Conversations | Meet the Organizers of IAP San Antonio, “Admitted: USA” Exhibition

Conversations | Meet the Organizers of IAP San Antonio, “Admitted: USA” Exhibition

“The idea to submit an artistic proposal to the Centro de Artes Open Call first came up during the potluck hosted by Ricky Armendariz, where everyone got a chance to connect and share their thoughts and experiences.” – Kim Bishop

Admitted: USA is an exhibition by the first cohort of participants in NYFA’s Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program in San Antonio, and features sculpture, painting, installation, jewelry, photography, spoken word performances, films, and musical performances by 26 San Antonio-based artists in conjunction with  three local partner organizations: Blue Star Contemporary, Art Pace, and SAY Sí. The artists covered various subjects including immigration, women’s issues, culture, family, LGBTQ issues, identity, and others. Keep on reading to learn more about the show and its organizers. 

NYFA: Did the exhibition reveal aspects of the program that you did not focus on before?

Guillermina Zabala: The collaboration between mentor/mentee within a multidisciplinary creative process was an aspect of this program I did not focus on before we started planning this exhibit. As a mentor, producing new artworks with my mentees revealed a new facet in the reciprocal learning process. The impact of this experience is extremely valuable because it opened multiple opportunities for all artists involved. Creating art and showcasing it as a collective transformed the San Antonio NYFA Round 1 from a theory-based to a practical-creative based program. The exhibit Admitted: USA marks the perfect culmination for a 4-month professional development program and the beginning of an innovative new network of artists.

Kim Bishop: The main result of this exhibition that I have experienced is that now I feel we have really come together as a group. The fine line between Mentor and Mentee has blurred and the distinction that we were only paired with one or two is gone. We all worked together as a collaborative group. I feel that I am Mentor to all and that I am Mentee to all at the same time. It has truly been an enlightening experience.

Luis Valderas: The exhibition revealed to me generational nuances between artists, as well as professional characteristics of the various levels of participating artists that I learned to bridge.

Sarah Fisch: Because of the exhibition, I got to listen to many more artists, whose bios I got to read and help edit. It affected me not with their immigration histories, but with their work. I knew many of the Mentor artists pretty well, but got to know them better and developed an even higher esteem for them; watching them share resources and take such deep interest in the issues and creative struggles their mentees are facing.

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NYFA: How has the program helped you in moving closer towards your own/communal goal(s)?

KB: One of my goals is to be an arts organizer and curator. Working on this exhibit has helped me with professional writing techniques like budgets, proposals, and artist contracts. Additionally, I have learned how to organize a large long-term exhibition and how to organize its programming. I have also learned marketing strategies and how funding and budgeting work with a municipality. 

SF: Collaborating as a steering committee bonded the members as people, and it also felt like at least some little bit of meaningful work as our immigration policy crisis is not only ongoing but escalating. I was inspired by an interview I did with one of the mentees of the program and my own mentee became a good friend. These are just two of countless examples of talented and valuable artists who either navigated or are actively threatened by our immigration policies. From a civic standpoint, I knew that if their work could be seen by the public, it would humanize the dilemma.

NYFA: Luis M. Garza, you came on board sharing your photography expertise, and link as a staff member from our cultural partner, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC).

Luis M. Garza: While I was not a mentor, my role within the exhibition committee was to use my photographic and design skills to photo-document and promote the artists, mentors, and the exhibition itself. My contribution filled a critical need for accessible, high-quality documentation of artworks, exhibition installation, and related events, which is essential to the promotion of both individual artists and presenting institutions as well as to the preservation of the artists’ voice and institutional history for future generations. 

The work I furnished included portrait sessions of artists and mentors; artworks and gallery installation documentation; event photography of the exhibition’s opening reception, film night, performances, and the upcoming artist talk; and, lastly, the layout design of the exhibition catalog.

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NYFA: Do you have any advice for artists that are new to a city and interested in creating their own opportunities?

LV: Take notice of how the institutions in the city support artists and participate in events by collaborating with those institutions. Talk to the artists of the city that you are new to and make friends.

GZ: Visit museums, contemporary arts centers, and community arts centers. While visiting these venues, look and ask for any future artist talks, art events, and/or educational opportunities. I feel that one of the best ways to network with new people is by going to art openings and cultural events. Another way to learn more about the art scene of a specific city is by visiting art galleries to get a feel for the type of artwork that community is creating and interested in acquiring. 

Connecting with established artists by going to art openings and other artistic events might open opportunities to showcase your work. First in group shows and then once the community gets to be more familiar with your medium, style, and techniques, you will have more chances to submit proposals for solo or two-person shows. It is also important to constantly search for open calls from art centers, galleries, universities, and other artistic venues. 

NYFA: You all keep a very active artistic practice. Do you want to share any other upcoming projects or plans for the future?

KB: Things are really hopping for me right now. Luis and I have opened up our LLC officially and are starting to work on some major public city projects.  Additionally, I have been accepted into the MFA program at the University of Texas-San Antonio. I have been awarded a scholarship and fellowship and will begin this Fall while continuing to teach at Southwest School of Art. I am also excited to announce that I will be having a solo exhibition at the Elisabet Ney Museum in Austin for Print Austin in 2020.

GZ: In the Fall of 2019, I’ll have some new work in the exhibit 20/20 curated by Spare Parts Mini Art Museum. I’ve also been admitted to the Masters in Media Studies program at The New School and will start this Fall. My thesis will focus on youth digital media and its social impact. 

LV: I am keeping pace with a number of projects. To begin with, I am in the middle of preparations for the long-awaited Project: MASA-IV, which will open July 2020 through January 2021 at The Centro De Artes. The fourth installment of the exhibition series will continue using science fiction and outer space in both serious and satirical approaches to contemporary events dealing with immigration, identity, and social justice, as they relate to “[email protected] Space” at a national and cosmic level. I am also officially part of Bishop & Valderas LLC — “We are a production house for ideas.” Our offices are based out of our art studio that we are currently retrofitting and updating. This will help us hit the ground running in our recently awarded public project. The studio grounds will also be designed to function as gathering space, meditational space, and work space.    

Admitted: USA is fully funded by the City of San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture

Learn more about Ricky Armendariz, Kim Bishop, Sarah Fisch, Luis M. Garza, Luis Valderas, and Guillermina Zabala

– Interview Conducted by Alicia Ehni, Program Officer at NYFA Learning

This interview is part of the ConEdison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter #119. Subscribe to this free monthly e-mail for artist’s features, opportunities, and events.

Images: Exhibition views of Admitted: USA, Photo Credit: Luis M. Garza 

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Amy Aronoff
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