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Latino art struggles to be seen in East Tennessee

By Eric Harris
El Nuevo Tennessean

Tennessee- ElNuevo

When you think of Latin American art, what do you picture?

While some may have a specific idea in mind, there’s really no way to define an artist’s style simply by looking at their heritage, as artist Mouzer Coelho — whose drawings can be seen throughout the article — points out.

“A lot of people think that if you’re a Latin artist, you automatically do Chicano art, and I don’t do anything like that at all, so I wanted to show people that Latin Americans do all kinds of different things, not just that kind of style,” he said.

Stereotypes like this continue to exist because Latino artists struggle to find outlets for their work. This had led to mixed opinions regarding the presence of Latino artists in the area.

Rolando Flores is a junior majoring in Exercise Science at East Tennessee State University. He used to work with ETSU’s Language and Culture Resource Center coordinating the Open Art Exhibition at the Corazon Latino Festival in downtown Johnson City.

Flores said that the festival has revealed a portion of the local Hispanic artists.

“Corazon Latino has definitely made the community aware that there is a Latino art movement in our area,” he said. “Though small and expanding, it is present.”

Christina Romero, senior Spanish major, assisted Flores in finding artists for the Exhibition. She said that it was very difficult work that required her to network with people through community service projects.

“I made sure to have a strong presence on campus and in the community before inquiring about possible artists. I did this to be sure that when the time came to inquire, people would be willing to help,” she said. “It sounds really simple, but it wasn’t something easily done.

Despite her difficulties in finding contributors, Romero believes that there are many Latin American artists in the area.

“The problem is that many of these artists have no outlet for public display,” she said.

Karlota Contreras-Koterbay, director of the Slocumb Art Gallery on the ETSU campus, admits that the Tri-Cities isn’t really an ideal location for aspiring artists, especially those with non-Caucasian ethnic backgrounds…

(LL Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in October 2013)

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