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A moment from the past can point to a promising future. And that moment led Café Con Leche founder Gonzalo Robles and Danny Bills, curator of the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU Texas, to develop a new exhibition, “Finding Your Voice: Café Con Leche Co-Curates” at the WFMA.

The exhibit opens Saturday, June 4, with a celebration at 1 p.m. with a Zavala Street Taco fundraiser. Explore the exhibit with the student curators and artists from 2-4 p.m.

Café Von Leche is an organization that promotes post-secondary education for all students, and they work mainly with underserved, first-generation, and minority students. Robles recalls a lecture by art collector Cheech Marin in 2018 as the WFMA exhibited Papel Chicano Dos: Works on Paper from the Collection of Cheech Marin.

“For the event and exhibit, I had 27 high school and college students in attendance,” Robles said. “It was powerful to watch their body language and interest evolve from the beginning of the show to the end. As we exited the theater to go to the exhibit at the museum, you could see a new profound pride displayed in their posture and being. Their eyes were brighter, faces were full of smiles, and their bodies stood taller with shoulders back.”

From that transformational event and the idea of involving students in selecting art for exhibition, Bills has enjoyed the hard work and collaboration of five students: América Benítez, Andrea Granados, Patricia Odjewuyi, Natalie Perez, and Nathalie Rodriguez.

“As I have said before, although many curators share a common purpose, there is not one singular process that every curator uses,” WFMA curator Danny Bills said. “It has been my pleasure to listen to these five fresh voices and witness them become aware of the curatorial process. Listening to their perspectives and what they have to say about art has been a completely new experience for me. I am proud to be part of this collaboration.”

Artists selected by the Café Con Leche students include Gaby Berglund Cárdenas, Guadalupe Hernandez, Lorena Morales, and Graciela Paz. Benítez learned how much work goes into a project. “I’m looking forward to contributing my voice to this exhibition, especially since I am able to find comfort in the art being chosen,” Benítez said.

“I’ve been reading about Café Con Leche, and it seems a very interesting program not only for the young generation trying to get into college but also for their parents as the kids can benefit from all the support around them,” said Paz, a Houston-based artist originally from Guatemala. “In addition to working on my own art, I’m a high school art teacher and also a 12th-grade level administrator, and I can see the struggles the students face. WFMA is doing an amazing job by supporting their vision!”

This exhibition is made possible by MSU Texas with support from the Museum Trust Fund and by grants from The J.S. Bridwell Foundation, the Bryant Edwards Foundation, and the Fain Foundation.

Artist Bios

Gaby Berglund Cárdenas

Ecuadorian-born Gaby Berglund Cárdenas has called many cities across Asia, the USA, and Europe ‘home,’ traveling with her family across the globe before settling in Sweden in 2019. Cárdenas’ multidisciplinary practice is influenced by Asian philosophies. Working in various art forms, Cárdenas uses repetition in her artistic process as a meditative ritual to explore a question of uncertainty of time, space, and being. Thread, ink, fabric, and handmade paper are used in metaphorical ways. Cárdenas has exhibited her work at The Lawndale Art Center in Houston, Texas; the A.I.R. Gallery in New York City; and The Hangaram Museum in Seoul, South Korea, among other venues.

Guadalupe Hernandez

Houston-based artist Guadalupe Hernandez was born in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. His works express aspects of his Mexican identity through the lens of people, places, and memories from his childhood. Hernandez has exhibited his works in museums and juried exhibitions, including at the Houston Holocaust Museum. Hernandez has participated as a Changaritto artist in residence with the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin, exhibiting and selling his work in a pop-up mobile art gallery in front of the museum; an Artist on Site with the Asia Society Texas Center, where he created a large-scale papel picado installation; and a Summer Studios Resident with Project Row Houses in Houston.

Lorena Morales

Based in Houston and born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, Lorena Morales focuses on the shadow in her work. The overlapping of movement, color, and light in her works seeks to evoke energy found in new beginnings and to reveal the passing of current realities. In her work, Morales expresses both joy and nostalgia. Morales’ works relate to the journey of finding her way home through recollections of familiar sounds, everyday scents, and recurring images. Morales has exhibited her work throughout Texas and in Venezuela and Germany. Her work is held in the permanent collection of the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, the City of Houston’s Civic Art Collection, and the George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Graciela Paz

Houston-based artist Graciela Paz is originally from Guatemala. She takes inspiration for her work from ‘Mother Nature,’ creating organic, abstract pieces with the use of mixed media. Her work seeks an understanding of structures, systems, and micro-life in nature to increase consciousness of unseen beauty around us. Creation, constant changes, and chaos sometimes are represented to evoke a depth of feeling. Paz has taught high school art for over five years, worked as a school administrator, and recently earned her MFA with a focus on painting from Houston Baptist University.