Cultural Identity: Ronny Quevedo
Artist Ronny Quevedo facilitates Higher Sails, a workshop for Bronx youth to learn principles of design and project management while also contributing to the visual landscape of their neighborhood. Working with local restaurant La Morada, Quevedo and the teens conceive of a storefront makeover that expresses and preserves its role as an organizing site and cultural anchor in the South Bronx
Quevedo: I want you guys to answer
the five W's of your project.
Who is it for? What is it? Where is it going to be?
When do they need it by? And why?
When you live in an urban environment,
there is a lot of advertisements,
a lot of branding coming your way.
Any kind of interaction is reliant on a visual language.
So if you can kind of contribute in some way,
making sure that you're being represented,
the visual language no longer is just about consumption,
but it's about participating in it in a different way.
This is the third installment of Higher Sails,
an arts education program,
working with small businesses and teens.
For me, it was really about coming back to the Bronx,
to the place where I grew up, a place that means a lot to me,
but also a site in which the idea of migration
is ever present.
Over the course of eight weeks,
the teens who are part of the program came up with sketches
to redesign the visual language of La Morada.
La Morada is one of the few locally owned restaurants
in Mott Haven in the South Bronx.
This is a community-based site.
It's a place you can kind of rely on, not just for food,
but they also have a very socially conscious agenda.
For me, I felt that it was a perfect match.
Natalia and Marco and their family,
the owners of La Morada, came here from Oaxaca.
The studio for their project
was within walking distance of the restaurant,
so there was a lot of back and forth
between what the participants were discussing,
what they were brainstorming and bringing back
to the restaurant physically.
Right now, I added, like, that traditional Mexican culture,
but also, like, making it brand specific.
I think that that would be a cool idea.
Could even do, like, a Bronx side
and then, like, a Mexican side.
I think that would be cool.
Having fun with it. Yeah.
[ Laughs ]
We have just two small plots here
at the local community garden.
This is like on the same block, right?
That's the restaurant we just rent right around the corner.
And so whatever we can use to source locally, it's better.
It's healthier. You know where your food comes from.
You know, it's not mass produced.
And it also helps us reconnect to where we came from,
because where we're from, you would grow everything.
Initially, I thought we were going to talk
that we're going to talk about political issues
that are affecting us all in the Bronx.
It turned out that the teens were more interested
in making sure that the family story
was being told.
In the storefront, it's like they're coming
from Mexico to here.
So there's both ideas.
We ended up coming up with three projects.
One was a window display that details the story of the family.
We did one side using the sun from Mexico,
and we did the other side using a brick building.
So a little bit of the Bronx
and a little bit of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Quevedo: The second piece is a tote bag,
and that's something that the restaurant
wanted from the beginning.
The third project,
which was the more ambitious project,
was to redesign their awning, and the business
was really happy to offer that as a blank canvas, basically.
What's missing from these people?
-Facial expressions. -A facial expression.
So in the storefront,
they were very conscious of this idea of movement.
They want to represent Mexico through its natural landscape,
and they wanted to represent the Bronx
through its urban environment.
And so when you look at the storefront,
you see these two people moving from one place to another.
And this duality really was something
that kept coming up within the work that they made.
Thank you all for coming
to celebrate the work that we did over the summer.
This kind of project would not have existed without you.
It was always part of the project to make sure
that there was a celebration of our accomplishment,
show that there is -- there are resources
within our own community that we can use to propel
a sense of agency within one another.
You know, show that there is value
with what we have to offer already.
For me, it was always important to make sure
that it came off as a collective vision
that came from this long process
so that when people see it in the public,
it's not reliant on anyone's ego or any one single vision.
It was something that was collectively imagined.
When I pass by the restaurant,
I see it all the time and it reminds me
that there's so many opportunities out there
for us to be a part of our own environment,
not just as consumers and as observers,
but active participants.
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