Inside life of Raúl Valdez, one of Austin’s top muralists

“Barrio Daze” one-man show returns; Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo photo exhibit opens.


Highlights

Check out Austin’s top Latino cultural art happenings in September.

For 50 years, his murals have nourished Austin’s soul. They’ve awakened our spirit and fed our minds.

But for artist Raúl Valdez, the countless murals he’s uplifted us with, which can be found anywhere from schools to the streets, aren’t about the finished product.

“It’s always been about the process for me,” he says. That’s because he’s never made painting a solitary experience. Over the years, Valdez has engaged community in his work by inviting neighborhood input and involving youth and residents to be part of his projects.

In 2012, the City spent $52,000 to restore one of Valdez’ iconic murals, which sprawls across a 3,000-square-foot-canvas in East Austin. Valdez’ original 1978 piece, which features images inspired by Chicano culture and Mexican history, serves as the backdrop to the outdoor Hillside Theater at the Oswaldo A.B. Cantu/Pan American Recreation Center.

Now, after half a century of producing artwork and inspiring a new generation of Austin artists, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center will honor Valdez’ life and work. The exhibit “Vida y Obra: 50 Years of Art and Activism” opens at 6 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the cultural center’s Sam Z. Coronado Gallery. The prominent exhibition kicks off a weekend of events celebrating the MACC’s 10th anniversary.

“It’s very humbling,” Valdez says of the exhibit, which will include archival photos, documents and articles that’ll give a holistic view of Valdez’ life from his rock band days to his encounters with farm worker movement leaders including Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

In 2011, Valdez lost his home in the Bastrop wildfires. “It was a tragic loss,” he says. Manuscripts of books he’d started to write vanished and artwork turned to ashes. Now, Valdez has rebuilt his life and career in downtown Austin and has no plans to slow down. Often he’s asked to name what mural he’s been the most proud of creating over his lifetime, but he always has the same answer: “My next one.”

Visit austintexas.gov/esbmacc to learn more about the MACC’s 10th anniversary events, which include an open house with family activities starting at 4 p.m. on Sept. 16, followed by music and dance performances.

MORE CULTURAL ARTS: Check out the Cultura en Austin blog

Get into a barrio daze

As anti-immigrant rhetoric rises across the country, playwright and performer Adrian Villegas imagines a world where hope sweeps through the barrio.

Villegas — who brought us the poignant yet hilarious Latino Comedy Project show “Gentrif*cked,” spotlighting the effects of gentrification on Latino neighborhoods — now reprises his one-man show “Barrio Daze” Thursdays through Saturdays Sept. 7-16 at The Institution Theater in South Austin.

Using cultural humor and sharp social commentary as his tools of choice, Villegas brings to life nine characters ranging from a quick-tempered Tex-Mex bus driver to a Chicano U.S. Senate hopeful. “Barrio Daze” takes audiences on a tour through one day in the barrio during a turbulent national election. The lives of all of these characters collide on an important Election Day.

Villegas’ gift for creating humanizing portraits of U.S. Latino life with wit and thought-provoking instincts make “Barrio Daze” an important performance to check out as issues of race and immigration continue to dominate national and local headlines.

Tickets, which are $11, are available online at barriodaze.eventbrite.com.

RELATED: Film features one of East Austin’s last Tejano bars

Diego and Frida in Austin

Theirs was a tumultuous relationship, filled with melodramatic scandals mixed with post-revolutionary Mexican politics. But what artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo gifted the world has been a legacy of work that continues to influence artistic movements, educate, and inspire.

Walking into their shared home studio in the Mexico City neighborhood of San Ángel years ago, I remember seeing the separate buildings where they each resided and the bridge that connected them. Although each artist shaped the art world in their own unique ways, it’s hard to deny how together they influenced more than just muralism and surrealism but Mexican culture.

Celebrate the famous couple at the special photo exhibit “Diego y Frida: A Smile in the Middle of the Way” at the Mexic-Arte Museum beginning Sept. 15. The exhibition, which is part of the 110th anniversary celebration of Kahlo and runs through Nov. 26, will also feature an altar and silkscreens of the artist.

Photographs of the art giants were made by Kahlo’s father Guillermo, Hungarian-American photographer Nickolas Muray (who had a love affair with Kahlo that lasted about a decade), and one of the founders of modern photography Manuel Álvarez Bravo.

Admission is free every Sunday. All other days, tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and students, and $1 for children 12 and under. Visit mexic-artemuseum.org for more details.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Austin360

‘Cosby Show’ actor Earle Hyman dead at 91
‘Cosby Show’ actor Earle Hyman dead at 91

Earle Hyman, the actor best known for playing Russell Huxtable, Bill Cosby’s wise father on “The Cosby Show,” died Friday. He was 91. Hyman died at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, N.J., his nephew, Rick Ferguson, told The Hollywood Reporter. Hyman played Othello on stage, was a regular on Broadway and received a Tony...
Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses pay tribute to AC/DC’s Malcolm Young
Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses pay tribute to AC/DC’s Malcolm Young

The Foo Fighters and Guns N’ Roses paid tribute to Malcolm Young, the AC/DC rhythm guitarist who died Saturday at age 64. Both bands dedicated songs during their respective concerts to Young, who died three years after being diagnosed with dementia. The Foo Fighters opened its concert in Mexico City’s Corona Capital Festival with a blistering...
Country music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis dead at 85
Country music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis dead at 85

Country Music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis died early Sunday morning in Ocala, Florida, according to his publicist, Don Murry Grubbs. He was 85. In his six-decade career, the singer recorded more than 60 albums, had three dozen Top 10 singles and wrote several hit songs that are now regarded as classics, the Tennessean reported. During the 1960s,...
Watch: Chance The Rapper spoofs NHL in ‘SNL’ skit
Watch: Chance The Rapper spoofs NHL in ‘SNL’ skit

Chance The Rapper does not like hockey. In a word, he was “cold.” In a hilarious skit on “Saturday Night Live,” the rapper plays an NBA sideline reporter, Laslo Holmes, pressed into duty as a rinkside reporter for a game between the New York Rangers and the Edmonton Oilers. “It’s very cold all around here,&rdquo...
This week’s music picks: Shawn Colvin, Slaid Cleaves and more
This week’s music picks: Shawn Colvin, Slaid Cleaves and more

Shawn Colvin wraps up a national tour back home in Austin on Monday at the Paramount Theatre. Deborah Cannon/AMERICAN-STATESMAN. Monday: Shawn Colvin at Paramount Theatre. One of Austin’s highest-profile singer-songwriters since she moved back in the 1990s (she’d lived here for a spell in the &rsquo...
More Stories