layered program examines various angles of the farmworker experience and includes community and national exhibits, documentary screenings, panels and a keynote presentation, all at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center throughout July.

RELATED: Best of Latino cultural arts in July

The “Taking to the Road” community exhibit, which opens with a reception at 6 p.m. on July 9, shines a light on Central Texans who moved throughout the country to work as migrant farmworkers during the 1940s-70s. Pieces of their farmworker pasts will be stitched together through photos, artifacts and oral history interview clips, which will be on display through Sept. 3.

“Very little has been documented or preserved regarding Mexican Americans in farm and ranch life whether in Austin, Travis County or Central Texas much less as migrant farm workers,” said Gloria Espitia, an outreach representative at the MACC. “(The exhibit) gives a historical perspective of the roles that twelve families contributed in the area of agriculture…In some cases, some of the exhibit contributors have not told their stories to their own children or other family members. The reasoning for this is not because of the negative feelings and stigma as migrant farmworkers, but rather because they did not feel that it was an important story to tell.”

The Guzman family works in the fields of Wisconsin. Photo contributed by Gloria Guzman
The Guzman family works in the fields of Wisconsin. Photo contributed by Gloria Guzman

“Bittersweet Harvest,” a bilingual exhibit that gives a national view of the farmworker story, also opens on July 9. It explores the bracero program, which brought millions of Mexican nationals on short-term labor contracts between 1942-1964.

But what’s farmworker life like now for children? Visitors can check out the 2011 documentary “The Harvest/La Cosecha” at 3 p.m. on July 9 at the cultural center’s Black Box theater. The film follows three teenagers whose families travel from Texas to Florida and Michigan for seasonal work. A discussion will follow the film.

RELATED: Find out about more Latino cultural happenings in Austin.

Tying these experiences together will be the keynote presentation, “Taken by the Road: Migration from Montopolis to Muskegon,” from 2-4 p.m. July 23 at the cultural center’s auditorium and theater. Retired professor Raymond Padilla, will give insight into his life as the son of a bracero who then moved to Austin and traveled to work in the fields throughout the country. A panel afterward will feature Austinites highlighted in the “Taking to the Road” community exhibit.

Keep an eye out for another panel discussion from 2-3:30 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the cultural center’s auditorium featuring the St. Edward’s University College Assistance Migrant Program, which is the longest running program of its kind in the nation. CAMP students, alumni, former counselors and the current director, Esther Yacono, will share the experiences of the program, which has helped thousands of students obtain their higher education dreams.

Weekend Latino Cultural Art picks June 10-13

León Larregui is on an international tour this summer.


León Larregui at Emo’s
Mexican musician, singer, composer and filmmaker León Larregui, who is best known as the lead singer of the band Zoé, performs at Emo’s on June 10. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets cost between $30-35. Visit for more information.


Salsa & Heritage Festival

The Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance and Cultural Center presents its annual Salsa and Heritage Festival from 6:30-11 p.m. on June 11 at the Asian American Resource Center. This semi-formal event features performances by folklore masters, salsa dancing, Puerto Rican food and handicrafts. Admission is $15 in advance or $20 at the door for adults; $5 for children 12 and younger. For ticket information, visit

“Borderlands” Film Screening

Catch a free screening and Q&A discussion of the film “Borderlands” from 4-7 p.m. on June 11 at Resistencia Bookstore (4926 E. Cesar Chavez St. Unit C1). “Borderlands” tells the story of a 74-year-old Mexican American woman as she attempts to keep her dysfunctional, neurotic family together. The event, which is presented by the nonprofit organization Allgo, will also feature filmmaker Hector Bojorquez and lead actress Sandra Bojorquez. View the film trailer here.

Los Rabanes at Flamingo Cantina

Panamanian ska-rock fusion band, Los Rabanes, will perform in Austin on June 11 at Flamingo Cantina. The Latin Grammy award winners, who are on their North American tour, have worked with producers such as Emilio Estefan and Ruben Blades. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets range from $15-40.


Expo Mujer 2016

The free Spanish-language women’s expo at the Palmer Events Center on June 12 features everything from personal and professional development workshops to fashion and beauty events.


“El Jeremías” Film Screening

If you want to extend the weekend fun into Monday, check out the screening of what looks like an adorable comedy called “El Jeremías.” Rising Mexican director Anwar Safa brings us the story of an 8-year-old boy from a poor family who finds out he’s a child prodigy. The movie won the Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival, and the special screening at 7 p.m. on June 13 at the Alamo Drafthouse Village is part of AFF’s Audience Award series. Cine Las Americas is co-presenting the film.



Exhibit celebrates art by graffiti artist Nathan ‘Sloke’ Nordstrom

Graffiti artist Nathan "Sloke" Nordstrom paints a wall in his backyard in 2013. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Graffiti artist Nathan “Sloke” Nordstrom paints a wall in his backyard in 2013. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Veteran graffiti artist Nathan “Sloke” Nordstrom has been

As a native Austinite, he’s seen the local graffiti culture evolve from the days when he painted on the streets without permission. In recent years, he’s witnessed the city embrace a thriving street art scene, which

Now Nordstrom, who is also known as “Sloke One,” is taking all of his graffiti art experience and translating it to canvas for his first solo exhibition, “Fatcapped.” A selection of his pieces as well as documentary photographs of Nordstrom’s work from the streets are on display at the Austin gallery, Testsite (502 W. 33rd St.) from now through March 27. The gallery is open Sundays from 4-6 p.m. and by appointment.

“This is my way of taking the rawness and energy of the streets and bringing it indoors,” Nordstrom says in the exhibit’s artist statement.

Nathan Nordstrom at his "Fatcapped" exhibit.
Nathan Nordstrom at the “Fatcapped” exhibit.

“Fatcapped” was curated by Chale Nafus who says he’s been fascinated by the four elements of hip-hop culture (graffiti, b-boyin’, rapping and deejaying) since 1984. Nafus has seen these elements blossom, die and revive throughout his three decades in Austin.

In the late 1980s, Nafus met one of Nordstrom’s mentors In an accompanying essay with the exhibit, Nafus says he met Nordstrom years after Martinez’ 1994 death at a time when Austin’s hip-hop culture was being invigorated by events like hip-hop festival BBoy City.

In Nafus’ essay, Nordstrom explained his graffiti art process and style: “The letters are your name and the style is a reflection of who you are. Some people say, ‘Well don’t you get bored writing your name over and over?’ It’s not about that. It’s stylized typography. And as I change in life and evolve as an artist, so does my style.”