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Barrio Latino Art Festival celebrates Broadway murals

By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa


Sept. 22, 2012: Hispanic Heritage Month seems to get bigger and brighter in Toledo each year—and the Barrio Latino Art Festival proved to be an explosion of color and culture.


Organizers blocked off a portion of Broadway Street in front of the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center (SQACC) so Latino artists could display their works for sale, food and games could be set up, and salsa music could blare from under a tent. While it rained for much of the day, the significance of the festival could not be drenched.


The street festival proved much more than just a celebration of the art murals painted over the summer along Broadway. The event proved to be a coming-out party of sorts for many members of the Organization of Latino Artists (OLA), some of whom rarely get to display their craft.


“It gives me a platform to show off my artwork to the neighborhood and the city of Toledo,” said Delfina Zapata, an office manager during the week. “I haven’t exhibited my work too often, so this is the perfect place and the perfect time of the year with Hispanic Heritage Month.”


Ms. Zapata called the art festival “a perfect tie-in” for the artists who also worked on the murals to display their individual talents as well. Ms. Zapata doesn’t limit herself to just one medium—one day she’ll paint with acrylics, another day she’ll find herself making artistic jewelry or “pretty much whatever I can get my hands on,” she said.

Her tent was colorfully decorated, but one of the biggest draws were larger-than-life skull piñatas, which paid homage to the Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos (Nov. 2). Ms. Zapata explained her mother has been making them for decades and credited her mom for her artistic talents and passing down an interest in Latino art and culture. Ms. Zapata is now just two classes short at the University of Toledo of becoming an art teacher.

Barrio Latino Art Festival celebrates Broadway murals.

Norma Ruiz-Shaaban


Other artists showed off elaborate paintings including Norma Ruiz-Shaaban—and some even planned to paint during the festival in-between periods of rain.


“For the short time we planned it, I think everything is going well,” said Ricardo Quiñónez Alemán, whose art studio is located just above Galería de las Américas along Broadway. “I think it’s a good opportunity for the public to come see the different kinds of styles, different kinds of media, and to talk to the artists about their artwork. It’s quite unique in that sense.”


“It’s about murals, it’s about everything here,” said Linda Parra, one of the festival organizers. “It’s about Latinos, it’s about celebration. It’s about cultural heritage.”


Hispanic Heritage month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, recognizing the many contributions of Latino Americans in the U.S. Traditionally observed on the campuses of the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University, the art festival represents the first time in a long time that the greater Latino community has participated in the observance to this extent.


Four organizations joined forces to organize the festival:  SQACC, OLA, Nuestra Gente community outreach, and the Believe Center, which opened a few months ago in a city-owned building that once housed the Aurora González Community Center. All four groups split the proceeds from the festival and a dance held at SQACC Sat. evening.


“I think it’s a celebration for everyone,” said Quiñónez. “When there are celebrations for other cultures, it unifies those cultures as well. This is not just for Hispanics. I think it’s for everyone to celebrate. I think it’s a perfect excuse to gather everyone together and unify them, unify cultures, unify traditions, learn from each other—and I think that’s the beauty of it.”


Ironically, the arts festival began the same year as the June 16th MidWest LatinoFest—to be held next year on June 15th—,a possible sign the Latino community is starting to come together with strength in metro Toledo. Younger Latino leaders also are stepping forward to handle those duties, which comes as a positive development to older leaders in the community, who have been trying to hand off the mantel to the younger generation for several years.


“We are actually in the neighborhood, which I think makes it different,” said Quiñónez.

“We’ve invited people from the outside, from downtown, to come here. It’s an invitation that this is not a dangerous neighborhood. It’s in a process of a social change. It’s becoming a sort of a coalition. The best way to go through this transformation is the arts.”


“The more that we get, the more time we need to spend together—the families, friends, the organizations—all working together for the Latino community,” agreed Ms. Parra. “To show people about our cultural heritage—telling them ‘Hey, we are here’ and we are a Latino community doing this for you guys. We want to share this with the larger community—our culture, our heritage.”




Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/25/12 18:02:30 -0700.



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