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  • Writer's pictureIsabel Contreras

A Note on "Melanated Expressions"

"Melanated Expressions" was an art showcase running from July 5 intended to provide a platform for underrepresented artists to share what matters most to them.

From July 5th to July 30th we co-curated our first art show at the Radius Gallery located on the Tannery Arts Campus in Santa Cruz, CA. We wanted to continue Mi Gente CA's mission of creating spaces for underrepresented artists in Santa Cruz County to invite their narrative into what most of us artists see as an intimidating, or exclusive space: an art gallery. Dun, dun, DUN. We were so honored at the amount of artists that trusted us and were able to participate in the month-long celebration of BIPOC & AAPI voices. We kicked off our showcase with an Opening Market on July 1st and concluded with an Artist Discussion on July 30th.

Space, Advocacy, and Ownership

Throughout the month we heard stories of folks being invited to a gallery for their first time, doing their first arts market, and getting their first opportunities to lead art workshops. Even through their self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and nervousness, we are happy that these artists answered the invitation to take up space in their community. Often times underrepresented artists feel like their work isn't "good enough" for what has always been presented as "elitist" or "professional" spaces, and this experience was no different. It was heartwarming to see so many artists' faces light up when they saw their artwork up on a white wall, in a gallery dedicated especially to them. Their artwork takes on a whole new form and there's a sense of ownership and pride that comes with it.

To further that ownership, we hosted a closing Artist Discussion with 8 of our featured artists to speak about their experience, their purpose, and their artwork. There was a closeness in the gallery that was created from the safety and vulnerability of sharing our stories as artists of different generations, mediums, and cultural heritages. We were able to find commonalities, intersections, and understanding of one another. This surpasses the community and camaraderie that is necessary for change just in the arts world; it's the type of spaces and conversations that are lacking in order to inspire change, empowerment, and acceptance of one another in our grander society. The future of our society is at the forefront of these cross-cultural collaborations and expressive spaces.

As always, we are feeling so fulfilled by the outcome of our first curation designed specifically for BIPOC & AAPI artists. We hope to continue our mission of amplifying their artwork, stories, and talents through creative spaces. Guess we can check "gallery showcase" off the bucketlist now! Hoping for many more!

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