El Nacimiento

As the holiday season is fast approaching, so are some of those holiday joys that magically appear in your life. Christmas music is slowly making its way back onto radio stations, wreaths, candy-canes, stockings, dreadles and menorahs have replaced pumpkins, scarecrows, and ghosts in the market and lights are creeping up on houses while museums are hosting traditional holiday exhibits, such as El Nacimiento at the Tucson Museum of Art.

El Nacimiento, meaning birth or origin, is a traditional Mexican nativity scene and an artistic expression originating in the early days of European contact with the native peoples of Mexico. The exhibition is an intricate arrangement of hundreds of miniature figures, combing the symbolism of the Spanish Colonial Catholic Church with the simplicity and faith of everyday existence in rural Mexico. Some of the scenes are from the Christmas story of the Bible; others show traditional Mexican village life.

The installation of this beautiful Christmas time vision is created by Maria Luisa Tena. Every year for over 30 years, she has devoted months of loving care to preparing and arranging the Nacimiento in memory of her mother. Some of the pieces of the arrangement are over 40 years old.

The exhibit is on display through March 18, 2012 at La Casa Cordova, just steps from the Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave.

Regular Hours:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, 12:00 p.m.to 6:00 p.m.

The Museum is closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

The Border Project

Melo Dominguez, Baja Arizona, acrylic on canvas, image courtesy of the artist.

Beginning this Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011 the Arizona Museum of Art will be opening a new exhibit pertaining to the history and culture of the border region in honor of Arizona’s Statehood Centennial Celebration.

The Border Project: Soundscapes, Landscapes & Lifescapes will present sound art, music, performance, painting, sculptor, installation, video, film and photography that examine historical and contemporary life in the U.S./Mexico borderlands region.

Additionally he exhibition will acknowledge the complexities of border communities across all borders, including Asian Americans and Europeans.

An opening reception will take place on Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Arizona Museum of Art, 1031 N. Olive Road, where artists exhibiting will discuss the exhibition and their own works.

Throughout the duration of the exhibit there will scheduled events such as panel discussions, film screenings, festivals, concerts, storytelling and lectures related to The Border Project.

The Border Project will continue through March 11, 2012 and a closing reception will take place March 8, 2012 at the Arizona Museum of Art at 7 p.m.

Tucson’s All Souls Procession

This Sunday, Nov. 6 the All Soul’s Procession will take place, bringing together the people of Tucson for a two-mile long human-powered procession. The procession will incorporate thousands of participants and celebrate the mourning of the lives of our loved ones who have passed. Many Mouths One Stomach, the organizing body for the Procession, is a non-profit arts collective based in Tucson, and serves as a vehicle for working artists to collaborate, create, and inspire the public through “Festal Culture.”

Many Mouths One Stomach and the Procession have created countless opportunities in order to inspire and get the artistic community involved with the event and more. Inside the event will be myriads of installation art, altars, performers, and creatives of all kinds collaborating for almost half the year to prepare their offerings to the event.

Artistic projects consist of:

The Urn, which is filled with blessings, dreams, hopes and wishes is set aflame at the end of the procession and marks the end until next year.

The Ancestors Project, a multimedia presentation that will play throughout the Procession. This project is a way for the public to permanently memorialize their loved ones in the Procession. Participants are invited to submit photographs of their ancestry and recently deceased into a digital memorial that is projected along the Procession route and at the Grand Finale.

Masks created by community members that will be displayed on Procession night. Months leading up to the Procession, Tucson Puppet Works has been generously hosting mask making workshops in order to assist the community in creating the masks, Paper Globo lantern, Paper Pulp and Bread Masks, Paper Flowers, Sugar Skulls, human powered floats, and big head puppets.

A photography exhibition for images related to death. Images may be submitted by anyone and will be displayed at Studio 455 until Nov. 5.

Spoken Word Soul Poetry will take place after the Procession of Little Angels on Saturday, Nov. 5 at Armory Park. “Soul Poetry” is the reading of poetry on loss, death, transition of spirit and soul. This event will feature an open mic with spotlight features by spoken word poets. Alters are also created and used to preserve the memories of events and people that are important to us.

