¨Pan Dulce," by Sam Coronado, 1988.
by Sean Mattson
East Austin is not the kind of place one would ordinarily expect to find an art gallery, but then the Coronado Studio, on the corner of Vargas and Felix, is not a typical gallery. Situated in the midst of the city's residential Hispanic community, the area reminds one a little bit of Mexico, and proprietor / artist / print-maker Sam Coronado wouldn't want it any other way.
"We're in the middle of a little barrio that's pretty ethnically diverse, and that's what makes it appealing. Just being here allows us the opportunity to feel the culture," says Coronado. "It's also a good experience for the artists who come in here... I think they enjoy the whole idea of it being different."
Coronado's brainchild, and the studio's principal endeavor, the Serie Project, is designed to bring art to the local community and local artists to the national arts scene. Open to all visual artists, but placing a special emphasis on emerging Latino artists and their importance to the cultural diversity of the arts in Austin and the United States, the project is now in its eighth year. The non-profit organization gives artists the opportunity to create limited edition serigraphs in the Coronado Studio. The workshops are not limited to professional artists, but Coronado does look for pieces which are conducive to the print-making process. Participants get to keep half of the print run. The Project then exhibits the remaining prints across the United States, making them available to the public at affordable prices. Proceeds from the limited edition print sales are used to keep the small, non-profit Serie Project running.
"Latino artists in America have generally been labeled as folk artists. The idea that we are mainstream artists is a new concept," says Coronado, pointing out that Latin American artists have been creating and exhibiting art for centuries. "It's taken a while because mainstream art has always been European-based. You see a lot of imagery coming from our Mexican heritage being applied to our American patrimony. It's the blend of two cultures coming together that makes our work unique," comments Coronado.
The Serie Project holds exhibitions three to four times a year. Many of the works produced through Coronado Studio can now be found in permanent collections of major museums and institutions around the United States. As a result, the prints are seen by a large, diverse audience. The serigraphs are often exhibited alongside the work of more established painters, offering young artists an opportunity for greater exposure that most wouldn't have had otherwise. Since 1993, more than 100 local, national and international artists have been part of the unique program.
Coronado's inspiration for the Serie Project came from Self-Help Graphics, an East Los Angeles, California workshop designed to give youthful artists the hands-on experience needed for launching professional art careers. Invited for a two-week print making session in 1990, Coronado decided Austin would be able to benefit from a similar project. "Throughout my art career I've always been involved with different organizations and arts activities. I believe an artist has to do more than just sit in his studio. It's important to go out and interact with the community," Coronado notes. Though he's still waiting for that first undiscovered talent from East Austin to become part of the project, his studio has generated a lot of interest in both the local community and nationally with its limited edition, fine art prints.
Sam Coronado and wife Jill Alvarez at the opening receotion of Coronado Arts Place.