La Casita Memories: Balcón Criollo 2013

La Casita Memories: Balcón Criollo 2013

Balcon Criollo 2013 Exhibit at La Casita.
El Balcón Criollo, October 8, 2013 at La Casita, Syracuse, NY.

To commemorate La Casita’s 10th anniversary, the center wants to highlight the artists, community members, and events that define its history. In 2013, La Casita hosted its first Balcón Criollo exhibit. Inspired by the work of Puerto Rican artist Pepón Osorio and through a community engagement effort led by Luz Encarnación, the Balcón Criollo has since become the signature program commemorating Hispanic Heritage at La Casita.

La Casita’s gallery walls filled with family photos contributed by community members for the 2013 exhibition program.

La Casita’s Balcón is a permanent corner installation in the center’s gallery. The Balcón, which means porch in Spanish, is representative of the space where we interact with our community. “The front porch is usually where we have coffee with our neighbors, or watch the kids play. The front porch is where our home life connects with our community,” said Tere Paniagua, Executive Director of La Casita.

 

El Balcón Criollo 2013, incorporated photographs, memorabilia and culturally significant artifacts donated by members of La Casita’s Community.

The model concept of the Balcón was inspired by the work of Puerto Rican installation  artist Pepón Osorio. Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Osorio was educated at the Universidad Inter-Americana in Puerto Rico and Herbert H. Lehman College in New York and received an MA from Columbia University in 1985. Osorio’s work is influenced by his experience as a social worker in The Bronx. Osorio says, “My principal commitment as an artist is to return art to the community.” Osorio’s work bridges museum installation with field-based community engagement, often incorporating pieces collected directly from his community.

 

It was this concept that inspired La Casita’s Balcón Criollo exhibition program. The 2013 exhibit included a gallery-wide installation of meaningful relics from the homes and heart of the local Hispanic community. “There is a story behind every piece… stories about our neighborhoods, our countries of origin, our families, and our culture,” said Paniagua. The exhibit was a collaborative effort between La Casita staff, volunteers, local artists and community members who contributed pieces and stories to the exhibit’s installation. Highlights of the exhibit were the Balcón and the traditional Piragua cart, both built by local carpenters and community volunteers.

A Piragua Cart created by local carpenter in our community. A Piragua is a Puerto Rican shaved ice dessert, shaped like a cone, consisting of shaved ice and covered with fruit-flavored syrup.

 

Since the initial Balcón Criollo in 2013, La Casita has redesigned the gallery display each year to explore different themes. Although the themes of the installations have varied, the concept behind the Balcón remains the same: community engagement. “The Balcón is the cornerstone of the gallery and has become the signature program of La Casita. The idea behind the Balcón is  for people in our community to see themselves represented and their stories valued and shared,” says Paniagua.

La Casita Memories: 2012 Art Exhibits

Selection from “The Photographer as a Child: Memories from Guatemala” exhibit in 2012

To commemorate La Casita’s 10th anniversary, the center wants to highlight the artists, community members, and events that define its history. In 2012, La Casita hosted two exhibits: “The Photographer as a Child: Memories from Guatemala” and “Angels on the Border”. These are some of the first exhibits presented at La Casita and are representative of the artwork and narratives the center would highlight in the following years.

Efren Lopez'12
Efren Lopez’12 was a student in the Military Photojournalism Program in Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the exhibiting artist of “The Photographer as a Child: Memories from Guatemala”

In the Spring of 2012, La Casita hosted an exhibit featuring the photography of Efrén López ’12. Lopez was a student in the Military Photojournalism Program in Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Lopez’s experience as an aerial photographer for the U.S. Air Force allowed him to document real-world situations and the military from around the globe. “The Photographer as a Child: Memories from Guatemala” focused on Lopez’s return trip to Guatemala in 2009. “My life began in a bamboo hut at the side of a road in a tiny town named Petaca, Guatemala, in 1966,” Lopez writes. “It’s a town so small that it is next to impossible to find on most maps of Guatemala, much less Central America.” Additionally, the exhibit included artwork created by students of the Westside Academy at Blodgett Middle School. These students participated in photography workshops led by López while he was a student at Syracuse University.

Retablo
Retablos are devotional art pieces using iconography derived from traditional Catholic Church art. The retablos in this exhibit portray the blessings of the Virgin Mary and the Trinity’s protection of immigrants in their struggles across the border.

In the Fall of 2012, La Casita hosted the exhibit “Angels on the Border”, featuring retablos by Mexican immigrants from 1912 to 1996. Retablos are devotional art pieces using iconography derived from traditional Catholic faith and imagery. The retablos in this exhibit portray the blessings of the Virgin Mary and the Trinity’s protection of immigrants in their struggles across the border. The works include text that describes the miracle, an image of the place where the miracle occurred and an image of the deity to whom the miracle is ascribed. The exhibition was curated by the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton University, co-directed by Jorge Durand, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Guadalajara (Mexico), and Douglas S. Massey, Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University.

These two exhibits depict the complex nature of life in Latin America. Through these exhibits, La Casita was able to share stories relevant to the Latino communities in Central New York. Commemorating these two exhibits is a way to honor and celebrate the personal and collective narratives shared at La Casita over the past 10 years.

 

Support for this program comes from the Office of Cultural Engagement for the Hispanic Community at the College of Arts & Sciences, the Humanities Center, the Latino-Latin American Studies Program, and the Program on Latin America and the Caribbean at Syracuse University.