ArtsWave is pleased to offer two original Latin American-inspired art pieces in the form of micro murals for purchase. These cultural-based storytelling pieces have been created by local artists Megan Kelly and Christian Dallas. Both pieces were were commissioned by ArtsWave in celebration of Cinco de Mayo and Cincy-Cinco through our collaboration with the Hispanic Chamber of Cincinnati, USA. 

Each of the two pieces is meant to provide a glimpse into both the beauty and tradition within Latin American culture with an intention to raise awareness of a vibrant, authentic lifestyle appreciated, admired and yet not known widespread throughout our local region.

By buying one of these original art pieces, you will be sharing your artwork and the Latin American stories behind these pieces with your family and friends. At the same time, you will be supporting the goals that ArtsWave has to bridge cultural divides through creation of new experiences and programs that offer cultural awareness and education. Proceeds benefit the 100+ arts organizations that ArtsWave supports. 

We caught up with Megan Kelly and Christian Dallas to learn more about their pieces and the story behind their creation. Read below for more details! 

Q&A with Megan Kelly

What inspired you to tell the story of a Mexican soldier woman, also known as a soldedera or adelita?
"All the work that I do revolves around the female experience and  historical practices, beliefs, happenings, and trends that shaped or attempted to shape those experiences. I was asked to created a piece that celebrated Mexican culture, so, keeping in mind I wanted to do a portrait, I started researching women and the roles they play within that culture. I came across Soldederas and once I began reading about the complexity of their roles, the reasons they fought, and their individual experiences, I knew this was a part of women's history I wanted not only myself to know more about, but others as well. I didn't want to concentrate on any one woman in particular. As I mentioned above, all of their stories are unique to them; some women simply fought to protect lands, others were forced to fight and treated horribly by their fellow soldiers. It is for that reason that I chose to create a women that represented their qualities: strength, endurance,determination and the  powerful female spirit, as opposed to an individuals story. Through this approach I hope to pique curiosity and encourage others to dig into this rich part of history." 

What do you hope people see when they look at your micro-mural?
"A strong,beautiful,complex woman who has her own story to tell. And I want the viewer to discover what that story is."

What is your artistic background?  
"I have been drawing /painting/creating since I was a little girl. I have a BFA from CCM in Theatrical Design and Production. My focus was on wig and makeup design. I was a makeup artist for 18+ years (working in film,print,opera,ballet and fashion) and both of those experiences (school /makeup artistry) really shape my work. Currently, I am a graduate student at DAAP for Art Education. This is the first time I have created any work inspired by Hispanic culture, but it won't be the last!" 

Why do you think this art is important? 
"I could go on and on about the importance of the arts. One of the many, many things that visual arts does is allows for someone to see things in a new way; to re-imagine the everyday, to catch a glimpse of someone else's experience, to see how things could be instead of simply accepting how they are. When you think about it, art can wield some seriously awesome power." 
Q&A with Christian Dallas

What inspiration did you find before creating your piece? 
“The first thing I did was as much research as I could on Latin America. I found the origins of Cinco de Mayo, the festival itself, because like many Americans, I had no idea what we were celebrating. I wanted to do more of the elements of the origins of the festival as well as elements of the Americanized version of Cinco de Mayo. There are elements of ancient Aztec culture as well as the modern-day Americanized version we celebrate now. I started with the colors, using the Mexican flag as reference, and the main colors are green, white and red. There are other elements from the Mexican flag – the mustaches on the skulls are snakes, which are found in the center emblem of the flag – as well as the cactus which is above the center of the sombrero the skulls are wearing. Above that is an agave plant – that’s me paying tribute to the Americanized version of Cinco de Mayo because that’s what tequila’s made of, so that’s my take on taking the Mexican flag and the Latin heritage and giving it the American twist. All three of the sugar skulls are another reference to Mexican holidays – the Day of the Dead, and on a lot of sombrerors, there are hanging ornaments – from certain angles, these ornaments turn into the eyes of the sugar skulls. The style that it's in is more of this illustrative kind of modern street art theme with all those elements, along with the more saturated color. It was meant to represent the fun of Cinco de Mayo, as well as being age-appropriate for the event."

What was your creative process like? 
"I drew it on paper and got my edging all squared away and I transferred it to MDF board which is basically sawdust and glue that they press together so it's a hard material that's stronger than wood. It's a really clean material, really smooth on the surface, and then - I've wanted to do this for a long time – I cut out the painting as opposed to it just being a square or a rectangle. The shape is as much part of the painting as the painting itself. It was cut by a router, then I primed the panel and I used acrylic paint to paint it. I premixed everything - how I paint murals is exactly how I paint everything. I figure out a color palette and then I premix all the colors in these tiny little cups, so I had red, green and white gradients. When you're doing a live painting, you don't have that much time to mix paint so if you can cancel that out it gives you more time to give the audience something they're going to pay attention to."

What do you hope people see when they look at your micro-mural? 
"It’s the merging point of the traditional Mexican holiday with the Americanized version of this holiday; it's like that medium in between. When you have anything involving any type of Hispanic or Latin American-themed anything, it's very easy to get stereotypical and there's an extent where it is, but I wanted to give them meaning beyond the notion that Mexicans wear sombreros."

What is your artistic background? 
Dallas is a visual artist who has worked with Artworks for the last six years on various murals across the city. This year, Dallas is project managing and designing a mural for Artworks for the first time. The project will be on the east side of the Rookwood Pottery location in Over-the-Rhine. 

Why do you think this art is important? 
The new art movement, stylistically, inspires a lot of Dallas’ work, “especially this piece, this lowbrow street art movement where it's moving away from this academic very structured style where only 5% of the population understand it to where everybody can like art and it doesn't have to be this super serious topic. Just like music, it can be just as fun.”