Illustrator and resistance artist Yocelyn Riojas has noticed that, amid the sea of protest signs at marches and rallies against family separation, it’s rare to spot any positive imagery.
“There’s so much art, but it’s not the most inspirational,” she said. “So many images out there are so depressing and angry, and that doesn’t always motivate the community to come out and get involved.”
Riojas, whose artwork highlighting immigration issues such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and a ban on so-called sanctuary cities has been gaining national buzz, will be among the Austin artists whose work will be featured in a unique art caravan event aimed at bringing attention to the plight of migrant children via uplifting artwork.
Early Sunday, more than 100 Austinites are expected to board buses heading to Brownsville to protest family separations. A federal judge last week ordered the government to return all children to their parents within a month. Once at the border, participants of the Art Caravan for the Children plan to create an art installation at Brownsville’s Alice Wilson Hope Park that will be hung on the border fence.
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The art caravan, organized by the statewide Latino civic engagement group Jolt, will bring together Austinites with Rio Grande Valley community members who will participate in screen printing pop-up workshops at the park, among other art activities. Some of the prints displayed on the border fence will be images by Austin artist Jerry Silguero, whose resistance art was featured last weekend in the Families Belong Together rally at the state Capitol. Participants also will be able to create their own artwork at the event.
Caravan and Brownsville community members also will help paint Riojas’ latest creation, a canvas mural depicting children embracing by the shoulders looking over a border fence with the message “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will permanently house the mural.
“The focus is on the children,” said Riojas, 27. “I’m always in search of having a visual image that connects with people.”
Making the trek to Brownsville was important to Jolt members, said Cristina Tzintzún, executive director of the organization.
“Immigration really matters to young Latinos,” Tzintzún said.
About 53 percent of young Latinos, she said, have one parent who is an immigrant. By 2022, according to Jolt, one-third of all eligible voters in Texas will be younger than 30 and most Texas voters will be Latinos or other minorities. The group plans to register people to vote at the event, which also will include a rally with featured speakers.
“Our members wanted to make sure we were present” at the border, Tzintzúnsaid, “and that no matter where injustices happen that we mobilize and share the imagery of hope and power.”