North Carolian Latinx students display artwork
Thirteen North Carolina high school students celebrated their culture, as well as the challenges and triumphs of immigration, through the “Art Without Walls” event last week.
Through this event, community and higher education organizations have developed a scholarship opportunity for students to use art as an outlet to portray their emotions and journey in a sustainable and creative way.
In 2019, the brothers of the Gamma Iota chapter of Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc. organized their first “Art Without Walls” event. Aligned with the fellowship’s ideal of service, alum Nick Rios is credited with the idea of a program that celebrates art and culture, while educating a wider audience about the experience and struggles of life. ‘immigration.
What started with Lambdas supporting three high school students to showcase their art in the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) has since become a community event.
“This event is all about art and art as a new way to express feelings…We combined that by simply giving students a platform to talk,” said Ramon Sanchez, chapter president. Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity. “Immigration is not an easy subject and some people may find it easier, instead of talking, to just describe how they feel.”
Expand the initiative
In collaboration with the fraternity and several UNCC student groups, the third annual “Art Without Walls” took place on October 14, organized by the Charlotte Latin American Chamber of Commerce (LACCC). While LACCC’s economic impact focuses on Latin American businesses in the Charlotte area, the organization accepted the invitation to expand the initiative.
“One of the things we’re doing at the chamber is changing the narrative,” said Gris Bailey, president of the Charlotte Latin American Chamber of Commerce. “So ‘Somos’: we’re trying to show Charlotte that we’re unique, we’re different, we’re special, we’re talented, we’re doctors and we’re lawyers, we’re students and we’re a lot of things, not just immigrants.
As LACCC’s events and programs manager, Debbie Ortega said they chose to participate in hopes of helping students feel empowered as they wanted when they were in school. Overall, the Chamber wanted students to feel they belonged and belonged in the community.
On the day of the event, the artwork of 13 NC high school students was displayed around the Collective Coffee. There was also a silent auction for the works.
Proceeds from the auction were distributed directly to the artists, along with a certificate and additional scholarships donated by the event organizers.
Art is worth more than money
For organizers and attendees, the experience meant more than just selling art. The audience heard from Brenda Sandavol, External Vice President of the Latinx Student Union at UNCC.
Born to Salvadoran parents who immigrated to the United States, Brenda shared the challenges of being a first-generation student trying to make the transition to college.
Tears formed as she spoke of her sister, who she considers a second mom. Although she immigrated as a child, October has been nine months since her sister was forced to return to El Salvador as an adult.
Despite the distance, Brenda said, “she always encourages me to pursue my dreams, to do what she couldn’t do, and that’s honestly what keeps me going.”
The heartfelt message touched many people deeply. Among them was Melany Garcia Mercado, a student at Vernon Malone College and Career Academy and one of the contributing artists to the event.
His work, titled “OUR Trail of Tears,” depicted hands reaching through a wire fence; a depiction “of immigrants being held in a detention center…where they separate children from their families when the majority of immigrants just want to live this ‘American Dream.'”
What the future holds
As a senior, Section President Ramon Sanchez’s time at UNCC is coming to an end. However, he is optimistic that “Art Without Walls” will continue to grow in the years to come. While the event initially targeted high school students in the Charlotte area, it is hoped to include students from across the state.
Additionally, organizers said that while the tradition has become a staple during Latinx Heritage Month, the impact of immigration extends beyond the Latinx community. The fraternity envisions “Art Without Walls” moving forward as a platform that elevates the creativity and narratives of an even more diverse set of artists.
Look below to see the student works.