- Visual Arts
The vast majority of Texas and Texans in non-urban centers have zero arts coverage in their communities, and are woefully underserved by national and even state media — aside from stories about narco wars and border politics. Having written about the arts in San Antonio for three years, I’ve learned what creative and responsible writing can do to strengthen artists and arts institutions, in addition to raising the media profile of the area.
Unfortunately, most media outlets in remote West Texas and bilingual South Texas have drastically cut arts journalism. The same is happening in large media markets — but while many markets at least retain freelancer arts writing, in under-served areas this means no coverage, which can lead to de-funding of arts institutions, difficulty mounting exhibitions, getting audiences to turn out for events, and helping artists build careers. However, in an age of viral, immediate, and multimedia journalism, one woman with a computer, a car, and a camera can cover a lot of territory, and expose that territory to the attention of a wider world.
Having written about my hometown of San Antonio, I’ve gotten to know numerous artists, arts educators, and heads of nonprofits who grew up poor and of-color in (ongoing) times of de facto segregation. I’ve been told, over and over, that exposure to art and access to materials in childhood, however humble, gave them a perspective beyond their struggling neighborhoods, and provided them with the impetus to pursue higher education, whether or not they went on to practice fine arts as a profession.
For some, arts-based higher education has drawn them away from South Texas and towards larger urban areas, in hopes of garnering, among other things, media attention. Some of these have returned to South Texas in order to engage the communities they love, at cost of that media attention, and the chance of exhibiting their own work more widely. I’m passionate about using whatever power I have as a writer and filmmaker to bring media attention to artists here, and to ameliorate the hardships that artists and arts institutions face based on race, poverty, and geographic remoteness.
Through statewide exhibitions such as The Texas Biennial, the Artist-in-Residence program at Artpace San Antonio, The Texas Contemporary Art Fair in Houston, and San Antonio’s Contemporary Arts Month, I’ve been exposed to challenging, innovative, diverse and intriguing work from artmakers in South and West Texas. Upon researching these artists and their work, I found virtually nothing written about them in the press. I know there are important and underrepresented artists in this South/West Texas region, and I hear from impassioned arts educators and artists in Harlingen, Edinburg, Alice, Sanderson, Del Rio, Beeville, and other towns — mostly via social media — about how difficult it is for arts to flourish in a media vacuum.
I want to make ten two- to three-day trips over the course of five months to meet with these artists, teachers and heads of nonprofits, to interview them and to make studio visits, to attend shows and observe institutions. This isn’t an extended vacation in an exotic locale, but a deeper series of regional investigations into the techniques, institutions, social forces and intellectual terrain that makes up the diverse arts of South and border Texas. I’m a hardworking, knowledgeable journalist who in collaboration with talented, hardworking artmakers, educators, and heads of institutions, hopes to expand arts media knowledge of a complex part of the world. Importantly, the US demographics are trending towards a growing Latino presence in the US; it’s maybe a long shot, but through my work I want to demonstrate what a Latin America looks like, and in doing so chip away at the anti-immigrant and xenophobic sentiments felt by Americans unfamiliar with an increasingly predominant set of peoples and cultural traditions.
The ongoing result of this project will be a series of multimedia “travel diary” entries from renowned Houston arts and humanities website Glasstire, for whom I am a regular contributor. Just as important, I will pitch articles about local artists and institutions to local South and West Texas newspapers who don't have the budgetary resources to maintain regular arts coverage. I believe competent writing and engaging short videos will expose curators and institutions in larger cities to a deserving community of diligent, underappreciated, and imaginative contemporary artmakers.
At the culmination of the Chupacabrona tour, I plan to edit the videos into a short-form documentary for posting online as well as possible festival inclusion, and to pitch a feature article about the region to various regional and national publications.