A 2-year project will work with the Mexican-American community to create an art installation on La Yarda | News, Sports, Jobs


picture by: Picture File

Young residents of La Yarda are pictured at the resort in this historic photo.

The Lawrence Arts Center will lead a two-year project to create an art installation about the community of La Yarda in East Lawrence.

The art installation, “Finding La Yarda,” will be an “immersive art experience” that will recreate a piece of La Yarda using film, sound, art and photography, according to an Arts Center press release.

Beginning in 1920, La Yarda, the housing unit built in the woods along the railroad tracks, housed dozens of Mexican-American railroad workers and their families before being destroyed in the 1951 flood. The Center des arts will involve the La Yarda families and their descendants in the creation of the art installation.

“This is not a project we are doing for the community, but with the community,” project director Marlo Angell said in the press release. “Finding La Yarda will not be the vision of an artist collective, but an interpretive experience guided by the sketches of former residents, the stories of alumni, and the dreams of their descendants.”

Angell said she came up with the idea after visiting the Greenwood Rising Museum in Tulsa, Okla., which blended authentic audio recordings, video projections and physical sets to tell the historical story.

Angell previously worked on a documentary on the subject, “Searching for La Yarda”, with filmmaker Lourdes Kalusha-Aguirre. The release says the new project will build on oral histories collected for the film by inviting new conversations about the importance of place, culture and togetherness through the lens of a physical environment. Angell said immersive art seemed like a great way to continue the conversations sparked by film screenings, especially those about earth recognition.

As part of the project, a creative team of artists will work closely with former residents of La Yarda and their descendants to create an artistically rendered living space from the Santa Fe apartments. The project will include physical and digital components , as well as a complementary photographic exhibition that will be presented throughout the city.

Tactile decors, such as brick facades and decorative flowers, will give a physical dimension to dwellings that were only visible through photographs and paintings. LED screens mounted on windowsills and table tops will use experimental film to reveal “fleeting moments”. The films’ story arc will be based on new story circles with the families of La Yarda during the summer of 2022.

Lawrence Arts Center ceramic artist-in-residence Jonathan Christensen Caballero, whose upcoming exhibition has thematic connections to Kansas’ Latino history, will be a key artist in the design aesthetic of this project. Her work will include ceramic sculptures in the garden and hands fashioning dresses from sacks of flour.

Beyond the walls of the Center for the Arts, photographic portraits of living residents and descendants of La Yarda will be taken by photographer Ann Dean and displayed at various locations around the city. The large-scale images will highlight the contributions of Lawrence’s Mexican-American community and reach people outside of traditional gallery spaces.

The two-year digital storytelling project will culminate in a gallery installation in late summer 2024. Individuals and families connected to La Yarda can email [email protected] to get involved .

The project is made possible through a sub-award of Stories for All: A Digital Storytelling Project for the Twenty-First Century, an initiative organized by the Hall Center for the Humanities in partnership with the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University. of Kansas and supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Stories for All brings together more than forty Kansas-based partner projects dedicated to collecting marginalized and suppressed stories, interconnecting them, and sharing them widely through digital media.






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