Altars and shrines are one way to pay tribute to those that have passed. The personal alter vigil is a way to pay homage to deceased loved ones, friends, ancestors, beloved pets, devastated communities and more by creating a personal altar in the center of downtown Tucson, within the downtown public library plaza.

An All Souls Procession Poster Art Competition. Interested artists and community members were invited to submit original artwork, completed within the last two years for the All Souls Procession Poster. The poster art works were displayed in an exhibition and the closing reception and award ceremony will take place Friday, Nov. 4 to see which poster will be used for the 2012 All Soul’s Procession.

Additionally, every year, Many Mouths One Stomach puts aside space at the Grand Finale and along the route for artists to set up their own art installations (performance, sculpture, video, banner projects etc).

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389 Miles: Living the Border

Tuesday’s are good for two things: tacos and well, maybe just tacos. But next Tuesday, Oct. 25, as part of the Borderlands Community Film Series, The Center for Latin American Studies is holding a free screening of “389 Miles: Living the Border,” at 6 p.m.

389 Miles Living the Border

389 Miles: Living the Border” is a documentary that covers the current immigration debacle regarding the Arizona-Mexican border.  The audience can anticipate an eye-opening experience of obstacles people who live on the border have to overcome on a daily basis. The film presents the raw, daily life of human beings who come from different backgrounds and ideologies when it comes to immigration, one of the few things they all have in common is the border fence. There is no purely good or bad side to the issue, only the complex web of human emotions and issues forged by them—survival, human trafficking, rape, corruption, evil and grace in many disguises. The films plot starts at mile 1 in Douglas, Ariz. and continues westward to reveal various border towns on both sides.

The film is followed by a Q&A with director, Luis Carlos Davis40 Under 40 2010 Man of the Year, Luis Carlos Davis, 32, is an award-winning film director and producer raised in the border cities of Nogales, Ariz. and Nogales Sonora. Davis earned a master’s degree in Latin American studies with a focus on media arts, border studies and international journalism from the University of Arizona.  Davis is currently directing and producing two documentaries, one in Mexico and the other one in Arizona. He is also writing a screenplay with the title of “El Hoyo” and co-writing a screenplay with the working title of “Living Gods/Broken Idols.” In additon to his role as a film director, Davis mentors high school seniors working on film projects and speaks, whenever the opportunity arises, about social justice issues.

389 Miles: Living the Border” is Davis’ best-known work and has been shown around the United States, Mexico, and France.  In addition, this documentary is the recipient of the Audience Award for Best Film at the Puerto Vallarta International Film Festival.

The “389 Miles: Living the Border” will be showing in El Pueblo Neighborhood Center, 101 W. Irvington Road, Room: 1C.

El Dia de los Muertos in the U.S. Border Region


El Diá de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead is a Mexican celebration of ancestors that can be traced back to the indigenous cultures. The holiday comes to life in the U.S. border region with many artistic achievements and cultural celebrations, especially right here in Tucson. El Diá de los Muertos focuses on the gathering of friends and family to pray for and remember those who have died is particularly celebrated in Mexico, however many of Tucson’s community museums, gardens, art galleries and more host events to observe the holiday. The celebrations take place in connection to the Catholic holidays on Nov. 1 (All Saint’s Day) and Nov. 2 (All Souls Day.)

Much of the artwork related to the holiday is Halloween-like. Traditions include building private alters, known as ofrendas, honoring the dead along with skulls, marigolds and the deceased’s favorite food or beverage. Many of these different forms of traditional art associated with the holiday, local Tucson residents and visitors can witness first hand. I have listed just a few of the many talks, exhibits and celebrations that will take place in our community this year.

