'Out of the box' - Albuquerque Journal

‘Out of the box’

Frederico Vigil completed one of New Mexico’s great artworks, the Toreen Fresco, “Mundos de Mestizaje.”

Frederico Vigil spent years painstakingly bringing “Mundos de Mestizaje” to life.

The monumental fresco inside the Torreón at the National Hispanic Cultural Center depicts thousands of years of Hispanic history, highlighting diverse cultural connections between people and places from the Iberian Peninsula to the Americas.

The 4,000-square-foot mural is one of the largest frescos in North America.

The first annual NHCC History Festival is aiming to educate visitors on the importance of the fresco. The event will take place Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, at the NHCC.

Valerie Martinez, director of history and literary arts at the NHCC, wanted to come up with something outside the box.

With history, you either get it in school or in history conferences,” she says. “With my team, I said, ‘Lets do something unusual and out of the box.’ Let’s do a festival for all ages.”

Martinez says all festival events will be related to the fresco, allowing visitors to explore Hispanic/Latinx history through the cross-cultural, transnational, and multidisciplinary influences that have created the Hispanic world.

Martinez says that on Friday, Feb. 21, a few invited elementary and middle schools will visit the NHCC to participate in the festival.

At 6:30 p.m., there will be an evening wine reception with Vigil. Tickets for this event can be purchased at nhcchistoryfest.com.

At 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22, the “Mundos de Mestizaje” high school art prize winners will be on display in the NHCC library hallway.

There will also be a 20-minute guided tour at 9:30 a.m. and coffee and biscochitos in the Salón Ortega.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., there will be activities for children to join a “rodeo” with Blackout Theatre clowns inspired by horses in the fresco.

Visitors can also rotate through interactive stations to experience the artistic process of creating “Mundos de Mestizaje.”

“The free day is designed for all ages,” Martinez says. “We often get requests to do talks on what it means to be Hispanic. To be Hispanic is as complex as the fresco. It’s really complicated, and I think the festival is one way to continue the conversation. We want people to engage with every aspect of the festival.”

Also scheduled for Saturday will be talks by Dr. Josie Lopez, curator of art at the Albuquerque Museum, and art historian Diana Krumholz McDonald of Boston College.

Martinez says there will be three temporary murals in dialogue with the fresco, with accompanying artist talks.

The three artists chosen to showcase the temporary works are Helen Juliet Atkins, Ruben Olguin and Reyes Padilla.

Atkins’ mural will pay homage to the matriarchs before her and will showcase racial and cultural diversity with figures modeled by women living in New Mexico.

Olguin’s is titled “Teatro de Conversión.” It’s an adobe clay painting depicting the uses of art, architecture and sculpture by missionary friars for the conversion of indigenous people to Christianity.

Padilla will paint an abstract mural that reflects the emotional complexity of the history depicted in Vigil’s fresco.

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