Monday, March 2, 2009

New Hispanic group promotes culture through art

Representing Latinos, Latinas: New local organization uses art to tell culture’s stories
By Lawrence Schumacher • • March 1, 2009

Latino and Latina art and culture was on display for the whole community to see Saturday at the St. Cloud Public Library.

Art plays an important role in telling the history of Latino culture around the world, so a community art show was a good way to introduce Central Minnesotans to that culture, said Martha A. Noyola, co-founder of Perseverancia, a new St. Cloud-based cultural education and advocacy group.

“It’s a way to tell a story or talk about our lives,” said Noyola, a multicultural student adviser at St. Cloud State University who is also on leave from her job in the admissions department there. “We want to represent Latino culture in a positive light and create a positive image of who we are.”

As the first public activity for Perseverancia — Spanish for perseverance — the art exhibit featured paintings, sculptures, sketches and folk art, including the silk crepe paper flowers and decorated sugar candy skulls created by Alma Rothfork of Clear Lake.

Rothfork said she’s been making the flowers and skulls since she was a girl growing up in Mazatlan, Mexico, but began teaching children how to make them in community education classes five years ago.

The flowers are usually used for decorating around the house, while the skulls play an essential role in the traditional Mexican religious celebration of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, she said.

“It’s one of the things you have to do for the Day of the Dead to make an offering to your relatives, to remember them,” Rothfork said.

The flowers are put together one petal at a time and attached to the stem with a glue gun, while the skulls are made from a sugar paste similar to gingerbread house icing and left to dry overnight before being decorated, she said. Rothfork also teaches Mexican cooking and Spanish in community education classes, and said she’s going back to school to get her degree in Spanish so she can become a full-time teacher.

Perseverancia was formed in November when Noyola and two friends, Mayuli Bales and Monica Segura, decided St. Cloud-area Latinos and Latinas needed some support and a way to connect with the larger Central Minnesota community, Noyola said.

The group is seeking its formal 501(c)3 nonprofit status and has begun a mentoring group in Cold Spring for young Latina women, she said.

The group hopes Saturday’s art show will help Latino and Latina artists connect with the larger St. Cloud-area art community, said Noyola, whose husband, Steven J. Corralejo, is an artist whose paintings were also on display Saturday.

“It’s been really hard to penetrate the art community in this area,” Noyola said. “I hope this opens some doors.”

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