What are your expectations for Uncovered Spaces? Is there something you want this exhibition to accomplish? For you professionally, for the artists, for IMAS?
Raheleh: Considering the geographical location of the IMAS and UTRGV, the enhancement of community engagement and cooperation with local, regional, national, and international artists and scholars outside of the Rio Grande Valley has high priority. In addition, the Rio Grande Valley has the potential to become a hub for intellectual, creative, and cultural exchange in the southern hemisphere, so many artists and scholars around the world could also benefit. As an artist and educator who lived and worked in this area for over four years, I have seen the impact of this place on my own practice. My story as an immigrant coalesced with the stories of many people here and gave me a pivotal perspective about the political landscape of this country. The main concern is to make sure that the exhibition and its many events open a space through art which engages the community of artists and audiences and offers a critical re-thinking of current social and political issues. The broader implications touch upon the foundations of art practice from the perspective of practicing artists and scholars and the existential issues affecting the lives of all members of our society.
Katherine: I believe institutions, along with their students and audiences, want to be educated and find a place for creativity. We need inspiring places to view internationally celebrated contemporary art in the Rio Grande Valley. Uncovered Spaces is a testament to the fact that art is a serious profession, and emerging and established artists are changing our world with their creative ideas that challenge us all to have new dialogues with each other.
The study and advancement of creativity in the arts is a critical part of the fabric of our community and the success of our students. We need to promote these values in art and education at the IMAS and our universities to elevate the arts and inspire innovation to make the world in which we live on the U.S-Mexico border a more dynamic and beautiful place.
We want Uncovered Spaces to inspire our community, create a space for young artists to learn and have confidence in their expression through art, break through boundaries of space and identity, and support diversity and inclusion.
Will you please share what attracted you to the identity theme of this exhibition? How do the artists/art works connect audiences with both the simple and complex concepts of identity? Or is identity only a complex concept? And if so, how do you think these artists make it accessible to general museum audiences of all ages?
Raheleh: Identity is a complex subject in the contemporary world and especially in art. It is not a new subject for a curatorial exhibition, but as the world around constantly evolves so does the theme of identity. The myriad events of the past two years: COVID 19, pervasive racial injustice, social inequity and immigrant incarceration impact identity and identity politics which makes the concept a relevant and current subject. Artists have been selected based on how their work addresses these topics. Artists are from different cultural and practice backgrounds who have faced many challenges in life and art and bring diverse perspectives to this theme. The event venues will serve as a space for women, queer artists, and scholars to discuss their work, research, interests, strengths, frustrations, and vulnerabilities regarding gender, race, and social norms which of course, has a direct relationship with identity. The project also seeks to reveal the connections between feminine solidarity, shared knowledge, and the creative process.
Katherine: We created this exhibition to help artists, students, and our community think deeply about the social structures that impact female identity and LGBTQ identity.
We wanted to create a space for artists to share their work, create new art, and encourage viewers to see how this creative production is in a dialogue with each other. The artworks are intended to connect with audiences metaphorically, conceptually, and sensorially and share the ideas of our artists to begin new dialogues and conversations. Our vision is to help artists and viewers feel more empowered through their creativity to open up new perceptions and create a safe place to engage with art and value it in our community.
What responses do you expect from the audiences who experience the exhibit?
Raheleh: We trust they will ask questions and participate in various events to discuss their thoughts and insights. We believe the many layers of this exhibition can uncover many spaces for exploration, engagement, and dialog. We hope this is an enriching, educational and enjoyable experience for artists and viewers.
Katherine: *By providing a space to enjoy art, we hope to see a positive response about building an arts-based community. This exhibition is focused on creating something together, collaborating to support students and young audiences, and placing a value on the arts. Uncovered Spaces will introduce celebrated artists to the Rio Grande Valley, but they are not merely artists coming into our museum to display their art. We will encourage young audiences to be in a dialogue with the artists by creating their own works in a student art exhibition sponsored by H-E-B (and organized by UTRGV alumni) opening in conjunction with Uncovered Spaces. We will also host art workshops, present performance pieces with the visiting artists, and host roundtables for our community and K-12 and university students to attend. We are not just speaking to the community. We want to hear from the community.
*Our students and younger generation are the future, and there is a hopeful exuberance in the youthful identity of the Rio Grande Valley. Uncovered Spaces will be relevant today to make a positive impact in our community to engage with art by bridging boundaries, celebrating diversity and inclusion, and inspiring innovation.
*With Uncovered Spaces, we are also witnessing the success of education evolve with the planning of this exhibition. Raheleh and I are working with our current students, our talented UTRGV alumni, such as Cristina Correa and Fatima Lai who are now teachers in the K-12 schools, and our CLAA and IMAS staff who are now working in art professions after receiving their graduate degrees at UTRGV under our mentorship. It is an honor for us to support our current and future students and young members of our community by being a part of this exhibition at the IMAS.
Where do you think your collaboration on Uncovered Spaces will lead you next?
Raheleh: Hopefully, this will lead to many more fruitful collaborations, but the goal of this project is focused solely on our community which has been so generous and open to us. It provided space for us to navigate and share. Therefore, we feel obligated to maintain such space for the next generation who will be the artists, intellectuals, and educators of the Rio Grande Valley.
Katherine: I hope it leads Raheleh and me and our students to continue to more success creating future exhibitions and new art together!