Updated is a new Mission Local series that is doing just that: updating old stories to see what has happened to the people and places we have written about.
Eleven years ago, we were at the launch of the Three Worlds: Myths, Bricks, Prints exhibit at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts and shot the video above.
If not for the pandemic, we may have been back at the Mission Cultural Center this month. Juan Fuentes, one of the three artists featured in our 2009 video, had proposed hosting an exhibition celebrating El Tecolote’s 50th anniversary at the Mission Cultural Center. Fuentes envisioned an exhibition with the work of 35 other artists, and he would have been one of them.
So, instead of preparing for exhibitions, Fuentes, the only one of the three three artists featured in our 2009 video who is still alive, is pursuing projects from his studio in his Bayview home. Even though he is technically 10 years into retirement, Fuentes recently created two posters: one commemorating George Floyd and another thanking Covid-19 healthcare workers.
In our video from the 2009 launch of Three Worlds, we explored the works of Fuentes, but also those of Luis Arias Vera and Casper Banjo — who each have quite distinct backgrounds and muses.
Originally from Peru, Arias Vera was a celebrated pop artist and cultural organizer who explored Andean rituals and mythology in his paintings from the 1960s onward. Banjo was a painter from Memphis who frequently used brick walls as a motif in his work, and was involved in many communities of Black artists. Fuentes is an activist and a printmaker from New Mexico whose work addresses social issues. Hence, the three artists together made myths, bricks, and prints.
A year before the exhibit opened, in March 2008, Banjo was killed by the Oakland police. Arias Vera died of cancer in October, 2016. Before his death, Arias Vera split his time between Berkeley and Madrid, Spain, and featured paintings at exhibitions across the United States, Latin America, and Spain, according to his son, Adrian Arias, a visual poet.
The Mission Cultural Center temporarily closed in early April when the pandemic hit, but it is aiming to reopen in the near future. In the meantime, the center is offering online content through its new “Desde La Cueva del Jaguar” (From the Jaguar’s Cave) series.
The Mission Cultural Center has offered a variety of online events in the series so far, including weekly pre-ballet dance classes with Graciela Acedo, weekly Brazillian carnival dance classes with Metzi Henriquez, weekly youth art classes, and a Calafia Armada online concert.
Arias Vera’s son, Adrian, who used to work as the Mission Cultural Center’s multimedia director, has been contributing to the center’s pandemic-time offerings. Adrian hosted one of The Mission Cultural Center’s virtual events in July. He is currently working on a piece for the center’s front window: a mural of drawings of hands that will tell the stories of people in isolation during the pandemic.
Amanda Martinez, the video’s original reporter, went on from Mission Local to become a video producer at NBC News. She is now the director of video production and outreach at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.
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