  • Tomorrow the University of Arizona will host an El Diá de los Muertos talk at  5 p.m. in Life Sciences South room 340. Jesus Garcia, education specialist at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum will speak on El Diá  de los Muertos.
  • Tohono Chul Park’s El Diá de los Muertos Exhibit presents a versatile array of art works created by regional artists paying homage to the holiday. Along with contem­porary paintings, photographs, quilts, and artful works that link us as human beings in dealing with death, loss and remembrance, the exhibit also has a community ofrenda, allowing visitors to participate by leaving a token memento in tribute for their departed loved ones. There are roughly 20 artists who have participated in the exhibit which runs through Nov. 6.
  • Beginning today, Oct. 10, La Pilita Museum presents a Diá de los Muertos community altar created by schoolchildren, and a little shop offering icons and holiday-related items. Also, the museum will have an El Diá de los Muertos presentation and book signing on Oct. 22.
  • The Tucson Botanical Gardens will host an exhibit of El Diá de los Muertos related, papier-mâché artwork in their Barrio Garden. Exhibit dates are Oct. 18 through Nov. 20
  • The Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery and Workshop will  host an annual homage to El Diá  de los Muertos, with artists participating in the cultural celebration in the tradition of the Hispanic Southwest.  Personal tributes in the form of  altars, ofrendas, paintings, sculpture & mixed media work will be displayed. The exhibit will take place Nov. 2 through Nov. 26.
  • Of course let’s not forget the All Souls Procession, which has been an annual Tucson event since 1990. It is one of the most important, inclusive and authentic public ceremonies in North America today thanks to local Tucson artist Susan Johnson. The All Souls Procession, and now the entire All Souls Weekend, is a celebration and mourning of the lives of our loved ones who have passed. The public procession of walkers, dancers, drummers, and stilt-walkers through downtown Tucson takes place on Nov. 6.

Stay tuned to Borderbeat for more on the All Souls Procession in the coming weeks!

Artist Spotlight: Gabriela Garcia Medina

I think everyone searches for a little inspiration now and then, but if you can’t find something that inspires you, why not inspire others?

What used to be a hobby for Gabriela Garcia Media is now a creative, successful, career which encourages people to feel great about who they are and feel empowered.

Medina is a spoken word artist who mixes stories, poetry and emotion to convey messages of hope, revolution, identity, love and so much more. She uses creativity and art in order to heal, empower and make a proactive difference to her audiences both nationally and internationally.

After growing up in Cuba, Medina and her family left in 1989 destined for London. After finishing up high school in London, Medina came to the U.S. and attended UCLA where she graduated with a major in Musical Theater and a double minor in Chicano and African Studies. Along with her childhood in Cuba, her educational background helped to empower the potential of her poetry and give her a good reason for choosing her desired career path.

Medina is a speaker who captures the imagination of her audience and engages with them, but at the same time writing is a healing process for her and she uses everyday events to transform her thoughts into poems and written words.

Medina and her spoken word art form have traveled all over the world, from Cuba to Brazil, and Switzerland to South Africa. She has made film, theater and television appearances (like the Dove commercial seen below,) given talks at college conferences and festivals and is a founding member of WISE Collective (Woman Inspiring Social/Spiritual Expression.) Also an author, Medina has published two books “Ink-Scribing Oshun” and “In the Wake of Oya.”

Now Medina will be making her way to the University of Arizona as the Wildcat Events Board will be hosting a poetry night featuring Medina at 7 p.m. this Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 in the Gallagher Theater.

A Peace of Art in Ajo, Ariz.

While you can expect to see more on Border Beat, from the live coverage to the upcoming special project, I thought I would touch on the art I was able to witness at the Ajo Peace Festival, last Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Since we arrived a bit early, while we were waiting for the parade to begin, the first thing that caught my attention were the decorations surrounding the historic Ajo Plaza. Colorful peace-themed 4’ x 8’ wooden murals sponsored by local businesses, designed by local artists and painted by the community lined the perimeter of the festival grounds. Without giving away too much of what is yet to come, below is one example of the wooden murals expressing peace.

Next, the music following the parade caught my attention as drums, dancing and upbeat rhythms began throughout the plaza. The Batucaxe Brazilian Dancers of Tucson used percussion instruments and dancing to express peace for our nation while showing their support in Ajo on the 8th annual International Day of Peace.

There was much more I could give away pertaining to the wonderful art, music and symbols of peace from the festival in Ajo last week, but you will just have to check into Border Beat on Wednesday, Oct. 5 to see the completed project!