‘Still Here’ ― an exhibit of their own at NYC’s Fuerzafest

By 15 May, 2017

Fuerzafest, the first and only Latino LGBTQI Festival in the Northeast region, is back in New York City for its second edition until the 21st of May (see schedule here).

Following a theme of “Breaking Down Walls,” the multi-day event features workshops, panel discussions, dance, film, and an art exhibit that serve as a catalyst for action against the issues impacting these communities, including homophobia, transphobia, racism and xenophobia.

This year’s Fuerzafest also comes just one short year after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, which claimed the lives of 49 victims of the LGBTQI community. The cultural festival will honor and remember these victims throughout the event including a memorial installation highlighting each victim’s story.

Gays Against Guns honors the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. (Photo by Tom Stoelker)

Gays Against Guns honors the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. (Photo by Tom Stoelker)

There will also be a special commemoration ceremony where artists will make a tribute through music and performances this Wednesday, 17th of May, at 7 p.m. (More details)

We were especially moved by the art exhibit “Still Here,” curated by Richard Morales and Sofía Reese del Río. The works question the history of erasure and histories rendered silent when talking about Latinx LGBTQI identities.

We spoke with the duo about the art they chose for the show.

Curator Sofía Reese del Río, Mario Colon,director of Fuerzafest, and Richard Morales, curator. (Photo by Tom Stoelker)

Morales, who plans the public programming at NYC’s Museo del Barrio, said the work of curating happened in a very organic way — by engaging with folks in the art world.

“There was a lot of word of mouth,” he said.

Reese del Rio, who is curatorial programs coordinator El Museo, said a theme emerged as they were curating within the larger theme of “Breaking down walls.”

“We thought a lot about presence,” she said. “We were also conscious about balance and diversity. This definitely sparked the idea of doing a second iteration of the show because we have seen an amazing amount of work that we weren’t able to show because of space and time limitations.”

As You Change: 2010 + 2104 documents the transition of her childhood friend from female to male.

“As You Change: 2010 + 2104” documents the transition of the artist, Andria Morales’, childhood friend from female to male.

“Still Here” included a variety of art. Among the photography, was work by Andria Morales, who documented a childhood friend as he was transitioning in a series of photos. There were also individuals dressed in white veils, holding placards with a photo, name and facts about victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

“We wanted to incorporate this conversation still happening to this day about senseless gun violence and drawing attention to the fact that people are still getting murdered,” said Morales, who worked with the organization Gays Against Guns to coordinate that performative aspect of the exhibit. “Last year, right after after this festival happened for the first time, the Pulse nightclub shooting happened [on June 12]. So one of the organizers wanted to address that topic in a way that was sensitive, beautiful and maintaining the integrity of the lives that were lost, but also not cheapening those lives. That’s why they’re holding placards with images and stories about the individuals whose lives were lost.

“If you look around [the ‘Still here” exhibit] all the art is about individual stories. Vanessa Rondon’s story is about new immigrants. Andria Morales work is about her relationship with her friend during his transition period. All of the stories were really important to incorporate in the show,” Morales said.

Learn more about Fuerzafest, which was made possible with support by the Hispanic Federation, here.

"Justice" by Cristy Road.

“Justice” by Cristy Road.

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