Written by Javier Jauregui
How many narratives, threads of heartbreak, conflict, and love have been ignored because space was an obstacle? How can we carve a place for people to question, and display an idea that is important to them? ArtPrize intensifies these questions, highlighting the challenges of equity, empowerment, voice, and culture. These issues aren’t unique to ArtPrize, however, there is no question that people of color have a difficult time exploring their identity in a place that they can call home.
The Cultura Collective are a group of artists who were given a space, given the freedom to create, to expose to the world who they are as individuals. Who are these artists? What questions do they wrestle with? How do they navigate through life’s conflicts? What is their perspective? What role did culture have in shaping their identity? A warehouse occupies their doubts and search for answers.
My name is Javier Jauregui. I was not born or raised in Grand Rapids. My skin is brown, hair is black. I speak Spanish, have my septum pierced, and wear a baseball cap featuring cat ears at professional events. Needless to say: I am odd in West Michigan. While it means something different for every artist and individual involved, the exhibit known as This Space is Not Abandoned is a manifestation of the question that I’ve been asked for the past three years, “Where are you from?” A question that can be summarized as, “Who are you?”
Am I Mexican? Latino? American? Hispanic? San Diegan? Advocate? Californian? Punk? Feminist? Conservative? Socialist? Atheist or agnostic? Am I lonely? Am I happy? What do I want? What makes people interesting? What is your story? What is my story? Where am I going? Why do I hate what I see in the mirror? What do others want from me? Who am I? These are questions that are reflected in one form or another by the art in this space.
I welcome you to see the narratives of the fifteen individual who created something. Who used space to understand themselves and others. Hopefully, in the process of being vulnerable, you will learn something about yourself.