Salt Lake Community College students put their creativity on canvas for the Student Voices for Human Rights Arts Showcase Oct. 8 at South City Campus.
Though corresponding with Hispanic Heritage Month, the event had much more to do with human rights than it did with any particular ethnic group.
“We wanted to make it social because, who doesn’t have issues?” event organizer Viviana Zumstein explains. “We wanted to encourage people from everywhere to be part of the Hispanic heritage so they can relate and learn, hopefully.”
The showcase featured a collection of works by SLCC student artists like Kenneth Gonzalez, president and sole member of the Artists with Ethnicity Club. He wanted to share his experience of coming to the United States and comparing this culture to his own.
“I was inspired upon my arrival to the United States and the difference in cultures,” Gonzalez says. “Many people say that the United States and Mexico are very different, but there are many things that are similar.
“People say that Mexico is very very poor, but there are places where this is not the case. I want to demonstrate that Mexico is not just a poor country, but it also has quality in its inhabitants.”
One piece at the showcase seemed to serve as a centerpiece for all of his present artwork. He entitled it “Human Life” which depicted North, Central, and South America in a sort of collage comprising familiar symbols.
“In that piece I want to express that we are one,” Gonzalez says. “Because all of us recognize soccer, we all have social issues, in all of America there is human trafficking. Not only in Brazil or Mexico are there problems, they exist everywhere and there’s quality everywhere too.”
Brenda Santoyo studies illustration and sociology at SLCC; through a marriage of both fields she brings to life social issues in her art that are of great importance to her.
“With illustration what you have to do is use art and imagery to portray a message, so that’s the main purpose,” Santoyo says. “It doesn’t essentially matter if [the audience has a different perspective], but it’s that they get the main idea.
“Especially with that one,” Santoyo says as she points to a piece depicting a couple running with their daughter by their side, and the mother and daughter have lost grip of each other’s hands.
Santoyo shared her inspiration behind this piece and its connection to recent statements about immigration by presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“I wanted to show what would happen if he becomes president and his idea [of deportation] comes into play,” Santoyo explains. “People are going to lose their families … it happened to me. My parents were deported when I was sixteen. So, that’s directly what [the drawing] is.
“We’re just like everybody else. We’re trying to, in some way, be a part of the community even though we have our different cultures and beliefs.”
Zumstein has been actively involved in bringing events such as these to life through raising funds, rallying participants and promoting events.
“We didn’t have any restrictions,” Zumstein says. “[There were] no [entry] fees; we actually helped [students] if they needed money for frames because we just didn’t want excuses.”
The challenge in putting on these events, according to Zumstein, is finding students willing to participate.
The idea of creating the showcase beyond the confines of Hispanic culture allowed the artists to be taken more seriously.
Those partaking in the showcase collectively expressed concern in finding participants for future events and ongoing activities.
Gonzalez revealed particular interest in bringing more visibility to these projects.
“My wish is that all students can exhibit their talents,” Gonzalez says. “I have noticed a problem because I take art classes and not many students participate in these kinds of events.
“One of my goals is for students to participate and to allow people to see their talent.”
Those who missed out on the showcase and would like to join in on the festivities have many more events to look forward to this month.
According to Zumstein, a fundraiser dinner will take place during the last days of Hispanic Heritage Month, though details are still tentative. This event will feature speakers who will address and explore Hispanic issues further, followed by a dinner which will coincide with a silent auction.
The auction will benefit the efforts of undocumented students.
A competition will also take place in which student clubs and college departments may create altares for a prize of up to $250. Altares are altars traditionally created during the time of Dia de los Muertos in Mexico to commemorate ancestors, idols or historic figures.