17 self-portraits of student artists, ages six to 12, from The Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth are part of a new Coral Gables Museum art exhibition.
“Retra-Tablos: Reclaiming Culture and Ancient Textile Art” features self-portraits that include Mayan deities, symbols, Catholic iconography and American pop culture to illustrate each student artist’s culture and journey.
“We want them to show their Mayan ancestry, their cultural heritage, and what it means to be a child immigrant or child of an immigrant,” said Aurora Molina, a Miami-based artist who helped the students create their portraits. “Art is a wonderful way to deal with stress and also show who you are.”
The portraits are a product of a year-long arts program at The Guatemalan-Maya Center. Molina and Alina Rodriguez, a South Florida artist who works at the Miami Dade-County's Visual Arts Department, organized and led student workshops at the center.
“Working with these kids is very special to us,” said Rodriguez. “There is so much going on around them in Lake Worth. Their heritage and culture needed to be celebrated.”
Rodriguez and Molina said that Lake Worth is home to a large immigrant population and also the controversial detention facility for migrant girls.
After receiving funding from Oolite Arts in 2018 to create an arts project that would focus on Central American migrants in Florida, they decided The Guatemalan-Maya Center was perfect for their project.
“Art is expressive and can offer a lot. We are responsible for taking care of children, no matter where they are from,” Molina said. “Having these kids show their ancestry is a positive way to make the best of the situation.”
Molina started “Retra-Tablos” as a larger project in 2013. She worked with children in Mexico, India, Indonesia and Thailand to make art that illustrated their cultural traditions.
“At each place I’ve gone to, the kids used the art to show why their culture, their heritage mattered in a unique way,” she said. “This exhibition is another example.”
Molina said the project is also a way to pay homage to The Guatemalan-Maya Center’s co-founder, Policarpia Gaspar, who was a Guatemalan civil war exile that devoted her life to helping refugee children and families. Gaspar died in May 2019.
“The center and the kids were perfect for the project,” Molina said.
The gallery also includes backstrap woven and embroidered replicas of the artists’ drawings. They were created by artisans from Trama Textiles — a cooperative of 400 women weavers based in Guatemala.
“South Florida is so diverse and filled with people from Central America and South America,” said Rodriguez. “Our art can connect us and the textiles are just another way to bring these voices further.
The exhibition is open until Nov. 17.
If You Go
285 Aragon Avenue,
Coral Gables 33134
Open Monday-Friday, from 12 p. to 6 pm.; Sat. 11 am to 5 pm, and Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm.
Tickets: Adults $10; Students & Seniors $8; Children (6-12) $3; Children younger than 6 are free.