In early June I had a great opportunity to participate in a residency at Combine Studios through Arizona State University in Phoenix, Arizona. Pablo Helguera’s traveling used Spanish-Bookstore project, Librería Donceles, was installed in Combine Studios in March with the help of students from Arizona State University’s Fine and Otis College of Art and Design Graduate Public Practice programs.
Curator, Julio César Morales, at the ASU Museum of Art, invited a couple of colleagues and myself from the graduate program at Otis to participate in the mini residencies happening during the exhibition of the all Spanish-Language Used Bookstore. Artists were invited to use the bookstore as a platform, some inspired by the books themselves, others inspired by the political climate of the environment and concept of what an “all-Spanish” language bookstore, new or used, means for the microcosm that Phoenix represents. It was left up to the artists discretion.
With close family ties to Phoenix and visits to the area often, I chose to address the lack of Ethnic Studies within the Public School system. I went through various ideas on what that would look like and the audience I wanted to address.
My original proposal:
"Mario Mesquita is an advocate, educator, organizer, and artist whose work explores social constructs of relationships between the personal and community sphere. He currently lives in Southern California and has strong familial ties to Phoenix, Arizona. Trained in multimedia arts at the University of Oregon, his art encompasses graphics, photography, performance, and installation. Mario’s residency June 1st-June 7th will focus on the impact of Arizona’s House Bill 2281 ban on ethnic studies in public schools, the urban landscape, neighborhood, and citizenship. In collaboration with local diverse communities, Mario’s re/[search]sidency will culminate in workshops and discussions surrounding what it means to be ethnic in a state without sanctioned pedagogy in the public school realm.”
Yet, what I learned almost as soon as I arrived, is that planning before arriving at a site, specifically for site specificity, is completely different than actually being in the space. Once I arrived I realized there really wasn’t as much time as I had first I thought I could stretch, and the reality of the time of the year it was: most schools already let out for summer vacation, and there was SAT and ACT testing occurring for high school students.