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Janice Bettiga (October)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Janice is the CAEA Northern Area Past President, NAEA Supervision and Administration Pacific Regional Director, and a 2017 graduate of NAEA’s School for Art Leaders. She has more than 25 years of experience in arts education and is an advocate for the arts and arts education. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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September 24, 2020

Diversify Your Art Curriculum With Contemporary Artists From San Antonio and Beyond

By Noël Bella Merriam

When schools around the country shut down suddenly last spring, one ubiquitous art project that students could easily create at home was the found object color wheel.  Many iterations of this project circulated on social media last spring.  It was also a great way for students working from home with limited resources to combine assemblage with photography.

In the spirit of found object assemblage and photography, I’d like to introduce two San Antonio artists to you who embraced these media: Linda Pace and Chuck Ramirez.

Artist, collector, and visionary Linda Pace left an indelible mark on San Antonio’s contemporary art scene.  A descendant of the Pace family that brought us Pace picante sauce, Linda Pace dedicated her life to enriching the visual arts scene in San Antonio.  She founded Artpace, a unique non-profit contemporary gallery that provides residencies and space for international, national, and regional artists to focus on their work.  If you are looking for a resource for a diverse range of global contemporary artists to enrich your arts curriculum and generate interesting discussions with your students, I suggest you spend some time exploring their online archive

Linda Pace was also the founder of the recently opened Ruby City, San Antonio’s newest contemporary art space.  Local lore tells how Linda saw a vision for a ruby red building in a dream and sketched it upon awakening.  Her dream became a reality when Ruby City opened in 2019.  The striking architectural design is the work of David Adjaye OBE, the architect who also designed NMAAHC, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.   

Linda sowed the seeds for San Antonio’s newest contemporary art center prior to her passing, and she collected the work of numerous San Antonio artists, including Chuck Ramirez.  Like Linda, Chuck used found objects as the starting point for the majority of his artwork.  He created his work in series format, and many of his large-scale photographs of everyday, mundane objects take on aspects of portraiture, such as his Broom series and his Purse Portrait series.  His work can be explored on the website of the Ruiz-Healy Art gallery, a great resource for learning about contemporary Latinx and Latin-American artists.

My favorite works of Linda Pace’s are her enormous monochromatic assemblages.  Her Red Project from 2001 is in the collection of Ruby City, and Greenpeace is in the permanent collection of the San Antonio Museum of Art.   It’s always tremendous fun to spend time exploring Greenpeace with students visiting our museum when the assemblage is on view.

Image 1 blog post 5Linda Pace (American, 1945-2007)
Green Peace, 2003
Mixed media on wood panels
San Antonio Museum of Art, gift of Crown Equipment Corporation, New Bremen, Ohio, 2016.24

Look closely and you will see some things you usually associate with green: grass, grapes, an avocado, and several frogs.  You will also see some unexpected green things: plastic elephants, a rubber ducky, and high heels.  We used this fascinating work as the inspiration for an at-home art project on social media during Earth Day, encouraging our community to gather natural materials found outside and create a nature assemblage. Students learning in remote or hybrid environments this fall could explore the concept of monochromatic color by gathering objects around their house and constructing a temporary monochromatic found object assemblage that they photograph.

Perhaps the work of Linda Pace and Chuck Ramirez will inspire you to come up with some new photography or assemblage projects with your students.  Their rich and creative lives, as well as their strong sense of community, certainly inspired many artists living in San Antonio. I’ve enjoyed sharing a bit about each of them with you in this blog post.  I hope you discover interesting global, Latinx, and Latin-American contemporary artists through the Art Pace, Ruby City, and Ruiz-Healy art gallery websites that you can integrate into your curriculum to make your artroom more inclusive.

-NBM

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