Meet Re•Focus Curator, Candida Gonzalez
Say a little about your art practice and/or any other identities that influenced how you approached this exhibit.
CANDIDA: I am a mixed media artist, public art consultant, and arts educator. I have collaborated with Upstream Arts in the past and as a parent to a 5th grade child attending the DCD program at Dowling School in Minneapolis I have watched my daughter (literally now watching them in my living room!) enjoy classes with Upstream Arts over the past 5 years.
What was the curation experience like for you? What came up? Did anything surprise you in the process?
CANDIDA: This process was challenging and joyful. Joyful in that I couldn’t get enough of these pictures! The emotions and movement flowed out of each picture. I felt like I got to know each subject a little bit even though I have never met most in real life. One set of photos was taken at Roosevelt High School when I worked there as the Arts Coordinator and was working closely with the DCD program and administration to bring them a fuller arts experience. I remember the day that we took these photos and how excited the students were to get their portraits taken, how much they helped and cheered each other on, how special they felt when it was their turn to be photographed.
It was challenging in that I had a hard time picking a top two in each set. Each individual brought their whole self to this process and I was incredibly conscious of the fact that each of these individuals has probably experienced many moments of invisibility, of others not seeing them as whole people, of others not seeing their unique individual beauty and instead only seeing a disability. I wanted every single one of these photos to be celebrated. But I comforted myself in knowing that each photo and individual has already been celebrated in their experience with Upstream Arts and our final selection gives a great look at the diversity of individuals who enjoy being a part of their programming.
After this curatorial experience, what is one way that you feel called to Re•Focus yourself in relation to our disability community, or how is this exhibit calling us all to Re•Focus on the disability community?
CANDIDA: At this moment in time, early 2021, we all know what it feels like to be isolated and cut off from the world. And yet even in this moment, people with disabilities are often experiencing even higher levels of isolation. What are we as artists and organizations doing right now to reach out to the disability community? As we move into the warmer months, what are we doing to make our outdoor events disability friendly? Access might be a word that is newly important to many people in the world, and we all really need to think on an expanded view of what it means. 2020 showed us that we can be innovative about access when it affects us. I hope as we move out into 2021 we expand on that, that we realize that it is essential that we start innovating access for all.
A queer, non-binary Puerto Rican native of South Minneapolis, Cándida Gónzalez (they/them) studied Latin American Art and History at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, and went on to get their M.Ed. at The University of Minnesota in 2003. In their 15 years of arts education work in Minneapolis they worked on building art programs that focused on equitable arts opportunities, inclusivity of underserved populations, and deeper, culturally relevant arts experiences for youth and communities of color. Through their work they have also focused on providing opportunities and development for emerging artists of color. They approach their work by centering at the intersection of art, activism, healing and personal/community empowerment. They are deeply invested in the concept of using art and community design as tools to wage love and healing. Currently Gonzalez facilitates nationwide the Making it Public workshop series for Forecast Public Art, participates in select local arts and healing initiatives and creates mixed-media jewelry under the name Las Ranas Jewelry.