By: Oscar Velez
I moved to Woodstock in 1993 when I was ten years old. Having grown up in Cherokee County, there was always a well-established Hispanic population present, but aside from very niche stores (like grocery stores and other specialty tiendas), there was not a significant representation of our art and culture.
Over the last year, my wife and I have made a point to attend the opening exhibits at The Reeves House Visual Arts Center with our two boys, and have thoroughly enjoyed watching them explore the artwork and seeing their responses to different artists. We often talk to them about their mixed heritage, and they ask questions about our extended family and the differences in traditions and cultures. We’re proud to share both with them – my Mexican culture as well as some of the traditions my wife grew up with. Together, we’re creating new traditions that honor both families and backgrounds.
When Nicole reached out to my wife and me earlier this year to be part of the discussion for the Exhibition Committee for the Reeves House, we were thrilled to share our ideas. We both immediately loved the idea of a Hispanic-themed show that explored the history and identity of these communities and knew that other museums and art centers had success in exploring these themes in previous years.
After visiting many of the earlier exhibits at Reeves, we were excited to see how themes relevant to the Hispanic community could promote diversity and inclusion, showcase talents and different perspectives, and introduce new ideas that people may not have considered or had the opportunity to explore on their own.
After visiting this exhibit, I would love for two things to happen – The Hispanic community to feel better represented in the city in which they live and work, and for the average Woodstock citizen to see another side of a culture that hard-working laborers, tacos, and margaritas don’t always represent. These things make up part of our heritage, yes, but Latin America is bursting with culture and vibrancy with overlapping themes that carry the potential for connection across many different groups of people.
It’s my hope that this exhibition acts as an invitation to everyone, no matter their background, that says, “This is for you. These experiences are for you,” and allows residents and visitors in Woodstock and the surrounding Cherokee County area to engage with art in a new and perhaps unexpected way.