LISA LUEVANOS AND THE SWEET RHYTHM OF CLAVE
MARY KATHERINE QUASARANO
THURSDAY APRIL 12th, 2012
Clave (pronounced clah-vay) refers to:
- A specific Latin music rhythm;
- Two hardwood sticks used in Afro-Cuban and Latin ensembles; and
- An organization of educators, artists and activists (Community of Latino Artists Visionaries and Educators)
The story of Lisa Luevanos moves to this distinctly joyful and Latin rhythm, (one-two…one-two-three) and speaks to the importance of encouragement, example and education in the lives of artists and communities.
Luevanos was exposed to the arts from earliest memory. Her mother Mary worked as an informal “artist-in-residence” working from home pursuing photography, clay work and painting. “My mother frequently took me and my siblings to museums, including the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), and we grew up with a strong appreciation for art and the important role it plays in preserving cultural traditions.”
These early trips to the DIA (Diego Rivera remains a major influence and favorite artist), and the daily observation of her mother’s work, laid a solid foundation for Lisa’s formation as an artist. Her artistic vision then expanded through her educational experience. She took photography classes at Casa de Unidad, a Southwest Detroit arts and culture organization. Workshops brought guest lecturers that exposed her to an important local photographer Daymon Hartley , and students learned as “working artists” with assignments given and used in El Barrio, a local neighborhood publication. At Crockett Vocational Tech Center she studied with Mary Kay Aukee, fondly recalling, “She was very generous, helping us with darkroom techniques and visiting local camera shops and encouraging us to keep photographing our neighborhood.” Post-high school education took place at the College for Creative Studies.
Luevanos has enjoyed great professional success (she worked as a custom printer and photographer for Ford Motor Company for 22 years) and freelance success (she shoots for a variety of organizations including the Detroit Tigers), and yet the call to give back to community is one that she finds herself responding to time and again. “Working as a professional artist can be rewarding but it’s also challenging to ensure continuity…it is important for me to give back to my community.”
To keep arts and culture alive in the community, Luevanos works with CLAVE, and the organization has several community partners. “We’ve had artist talks, poetry readings, Day of the Dead celebrations, movie nights, and Cinco de Mayo events. We hope to someday have a permanent exhibition space for Latino Arts. I also work at a local high school on art-infused education with photography. Ultimately, it is very important for me to be able to expose youth to Latino arts and culture.”
A brief list of public art projects Luevanos has worked on in recent years: Sol del Barrio: Bandstand in Clark Park where Luevanos obtained a Community Public Art Detroit grant and worked with local Latino artisans, material suppliers, businesses and youth production assistants to rehab an unusable bandstand and landmark. The bandstand now has a new floor, cement platform and repaired walls, and is used extensively.
Cesar Chavez Mural, another Community Public Art Detroit project which drew local artisans, students, and businesses. Twenty-five organizations were invited to tile-setting workshops and the final mural is now on display at LA SED (Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development) an organization that has served Detroit’s Latino community for over 40 years.
Spirit at Rest: Tile Bench on Vernor/Scotten, this time Luevanos’ co-artist and mother, Mary, led the project. Her mother held 10 weeks of tile workshops, participants made the tiles, and they were assembled inside Lisa’s studio. The bench’s wrought iron frame was created by Diseños Ornamental Iron, a local artisan business. It was important to both women to spread pride and respect for Latino arts and culture by including community participation (over 200 community members) in the project.
detroit artist, mosaic art, visual art
Clave also means code or key, as in the key to a mystery or puzzle; or as in keystone, the wedge-shaped stone in the center of an arch that ties the other stones together. Education is the “clave” in Lisa Luevanos’ story as an artist; the keystone that ties all of the other stones in her life (family, community, culture) together.