The Tonantzin Society of Topeka and Washburn University's Mulvane Art Museum present the Midwestern Chicana Symposium: Art and Resistance in the Age of Extremism on October 12-13, 2017. Held in the Kansas Room of the Memorial Union at Washburn University, the symposium will feature a series of panel discussions, lectures, and conversations about how Chicana artists are using their work to challenge and resist the social constructions of racial and ethnic discrimination. These Chicana artists examine the manipulation of borders to serve the demands of cheap labor against the backdrop of a weaponized land; human rights abuse in immigrant communities; the flight from the violence of peoples from throughout Central America and Mexico; and the impact of new policies on women, children, and immigrant communities. It is through this important work that these artists create bridges between their communities and the world, and give voice to one of the most devastating crises in the 21st century.
The symposium begins on October 12 at 6:00 pm in the Kansas Room of the Memorial Student Union with a poetry reading by author Demetria Martinez from her widely translated novel, Mother Tongue, which is based in part upon the 1988 trial for conspiracy against the United States government in connection with allegedly smuggling Salvadoran refugees into the country. As an artist and activist based in New Mexico, Martinez seeks to counter the “false narrative of hopelessness” that can disempower those seeking to bring out fundamental change in society. Her writing and activism are ways to explore- and bridge- borders between people of different nations, languages, spiritualties and life experiences. She currently teaches poetry workshops at a youth detention center as part of her work with the Coalition for Prisoners’ Rights. An opening reception for the exhibitions, Detention Nation, Speaking Volumes: Transforming Hate, and Transcendental Train Yard will follow the poetry reading at 7:00 pm in the Mulvane Art Museum.
The symposium continues on Friday, October 13 with registration, coffee and pastries at 9:00 - 9:45 am in the Kansas Room. Dr. Renee Fajardo will conduct Aztec/Mexican traditional blessings of the exhibits, Day of the Dead ofrendas, and the symposium space. Dr. Fajardo has extensive knowledge of cultural, ceremonial, and community traditions of numerous indigenous people, and strongly believes that community is family and through our connection to our past and ancestral ways we can empathize with others in a compassionate way.
The morning panel, scheduled for 10:00 – 11:15 am, will explore the impact of immigration on families and communities. Panelists include photographic printmaker Delilah Montoya and American Ethnic Studies professor, Dr. Isabel Millán. Montoya’s work explores the unusual relationships that result from negotiating different ways of viewing, conceptualizing, representing, and consuming the worlds found in the Southwest from her own perspective as a feminist Chicana artist from a matriarchal family. She purposefully positions her work as an alternative to the mainstream and as a catalyst for issues of cultural identity. Dr. Millán is an Assistant Professor at Kansas State University who specializes in Chicana/o Studies, critical ethnic studies, transnational feminist and queer theories, bilingual children’s cultural productions, comics, and science fiction.
A buffet lunch will be held at 11:30 am – 1:00 pm, offering a taco bar with drinks and dessert for $10, and will feature author and poet Ire’ne Lara Silva as the keynote speaker. Lara Silva is the author of two poetry collections and a short story collection, flesh to bone (Aunt Lute Books, 2013), which won the Premio Aztlan. She is also the recipient of the final Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Award, and the 2008 recipient of the Gloria Anzaldua Milagro Award. Her presentation, “Nomiccāmā Nomiccānacayo: The Necessity of Art in Difficult Times,” will focus on the importance of art during difficult times and how artists help shape community resistance and healing.
Panelists will be available to sign books and original prints at 1:00 – 1:30 pm, followed by an afternoon panel at 2:00 – 3:30 pm that will include Dr. Norma Cantú, Celeste De Luna, and Demetria Martinez. This panel will discuss the impact of immigration policies and practices on women, children, families, and communities along the border throughout the Midwest. Dr. Cantú has published articles on a number or academic subjects as well as poetry and fiction, including her collaborative work with artist Marta Sanchez in creating poems for the Transcendental Train Yard serigraph collection and its accompanying book. Her award winning book, Canícula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera chronicles her childhood experiences on the border. She is currently the Murchison Professor in the Humanities at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Celeste De Luna is a painter/printmaker from the Rio Grande Valley, Texas who is a lecturer at the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley. She will present her work on geopolitical landscape imagery in border spaces, her art practice, and community work. Dr. Cantú will give closing remarks from 3:45 – 4:30 pm.
“The Mulvane Art Museum is pleased to partner with the Tonantzin Society of Topeka to present the Midwestern Chicana Symposium: Art & Resistance in the Age of Extremism in conjunction with the exhibitions, Detention Nation and Transcendental Train Yard,” says Connie Gibbons, Director of the Mulvane. “It is the Mulvane’s goal to collaborate with community cultural organizations in creating a space for an exchange of ideas and to encourage dialogue about important contemporary issues.” Christina Valdivia Alcala, Director of the Tonantzin Society of Topeka, states “The Tonantzin Society is excited for the upcoming symposium and bringing together artists from the Southwest and the Midwest on the human rights abuses with immigration policies and the inhumanity of detention centers. We look forward to a powerful event.”
The symposium is free with exception to the lunch buffet, but advance registration is required at http://topekaddlm.com/registration. For more information, please call the Mulvane Art Museum at 785-670-2423 or 785-640-4141.