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CultivARTE Collective’s debut festival explores the vastness of Latinx art

The local arts organization will bring a variety of visual art, music, and dance to the North Side on August 28.

The local arts organization will bring a variety of visual art, music, and dance to the North Side on August 28.

Photo: In a piece from photographer Zeus Corona’s exhibition “Soy Raíz” (“I’m Root”), a child in an Aztec-style headdress looks up at the camera. Textural scratches and streaks of orange run through the photo’s blue-tinted foreground.

Madison’s CultivARTE Collective grew from the need for a space created by Latinx artists to connect with the Latinx community. The group will hold its first Latinx Art Festival on August 28 from 1 to 6 p.m. in the Sherman Avenue United Methodist Church parking lot on 3705 North Sherman Avenue. Organized under the theme “Latin American Allegories: Stories From Mother Earth,” the festival lineup will showcase art in a variety of mediums with a focus on environmental themes.

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“When we talk about the latino, it’s all encompassed as one same thing,” says Angelica Contreras, a Mexican American mixed-media artist and one of CultivARTE’s members. “But [Latin America] has different countries and cultures.” During the five-month process of organizing the festival, Contreras recalls, “We talked about the idea of Stories From Mother Earth, Latin American legends, and the importance of oral traditions.”

Latinx artists Monica Cliff, Natalia Armacanqui, Araceli Esparza, Zeus Corona, Veronica Figueroa, and Contreras co-founded CultivARTE Collective to provide spaces where Latin American art and culture can be really appreciated and understood.

“We’re action rebels. We got tired from the meetings and getting permits,” says Araceli Esparza, a Mexican American poet. “We’re dismantling the white supremacy structure around art and the Latino activism in their communities by creating this space. It’s those of us who are stepping out of what is the norm.”


Photo: Araceli Esparza is a Mexican American poet and writer organizing the CultivARTE Collective. Photo courtesy of Araceli Esparza.

Photo: Araceli Esparza is a Mexican American poet and writer organizing the CultivARTE Collective. Photo courtesy of Araceli Esparza.

The festival is open to everyone, and admission is free. The group deliberately chose an informal, outdoor setting on the North Side for the festival to help make art more accessible.

“The space we chose is at the North Side because we saw that there aren’t many opportunities on that side of the city for the community to get closer to the arts,” Contreras says. “One function of our collective is unifying the Latinx communities through the arts.” 


Photo: Angelica Contreras is a Mexican American artist who explores identity, traditions, and popular culture through her art. Photo by Elizabeth Marie Lang Oreamuno.

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Photo: Angelica Contreras is a Mexican American artist who explores identity, traditions, and popular culture through her art. Photo by Elizabeth Marie Lang Oreamuno.

The unification that CultivARTE strives for is also a way to build support for immigrant Latinx artists’ work.

CultivARTE organized the festival into inclusive spaces for live music, art-making workshops, dance workshops, a photography exhibition, and art and food sales. The music lineup includes Golpe Tierra guitarist Richard Hildner Armacanqui And Friend’s perspective on Peruvian music and a set from the Latin Pride Orquestra.

The workshops include puppet creation with Monica Cliff and a session on making an alebrije, which is a bright-colored Mexican bright colored folk-art sculpture of morphed creatures, with Contreras.

If you’re in the mood to purchase art, you can treat yourself to pieces created by the local Latinx and Madison-based artists Natalie Ergas (Native Essence Art), Rodrigo Carapia, and Jessica Pankratz. You  can also enjoy  food from the El Chisme, Artesan Fruit, and Migrants food carts.

Dance will also be a strong component at the festival, thanks in part to Afro-Peruvian dancer Francis Medrano’s workshops.

“Through my workshop I want to go on a trip to Latin America,” Medrano says. “To Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and Chile. I want to play different music from each country so that people feel they’re there. Each song will represent one of the aforementioned countries’ land, essence, and culture.

“I enjoy the Afro genres because it is related to my culture, my roots, and my family,” Medrano continues. “I also think that through dance you can tell stories, express your emotions in the purest way, and help people change moods from stress, sadness, or negative feelings to positive ones.”


Photo: Francis Medrano is an Afro-Peruvian dancer. Photo by Elizabeth Marie Lang Oreamuno.

Photo: Francis Medrano is an Afro-Peruvian dancer. Photo by Elizabeth Marie Lang Oreamuno.

The music and dance lineup especially reflects CultivARTE’s determination to reflect the vast diversity of cultures often lumped together under the “Latinx” umbrella.“We wanted the music to be very Indigenous and racially inclusive,” Esparza says. “I really wanted to unpack that with the people that we focused on [by including the] Indigenous and Afro intersectionalities.”

 Mexican graphic designer, photographer, and musician Zeus Corona comes into the mix with an exhibition of black-and-white and color photos, Soy Raíz (I’m Root). The show comprises artistic photographs of the Ballet Folklórico de Carlos y Sonia Ávila (Carlos and Sonia Ávila’s Folkloric Ballet), in a performance that explores Mexican Aztec mythology.


Photo: Zeus Corona is a Mexican graphic designer, photographer, and musician who enjoys playing and creatively manipulating photographs. He is also a member of the CultivARTE Collective organizing the Latinx Art Festival. Photo by Elizabeth Marie Lang Oreamuno.

Photo: Zeus Corona is a Mexican graphic designer, photographer, and musician who enjoys playing and creatively manipulating photographs. He is also a member of the CultivARTE Collective organizing the Latinx Art Festival. Photo by Elizabeth Marie Lang Oreamuno.

“Last year I had the idea of photographing a folkloric ballet. CultivARTE put me in contact with Carlos and he agreed to the photographs,” Corona says. “They’ll be photographs with a distortion of my reality.”

Corona manipulated the photographs by using black and white to emphasize the details of the dresses used for the presentations. He also experimented with vivid light blues, oranges, and reds to create a contrast between one young performer’s face and costume in order to keep alive the Mexican Aztec Mythology.

“I like exploring this because I’m Mexican. I’ve always been very drawn to the dresses that they use for their dances,” Corona says. “Besides that, it’s more or less what they used in pre-colonial times and it ties with the Mexican roots.”


Photo: One of the black-and-white works from Zeus Corona’s exhibition “Soy Raíz” (“I’m Root”). Photo courtesy of Zeus Corona.

Photo: One of the black-and-white works from Zeus Corona’s exhibition “Soy Raíz” (“I’m Root”). Photo courtesy of Zeus Corona.

Everything comes down to the roots: cultivating  Latinx roots through the arts.

“There are a lot of artists that need more space in the Latinx community. There are places created by other organizations, but why not one exclusively by our people for our people?” Corona says. “Organizations should be 100 percent Latinx because we feel artists in our community are better understood that way.”


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