Uprooted Dreams / Suenos Desarraigados

Submitted by City of Austin, Art in Public Places Program

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Client: City of Austin

Location: Austin, TX, United States

Completion date: 2012

Artwork budget: $51,000

Project Team

Public Art Agent

Jean Graham

City of Austin

Artist

Margarita Cabrera

Overview

Uprooted Dreams is a site-specific sculptural installation led by artist Margarita Cabrera that features over 19 individual, brightly colored woodcarvings, mounted in the 450 sq. ft. public entrance to the education area of Austin’s Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC). This colorful installation activates this interior space designed by architect Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon and CasaBella Architects.

Goals

The goal of this project was to commission an artist to create a community-based work that would enliven the interior space and deepen visitors’ understandings of the facility’s educational and cultural mission—to preserve, create, present, and promote Mexican American cultural arts and heritage. As a sculptor, Cabrera's artistic practice includes developing workshop productions that stimulate community dialogue and provide resistance to loss of cultural identity and roots within the Mexican American community. Cabrera sees, encourages, and creates intersections between contemporary art and indigenous craft practice practices. For Uprooted Dreams, Cabrera chose the “alebrije” woodcarving tradition of Oaxaca, Mexico, as the method of sculptural fabrication and the media for facilitating personal narrative about personal cultural experiences.

Process

Cabrera met with Austin Latino groups and individuals with the goal of initiating a dialogue about issues facing their communities. A recurring theme was uprootedness and gentrification. She chose to collaborate with individuals from Austin’s Mexican American immigrant community in the creation of artwork for the MACC. She invited Oaxacan master artesans, Sergio Santiago Ibañez and Lucia Luria Sosa, to share their skills and cultural heritage with the participants. The group met together in a month-long series of hands-on workshops at the MACC. They collected wood in a nearby park, which they celebrated through dance and food. Then they worked together in the process of carving, sanding, connecting, and painting the sculptures. Each participant created work for the installation. Cabrera invited all participants to engage directly in the creative process of the workshop and respected all of them as co-creators. The community workshops forged strong connections between participants, and in the process of creating thoughtful, dynamic works, they expressed their personal experiences of uprooted transformations. The individual pieces were then grouped in a unified installation designed by Cabrera. This remains permanently in the education lobby at the facility where families and children come to participate in educational activities.

Additional Information

In order to document the workshop production and to provide additional long-term educational resources for the Mexican American Cultural Center, Cabrera also produced two film documentaries on the project and a catalogue with an essay by Claudia Zapata, Curator of Exhibitions and Programs at the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin.The submitted video “Uprooted Dreams” was produced with John Titus, Videographer, and Blair Naujok, Sound.