After debuting last year, the El Museo Latino Artist Residency Program is back with three new artists in residence at the South Omaha museum through July.
The two-month residency. which began June 2, comes with a $1,000 stipend per artist and access to studio space, equipment and supplies as well as mentoring-networking and teaching-exhibit opportunities. The program’s designed to support local artists wherever they are in their practice.
This year’s three artists in-the-house are: Travis Apel, an established sculptor; Victoria Drake, a young painter who graduated from South High in 2014; and Daniel Castañeda, a muralist, jeweler and sculptor.
Apel is a Kansas City Art Institute and Metropolitan Community College graduate whose sculptures have been featured in exhibitions near and far. Drake studied at UNO and is also a teaching artist with Arts for All. Castañeda is pursuing a degree at MCC. His work’s been featured in local galleries and in murals.
El Museo Latino founder-director Magdalena Garcia is excited to give Omaha area artists this chance to further their craft and to interact with colleagues.
“Creating opportunities for our local artists of color is important,” Garcia said. “It’s appealing to me to try to create that environment for them, the organization and the community. It’s good to have local artists exposed to some of the things the museum’s doing.”
She can’t wait to see how residents respond to this intensive, immersive cohort experience.
“We expect great things from them. Travis is interested in experimenting with different forms, shapes and materials. Victoria’s going to concentrate on her painting over the summer. Daniel’s going to be spending more time painting with a variety of materials.
“I’m looking forward to see what they develop. All three are at different stages of their careers. It makes for an interesting mix. They’re going to bounce things off each other and hopefully learn from each other, too. Collaboration may come out of that conversation. Hopefully, it will be a growing experience for all of them.”
She said the artist-centered experience is an opportunity “to create synergy and camaraderie,” adding, “It’s nice to have a summer of artists. It’s really good for our community to know we’re working with our own local artists and to have them as role models for the youth who come here. Youth are able to see the artists working and can talk to them.
“This provides more access for artists to connect with community and for community to connect with artists.”
Professional connections are afforded, too, between the artists and visiting curators. Studio visits are expected from Mexican artist Humberto Chavez, internationally-recognized photographer and performance artist who previously served as Director of the School of Visual Arts in Yucatan, and from Carlos Tortolero, president of the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago.
“We’re opening windows or doors for our resident artists. Because of our connections,” Garcia said. “we can provide our artists an opportunity to learn first-hand what gallery directors are looking for.”
Enhancing work portfolios and getting exhibit opportunities are potential side benefits of the residency.
Garcia wants the experience to have a cumulative effect beyond each residency class.
“Hopefully, with our next generation, we can start grooming more of our own artists. I think it’s really important for our youth and community to see artists who look like them embody the drive, determination and passion it takes to be an artist.”
There’s satisfaction in offering the residency, Garcia said, “because there really is a need for artists to have this sanctuary when they can focus on their work in a supportive environment.” She added, “It provides time and space for them to practice their craft and do whatever they want to do. Last year, all three artists spent their time experimenting. I was pleased, so I’m hoping the same with this year’s group.”
If long-deferred renovations are ever made to the building, then Garcia said resident artists could be better accommodated with fully-dedicated studio spaces rather than shared prep area-classroom spaces.
She foresees a future live-in residency being offered.
Meanwhile, Garcia’s pleased the residency does give artists two vital things they need: time and space.
“I don’t think people understand all the time and investment an artist has to make. It’s not like you snap a finger and it’s done. You have to go through a whole creative process. If they didn’t love it, they wouldn’t be investing that much time. It’s that passion and that drive that makes things happen.
“El Museo Latino is honored to be able to play a role in strengthening our artistic community and providing artists with greater opportunities for growth.”
The public can meet the artists at the museum’s next Third Thursday program on June 15 from 6 to 9 p.m. El Museo Latino is located at 4701 South 25th Street.
Applications for the next residency round open in February.
Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.com.