By Margaret McKinney
Two New Mexico Highlands University media arts students designed the Getting Up Pa’L Pueblo exhibit that opened late last month to acclaim at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque.
The exhibit features woodblock prints and stencils created by the Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca or ASARO, a contemporary artists collective in southern Mexico. The University of New Mexico owns the ASARO art collection featured in the exhibit.
Highlands University media arts graduate Jonathan Lujan and senior Eli Menchaca worked together to design the title wall that pulls visitors into the exhibit. They also designed the nine text panels and labels for all 76 artworks.
Lujan and Menchaca are AmeriCorps interns at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
“We benefited tremendously from a fresh mindset that could erase the traditional lines between museum art and street art, and that’s exactly what Jonathon and Eli did with our title wall,” said Rebecca Avitia, executive director for the National Hispanic Cultural Center. “They took the essence of the Zapata grassroots activism art and brought it into our museum in an accessible, dynamic way.
“Jonathan and Eli’s work is exceptional and on par with professional designers. It’s great that we can give them any project and they always come back with professional proposals,” Avitia said.
“This show is based on very gritty protest art from Mexico,” Menchaca said. “With that in mind, I envisioned the text panels in black and white because the majority of the artworks are woodblock prints pressed in black ink.”
The artworks cover a wide range of themes, such as immigration, violence against women, women’s rights, and indigenous land rights.
“Eli and Jonathan developed a powerful design that communicates the raw quality of standing up for your rights that is conveyed through the ASARO artwork,” said Lauren Addario, a Highlands University media arts instructor and AmeriCorps program coordinator. “They are both talented, thoughtful designers who work well together and are able to deliver quality work under pressure.”
Addario added that media arts graduate David Mendez was a superb mentor for Lujan and Menchaca for the exhibit project.
“The media arts professors at Highlands prepare us for real-world design work, including working with clients and meeting tight deadlines,” Menchaca said. “The professors push you to reach your highest level of professional work. I could sing their praises all day.”
Menchaca said it was rewarding to have the opportunity to design an entire exhibit, and see it hanging on the walls at the opening.
Suzanne M. Schadl, the Latin American Collections curator for UNM, curated the exhibit along with Mike Graham de la Rosa, a curatorial intern and Latin American Studies graduate student at UNM.
The Getting Up Pa’L Pueblo exhibit was partially funded by a grant from the New Mexico Humanities Council, with generous support from the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The exhibit continues through Nov. 8.