An art exhibit by students at SAY Sí titled, Stories Seldom Told: Omitted Histories, which opens on May 4, will include an installation inspired by recent cases of violence against transgender women of color.
The installation, titled “The Final Transition,” is set in the bedroom of a fictional 17-year-old transgender woman named Marsha Skye Castillo. The persona is an amalgamation of other women like Kenne McFadden, India Monroe, Candace Towns, and Stephanie Montez — all trans women who faced violent deaths.
Vanessa “Mori” Blanco, age 17, who goes by they/them pronouns, is the lead artist for the installation. Her team for the project included Ren S. Alvarez, age 16; Rachel Perry, age 16; Mary Grace Garcia, age 16; and Maya Maldonado, age 15.
In their description of “The Final Transition” project, the students wrote:
. . . Since January 2013, 102 transgender people have been victims to hate crimes in the United States, a number that has been increasing every year.
As members of the transgender community ourselves, or people with close friends who are a part of the transgender community, we wanted this installation to bring attention to the trials, tribulations and violence that we have witnessed; and in turn, work to put an end to them. This room was crafted by taking elements from our own rooms to create an intimate, interactive space that gives a more personal insight to Marsha’s life. We invite you to explore and experience and perhaps feel the same shock and connection to these people and events that we do.
Recalling what has been forgotten
In addition to “The Final Transition” installation, other student projects will focus on a variety of topics.
According to the announcement for the exhibit, “Through the annual Stories Seldom Told exhibition, SAY Sí student-artists critically examine topics that go unaddressed in everyday life. After voting on the subject of the exhibition, the young artists collaboratively research and create multidisciplinary installations that shed light on often-ignored issues. Previously, students have explored race, class, mental health, poverty and educational inequity.”
“Similar to previous Stories Seldom Told exhibits, artists develop their work around a student-chosen theme relevant to their community. This exhibit will give a voice to individuals and communities that have historically been concealed in the narrative of the region,” students Jesus Mancha and Carlo Rodriguez wrote on the SAY Sí website.
Each installation focuses on topics like race, class, mental health, poverty and educational inequity. Presentations come to life through oral histories, accounts from historians, local mythology and archival materials.
In preparation for the exhibit, student artists attended a panel discussion that was convened to help them learn more about marginalized communities. Panelists included D.I. Grant, local author, public speaker and manager for the Carver Branch Library; Dr. Ramon Vasquez, director of American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions; and Graciela Sanchez, executive director of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.
SAY Sí offers tuition-free art classes to over 200 students from over 70 schools in its programs, with studio sessions held six days a week.
SAY Sí presents “Stories Seldom Told: Omitted Histories,” opening night Friday, May 4 from 6 to 10 p.m. at 1518 S Alamo St. The exhibit runs through June 2. Free and open to the public