Monday, December 8, 2008

Power of Five Challenge #2: Montserrat Alsina @ Colibri Gallery

(Photo: Visitors at Colibri Gallery during Pilsen Open Studios. The woman on the left holds this year's "passport.")

Printmaker, dancer, performance artist and community-builder Montserrat Alsina was instrumental in organizing this year's Pilsen Open Studios. One of her bright ideas was to create a "passport" -- a small booklet which visitors could take with them and have the artists sign or stamp. Visitors were encouraged to tear out the last page of the passport with their comments and put it in a raffle to win free art classes, a t-shirt or a print.

Though the idea was to use this as a carrot to draw young people--the passports were distributed at three local schools before the weekend event--older folks used it, too. "When I was going on the bus, I saw the grownups were getting really into it! They were going up to the artists and getting their signatures," she said.

The studio/gallery space she shares with her husband, Roberto Ferreyra, was the starting point for this year's tour. The gallery features not only their own prints and drawings but also work from Mexican artists with whom they have arranged an exchange program.

As the weekend wound down, Alsina observed they had met the goal of drawing more local residents. "I'm seeing more people from the community." Though often artists' communities are associated with a rise in property taxes and changing neighborhoods, she and other West Pilsen artists see their role as based in the existing community. "We want to keep people here and the children here and the taxes down. There's a lot of things that can be done in the community."

It's tough to raise Pilsen's profile in a positive way without accelerating gentrification, but it can be done by building community from the inside out. "You take the risk that more people will want to move this way and it will change us. If we stay together as artists and communicate more with the Latino community, I think we can encourage people to stay here."

For more information about Alsina, check out this post from art pilsen.