Downtown Art Crawl embraces diversity

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Downtown Art Crawl embraces diversity

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The temperature dropped into the 40’s late Thursday evening. The overcast sky, icy wind and intermittent rain was enough to keep anyone inside, but ULM students and Monroe residents put on their coats and grabbed their umbrellas to support local artist in this month’s art crawl.

The event was lovingly put together and executed by the Downtown Art’s Alliance. Warm coffee and hot chocolate were available for purchase to combat the cold, and live music could still be heard along the streets.

“This weather was definitely not ideal, but I’m still very happy with the turnout. The herons in the Palace Hall exhibit have been the most popular ones tonight,” said Jen Brister, a board member of the art crawl for the past two years.

The art crawl is an opportunity for students and people from the community to showcase and make money off their work. However, this event is important for another reason.

“It’s important for us to create this environment, because it keeps local talent in Monroe. It shows artists that they don’t have to leave our city to have a chance to show off their art,” Brister said.

Diversity was the overwhelming theme of this month’s art crawl. Undergraduate and graduate students from Louisiana Tech University used their art to create a dialogue about topics concerning diversity and inclusivity that were important to them.

Dellanee Wade, a masters in fine arts student, chose her thesis topic to encompass the effect of studio art, mixed media and graphic design on predominately black areas.

“I’ve always been an advocate for social change and I wanted to acknowledge a big story. I wanted to research fine arts and graphic design curriculum and how impactful it was to communities that were predominately people of color,” Wade said.

Her work showed charts and graphs detailing what states offered these courses and the subsequent effect it had on the student’s outcomes.

Cinthia Alicia Rincón, a student at Tech, had a different approach.

“There’s a lot of political discourse happening in the media about the Latina community. A lot of it is negative, untrue stereotypes and even the president has made very harmful comments. It’s a mess, and it doesn’t show that behind these stereotypes are real people with real emotions and lives that we’re messing with. I wanted to show that through my art,” Rincón said.

Rincón’s pieces were based off a very popular playing card game called Mexican bingo. On each playing card was a different personal story from the Latina Americans she interviewed. The people’s names remained anonymous, but their stories were typed out and placed next to their respective playing card created using a technique called digital painting.

“Playing cards are fragile and can be easily ripped, torn or broken. I think that was the perfect metaphor for these people’s lives. I feel that many people and our president see them as statistics because of media miscommunication. I want my art to be a way of reconnecting the audience and starting a new dialogue,” Rincón said.

Rincón grew up in an area she says was very diverse. Because there were so many different people from various backgrounds around, she didn’t see the differences. However, when she moved to Arizona, a Senate bill named 1070 was passed that made it legal to deport immigrants even if they were proper U.S. citizens.

“It was a real eye opener. I realized that there was a real danger and consequence for being labeled different,” Rincón said.

Stories and anecdotes such as these show the importance of the Monroe Art Crawl. Not only is it an opportunity for artists, but it can be a learning environment for topics that we may not be aware of already.

Artists like Wade and Rincón use their talents to give people of color an outlet to express their struggles. Brave artists like them help teach about other peoples’ lives through art.