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Honoring Artists' Hispanic Heritage

By Larla Morales National Hispanic Heritage Month traditionally honors the cultures and contributions of both Hispanic and Latino Americans as we celebrate heritage rooted in all Latin American countries.”- The Library of Congress. As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, The Center for Contemporary Arts reflects on contributions of Hispanic and Latinx artists and the vast wealth of cultural richness and depth these individuals bring to the local and global community. Within our own ever-diversifying community, The Center has been honored to support the work and artistic pursuits of Hispanic and Latinx artists since our beginnings as The Artist League of Texas in 1984. Our organization's formative years were directly influenced by the vision and inspiration of the late Cuban-born  sculptor Christian “Chris” Diaz and his brother and fellow acclaimed artist Rolando Diaz, whose mural can be viewed at Thomas Everett's Fine Furniture warehouse at South First and Cedar Street. Chris, who served as The League’s President at the time of its formation, spearheaded the efforts to create an artist co-op in Abilene Texas along with the efforts of fellow artists and local supporters. Their collective vision culminated into the creation of The Center for Contemporary Arts. Since the foundation of our organization, The Center has endeavored to utilize our facilities to encourage artists from different backgrounds and walks of life to explore, experiment, and communicate through their artwork. 

Go to link145ft long ocean-themed mural, Photo by Peter Larsen Our Curator of Education and artist Manny De Los Santos organized and emceed a beautiful evening filled with color, music, dancing, art, stories, food and laughter during our October 2020 ArtWalk. We were honored to host the talents of St. Vincent Pallotti’s Ballet Folkorico, and Cultura Local ABI’s Cultural Fashion Show, as well as dancer Aida Pantoja who performed traditional dances. Through his efforts at The Center we have been able to further the use of our spaces as a place to facilitate and support meaningful cultural exchange, education and celebration. His continued work and presence in the community inspires and energizes all who come through our doors during our monthly ArtWalks and educational experiences at The Center.

Photos by Robbie Cleaves (1) Manny De Los Santos MCs October 2020 ArtWalk (2) Dancer Ida Pantoja Performs during ArtWalk (3) Dancers from St. Vincent Pallotti’s Ballet Folkorico gathered around Artist Patty Rae Welborn to create Papel Picado (4-8) Dancers from St. Vincent Pallotti’s Ballet Folkorico perform at ArtWalk (5) Cultura Local’s Cultural Fashion Show Participants (6-10) Dancers from St. Vincent Pallotti’s Ballet Folkorico (3) Silvia___ performs during October 2020 ArtWalk (4)St. Vincent Pallotti’s Ballet Folkorico Within our walls, we house the working studio of the artist Maria Branch, who was born in Mendoza, Argentina and has lived in Texas since 1995. Her Italian-born Nono (grandfather) was a painter, as was her father in Argentina. She states “my love for the art born in my cradle.” Following her passions and talent, she completed superior studies at Bellas Arts in La Plata, Buenos Aires and has worked throughout  Texas and The Southwest. Her studio is constantly abuzz with creation and activity. Maria boasts an impressive portfolio and array of artistic skills. She is constantly creating beautiful works in traditional mediums and glass as well as teaching private lessons in oil painting, stained glass, and Chinese Brush in her studio at the Center for Contemporary Arts in downtown Abilene. 

Photos: (1) The Artist Maria Branch (2-10) Artwork by Maria Branch, all photos courtesy of Maria Branch

We also contain the working studio of the multi talented and prolific artist Anthony Fuentez. In his own words Anthony details how his heritage has informed his work, “I think the most beautiful thing about my background are the many different cultures that make me who I have become as an artist.” He continues. “My creativity is inspired through the emotional expression I see and feel on a daily basis. Through storytelling I tap within my heritage as we  face our daily struggles. I want my art to express compassion. I want to celebrate our spiritual journey in the form of poetic narrative. Hopefully when someone sees my art they can relate to a certain time of life I am expressing. We all share a unique story and through my art I am humbled to be vulnerable and allow the public within my walls.” His body of work contains a sizable number of drawings, paintings and sculptures that is ever expanding and evolving, “As an artist I feel the most important thing to share is freedom.  We choose who we become and I want my art to express the same element as I create and find meaning within each new canvas.” 

Read more about Anthony Fuentez and his latest work here.

Photos: (1) Anthony Fuentez photographed for Abilene Reporter News (2-6) Images of Anthony Fuentez’s work, courtesy of Anthony Fuentez

In our community, Artist Member Thomás Madrid creates artwork from his studio space at Art Crush Abilene. He is a founding member of this diversely talented local art and creative collective. He serves as the business and property manager at their location at 1969 Industrial Blvd in Abilene Texas, which offers a number of art studios and gallery/performance spaces.He and his family are deeply invested and involved in our local fine arts and theatre scene, hosting numerous art exhibitions, pop up shows, plays and performances at Art Crush and throughout Abilene during the year. 

Photos: (1)The Artist Thomás Madrid  (2-7) Artwork by Thomás Madrid, Courtesy of Thomás Madrid 

These individuals are intrinsic to our make up at The Center for Contemporary Arts. Their profound art, stories, experiences and dedication enrich and fortify our creative community here in Abilene. As we consider this year's Hispanic Heritage Month, we at The Center look forward to continuing to share artful experiences and meaningful connections as we proceed into the future and continue learning, exploring, and celebrating along with our local and global community.  Special thanks to Maria Branch, Anthony Fuentes, Thomás Madrid and Robbie Cleaves for their contributions to this story.

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