An artistic and cultural feast celebrating Los Angeles’ Mexican heritage has been prepared and awaits sampling during the four-month Artes de Mexico Festival.
“The purpose of the festival is to remind all residents of Los Angeles--Latino and non-Latino--that their city has a magnificently rich and deeply rooted Mexican cultural past. But the festival will additionally show its Mexican cultural present and future,” said Jesus Perez, executive director of the Artes de Mexico Festival Committee.
This festival, which begins Sept. 1, showcases not only las artes de Mexico but also the visual and performing art of individuals of Mexican descent in the Los Angeles area. It is designed to complement the mammoth “Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries” art exhibition, which will open Oct. 6 and run through Dec. 29 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“It’s an incredible landmark event for Los Angeles,” said Adolfo V. Nodal, general manager of the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. “I’m hoping it’s going to be a vehicle to tie together the community and have everyone come together to celebrate the beautiful culture of Mexico.
“Its impact,” Nodal said, “will be as important as the original Olympics Arts Festival was to the arts community.”
Artes de Mexico features more than 125 events in the visual arts, music, dance, theater, film, family activities and a variety of readings and lectures--at locations as varied as Occidental College, USC and other college campuses, dozens of museums and galleries, Plaza de La Raza, the Los Angeles Music Center and the Hollywood Bowl.
Many events will be free and others will be modestly priced.
The festival menu includes pieces from the prestigious Nelson A. Rockefeller folk art collection; more than 60 art and photography exhibits; traditional and original dance performances; numerous film programs, including a Hollywood salute to pioneer Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa; the theatrical adaptation of a classic Mexican novel; a one-day symposium exploring the “Latinization” of Los Angeles; musical programs ranging from the well-known strains of the mariachi to the classical to the cutting edge sounds of rock en espanol ; and finally, a charreada or Mexican-style rodeo. (See fes tival highlights, Page 8.)
“Artes de Mexico was conceived in 1989,” Armando Duron, president of the Festival Committee, said. “After the County Museum of Art announced that the Mexico exhibit would come to L.A, a group of community leaders, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, identified the exhibit as an unprecedented opportunity to reach out to the greater Los Angeles community and expose it to a festival of this kind.
“That is why the events that will take place involve grass-roots to mainstream art and performance groups and organizations, and why the committee is concentrating on efforts to ensure that thousands of area residents attend the activities.”
The “Splendors” exhibition, organized by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, has had successful runs in New York City and San Antonio. The exhibit’s presentation at the County Museum of Art is sponsored by the local Friends of the Arts of Mexico, a private organization backed by Mexican and U.S. donors. With nearly 400 pieces of art, it will be the largest exhibit ever mounted at the museum.
Perez said that, unlike the events that surrounded the exhibit in New York City and San Antonio, the Artes de Mexico Festival in Los Angeles has a larger and more active volunteer organization. “In New York, the Mexican government did auxiliary events,” Perez said, “and in San Antonio, the Department of Cultural Affairs.”
Another member of the festival’s executive committee, Samuel Mark, said: “I’m delighted by the fact that there will be the exploration of the complex relationship between Mexico and Mexican-American or Chicano culture. When does a work of art stop being ‘Mexican’ and become ‘Chicano’ art? Our festival will give audiences the opportunity to explore and appreciate all of these nuances in the work of artists and performers from both countries.”
The Mexican cultural programming appears to be unparalleled in Los Angeles’ modern history. While some events will begin next week, the festival’s official opening will take place in ceremonies at City Hall on Sept. 14, with festival and civic officials presiding. National Hispanic Heritage month and traditional Mexican celebrations will occur during the festival’s four-month run.
About the only difficulty the Artes de Mexico audience might encounter is choosing from the wealth of important events to be presented during the festival.
In addition to Artes de Mexico, the Mexican government and private Mexican groups will sponsor activities in a series of events entitled, “Mexico: A Work of Art.”
Perez said a telephone information line will “provide callers with a listing of all our Artes de Mexico events during this time period--as well as ‘Mexico: A Work of Art,’ and other events that might reflect the ideals of the festival.” The number is (213) 688-ARTS.
Although the creative activity provides a cultural cornucopia, there was disappointment that Octavio Paz, Mexico’s Nobel laureate, canceled three scheduled readings of his poetry. Also, “Women of Mexico,” an auxiliary exhibition to “Splendors” during its New York stop, failed to materialize here because of funding and logistic difficulties.
The impact of a festival of this magnitude will not be known for some time, but plans are already afoot to explore the future possibilities. “I hope it becomes an ongoing event that draws from the best of other events,” Perez said. “Los Angeles is a multicultural city. It’s only natural that its citizenry become acquainted with its past and future directions as the 21st Century approaches. The Artes de Mexico Festival is a means toward that end.”