We are excited to announce the selection of three talented and innovative artists-in-residence for the Activating Vacancy Arts Incubator (AVAI), an arts and public design initiative in downtown Brownsville. Over the next 6 months, artists-in-residence Celeste De Luna, Rigoberto Gonzalez, and Nansi Guevara will work with [bc] and the City of Brownsville to investigate, analyze and engage with downtown Brownsville through public artworks created in collaboration with local stakeholders. There was an overwhelmingly positive response to the call for artists and we thank all the talented individuals who applied. Read about our artists below and keep up to date with AVAI via our Facebook page.
Celeste De Luna is a painter/printmaker from the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. She received her MFA from the University of Texas Pan American in 2008. She has shown artwork in group exhibitions since 2007 in the various cities in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, San Diego and Chicago. Additionally, De Luna’s work has been part of nationally and internationally exhibited printmaking portfolio projects. In 2013, her one person show “Nepantla: Art from the Four Corners of the Valley” at South Texas College in McAllen, Texas was part of the 2013 Texas Biennial.
“My work is a tool to understand and deconstruct oppressive paradigms in my physical/spiritual/psychic environment. The confluence of American and Xicano culture clash and sometimes harmonize in my work. My seemingly morbid interests go well with the death and despair of the border experience. Common themes in my work include migrant/border experiences of women, children, and families, Tejas landscape, and the spiritual struggle of conflicting identities. My practice is rooted in writing, drawing, carving, and taking photographs. At times, my process is like child’s play with props and collected objects. These things manifest themselves in drawings and eventually artworks that can be paintings, drawings, prints, or assemblage.”
Nansi Guevara is a Xicana artist and activist from Laredo, Texas. Her work is at the core of using her border and rasquache sensibilities to create decolonial public artwork alongside communities. In 2006, she moved to Austin, Texas to pursue a Bachelor's in Design from the University of Texas, where she focused on creating educational studio based experiences and educational resources for youth of color. Post graduation, she spent one year in Mexico City on a Fulbright, where she co-authored and co-illustrated a children's book for pediatric cancer patients that is now being used in the Hospital General de México Federico Gómez and Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. In 2013, she moved across the country to study Arts in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In the last two years, she has created three public art pieces with community members in the Boston greater area, that center the experiences of people of color in a way that is celebratory and creates a call to action. She is now reconnecting with the Texas/Mexico border and hopes to join residents of Brownsville to create meaningful work that is deeply resonant to them and their communities.
Rigoberto Gonzalez was born in 1973 in Reynosa Tamaulipas, Mexico, and currently lives in southeast Texas near the Rio Grande in the city of Harlingen. He holds a B.F.A. from The University of Texas at Pan America in 1999 and an M.F.A. from the New York Academy of Art in 2004. Gonzalez’s work has been exhibited at The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC (2016), the Hå gamle prestegard, Norway (2015), National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL (2015), The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, Austin (2012), The Houston Art League, Houston (2012), The Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, El Paso (2011), Texas Biennial, Austin (2011), Las Cruces Museum of Art, Las Cruces, New Mexico (2010), Roswell Museum and Art Center, Roswell, New Mexico (2009), Harlingen Heritage Museum, Harlingen (2008), Casa de la Cultura, Reynosa Tamaulipas, Mexico (2006) and Richardson Art Gallery, The University of Texas at Brownsville (2005). Rigoberto A. Gonzalez has completed artist residencies at the Coronado Studios Serie XX Project Artist Residency, Austin (2013) Roswell Artist Residency Program, Roswell, New Mexico (2008/09) and Rancho del Cielo, University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College (2004), and received grants from the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (2009/10). He has been the subject of artist profiles on PBS, NPR, and Televisa.
AVAI kicked off on April 8th with an informative panel discussion between downtown community stakeholders, artists, building owners, and new bcFELLOW Christina Houle who will be working closely with the incubator. The panel discussed the history of downtown, how it has come to its current condition, and what opportunities and challenges the area faces and how the arts might address these issues. On May 6th, AVAI and the Brownsville Historical Association led community members on a tour of historic and vacant structures throughout downtown Brownsville.