For the past year, a group of five local artists has held a series of virtual pop-up art sessions, where participants learned about the artists’ process and were given guidance on how to create their own work.
“Pencas del Coraźon” (Heart of the Cactus) was curated by two of PVA’s Artists-in-Residence, Yesenia Molina and Irene Juarez O’Connell. The work centers around the theme of nopales (prickly pear cactus), a cultural symbol historically embraced by Mexican, Latinx and Chicanx communities.
In a curator’s statement, Molina and Juarez explained: “Not only are nopales traditional sources of sustenance and nutrition, they are a representation of struggle, survival and majestic beauty.”
In the statement, they added how art is “an important vehicle for social change and resistance, especially in the face of nationwide attacks on people of color, children, families and entire cultures.”
“Pencas del Coraźon” features the work of Molina and O’Connell, as well as Guillermo Aranda, Janet Johns, Salvador Lua, Gabriel Medina and Mayra Ruiz-Valtierra. Mediums range from paintings and drawings to photographs, textiles and video work.
The residency program that Molina and O’Connell are a part of was funded by the Community Foundation Santa Cruz County’s Rydell Visual Arts Fund, in partnership with Arts Council Santa Cruz County.
“Working alongside Irene and Yesenia has been an eye-opening experience. ‘Pencas del Corazón’ opened up the possibility to practice working alongside community-based artists as a way to acknowledge and deepen our interdependence,” Mireya Gomez-Contreras, deputy director of Art Council said in a press release. “It is a demonstration of the power of investing thoughtfully and partnering for results. Artistic creativity is at the heart of this project.”
“Pencas del Coraźon” was also made possible by support from the city of Watsonville, California Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of 2020’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
PVA Exhibit Coordinator Hedwig Heerschop said that putting together the exhibit has been a bit different than their normal shows.
“It’s more community-oriented,” Heerschop said. “And that’s really our main goal as an organization: to get more of the local community involved. So this was a nice opportunity.”
PVA is currently undergoing a transformation. Earlier this year, the organization welcomed a new executive director, Valéria Miranda. Jessica Carrasco recently stepped up as board president, Brianna Flores is their new office manager and Bianca Jimenez has taken over as gallery coordinator.
Miranda said that so far her time at PVA has been “fantastic.”
“It’s going great,” she said. “I feel so lucky to be here. There’s such a wide range of things that this organization does.”
PVA still plans to move into a larger space in the future, whether it be the long-sought-after Porter Building downtown or another site. Miranda said they are working to prepare for expanded services and activities once they do.
“It’s been exciting,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to work with the staff and the board to imagine what our future looks like. What do we need to practice now, so we can be ready as we grow? I’m looking forward to really thinking these things through.”
An opening reception (their first in-person since the pandemic) for “Pencas del Coraźon” will be held on June 27 from 2-4pm.
Admission to the gallery is free. Hours are Wednesday-Sunday 11am-4pm.
In addition, PVA’s annual “Sculpture Is” outdoor exhibit opened June 7 at Sierra Azul Nursery & Gardens. It will run through Oct. 31.
For information visit pvarts.org.