Oaxacan Artist Residency, April 2016


From April 18 through April 24, the UI Museum of Art Legacies for Iowa Collections-Sharing Program facilitated the residency of two artists from Oaxaca, Mexico at the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum in Mason City, Iowa. Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the generosity of the Matthew Bucksbaum family, and the John K. and Luise V. Hanson Foundation, Saúl Aragon Ramírez and Antonia “Alma” Arreola Sánchez were able to share their work and experiences with many members of the Mason City community.

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While in Mason City, Saúl and Alma led several events at the MacNider, including a Lunch and Learn activity, entitled “Making Oaxacan Wood Carvings,” and spoke with members of the public as they carved and painted their colorful alebrijes. During a Kid’s Club event, the artists helped students, between the ages of five and twelve, paint their very own alebrijes. Alebrije is a term used to reference the colorful woodcarvings of a variety of subjects made in Oaxaca. The appearance of alebrijes can vary, but as a group, these objects represent an important part of the trade in tourist arts produced in Mexico. Saúl and Alma’s discussions and demonstrations accompanied an exhibition at the MacNider, Crafting Tradition: Oaxacan Wood Carvings, on view until June 11, 2016.

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Saúl and Alma also went beyond the walls of the museum to speak to students from Lincoln Intermediate School and for interviews with local media. Throughout their time in Mason City, they engaged with members of the community and facilitated a dialogue about their artistic process, cultural exchange, and the importance of this art form for themselves as artists, their family, and their community.


oax15web2Programs like Saúl and Alma’s residency provide Iowans with the opportunity to engage directly with artists from around the world. Participants were introduced to new ideas about how art is made and learned about Mexican folk tradition. The University of Iowa Museum of Art is proud to help facilitate meaningful encounters with art for all Iowans.

Lauren Freese is a PhD candidate at the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History and Curatorial Assistant, Legacies for Iowa.

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all photos © Steve Erickson