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Latina Community-Engaged Artists in Chicago: Practices, (Il)legibility, and Third Spaces
thesisposted on 01.08.2020, 00:00 by Michael Muniz
Latina artists contribute to murals, parades, festivals, graffiti, sculptures, galleries, and museums that make up the cultural fabrics of Latina/x/o communities around the United States. In this dissertation, I examine the cultural and spatial politics of Latina artists who regularly produce art for and with Chicago’s Latina/x/o communities. Drawing from over two years of ethnographic and visual methods, I argue that their practices entail the blurring, challenging, and transcendence of dominant social and spatial boundaries. I find that Latina community-engaged artists’ artistic development is directly related to their race, gender, and class backgrounds and this leads them to practice and understand art in ways that run counter to dominant artistic ideologies. Due to their subjectivities and practices, they often have their labor devalued, are denied access to artistic spaces, must contend with stereotypes and pigeonholing, and have their work rendered illegible by others in the arts. They resist their marginalization and systems of oppression by simultaneously engaging with and working against hegemonic discourses and institutions. Their strategies generate the conditions by which it becomes possible and necessary for Latina community-engaged artists to construct and work in alternative community spaces, or “third spaces”. These physical and non-physical spaces use ephemerality, fluidity, collectivity, and accessibility to produce spaces where alternative ways of being in community are possible and reflect the complex relationships between art, politics, and everyday life. Overall, my research highlights the work and knowledge of artists who receive scan attention in the sociology of art and Latina/x/o communities. More broadly, it illustrates the role that artists play in creating alternative relationships to dominant discourses and institutions.