A Blade of Grass Films

S1 E11 | FULL EPISODE

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

AIRED: October 05, 2020 | 0:06:01
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TRANSCRIPT

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.

Alright, guys.

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

about gentrification,

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.

♪♪

Bye, everybody.

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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