Latino Art
Produced by Pat McConahay

 

In 1983 Art Luna was one of the first Sacramento restaurant owners to invite local artists to show their works on his walls. He saw this as a way to get art before the masses, especially Latino art, which wasn't always embraced by mainstream galleries.

Much of Latino Art uses a bold style, which reflects the struggles they've undergone, particularly in the farm fields where they've toiled for so many generations. Seventy-eight-year-old Benny Barrios is considered Sacramento's pioneering Mexican American painter. It was in 1954 that this modest son of farmworkers began breaking down barriers. He was the first Latino to show at the Crocker Art Museum.

The cutting-edge series was called "Wetbacks" and portrayed the plight of the migratory farm worker stealing across the border. While some of Barrios's pieces make biting political statements, the majority of his work reflects his love for Sacramento and for the rough and tumble neighborhood he grew up in. 44th and T was an area of prostitutes and bars. Barrios captured the hard-pressed time. This soft-spoken artist paved the way for the next wave of Mexican painters-the rebellious Chicano generation of the 70s-artists that combined an in-your-face art with protest and community activism.

Jose Montoya and fellow artists, collaborated with labor leader Cesar Chavez to fight for the rights of farmworkers. Their artistic posters carried the messages of the movement. Later Montoya co-founded the ground-breaking Chicano artist's cooperative, humorously dubbed the Royal Chicano Air Force or RCAF. As a retired art professor, Montoya also influences up-and-coming Latino artists. The preservation of a precious cultural commodity like art, rests in their paint brushes.

Twenty-four-year-old Zeneida (ZENIDA) Cid symbolizes the new generation of Chicano artist. Her themes are more mainstream than those of her activist forebears. However, she's still influenced by her father Armando Cid, an early RCAF member. Cid is an education outreach assistant for the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, with degrees in art history and anthropology from U.C. Davis. She says today's young Latino artists are better educated than those who've gone before, and education is key to turning out a new legion of Latino artists.

Cid, who's work is showing at Luna's Café, says another way Latino art can flourish is by changing the attitude some have that it's just folk rather than fine art-fit for any mainstream gallery. If there's to be a future for these young artists and their cultural contributions we must preserve the past.

A major effort to archive and catalogue these timeless treasures is underway at Sacramento's La Raza Galleria Posada. Founded in 1972, its mission is to advance and celebrate Chicano and Latino culture. Marisa Gutierrez is the creative director. What Latino Art can bring to everyone is a proud and vibrant history. It's a culture that's helped shape the Central Valley through the bold strokes of the artist's brush.

 

INTERVIEWS:

Brian Leahy
President, CA Certified Organic Farmers

Sean Swezey
Director of SAREP

Mark McAfee
Owner, Organic Pasture Dairy


TRANSCRIPT:

The complete text of New Valley Episode 204 - Lost and Found...

 

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