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Local Artist Valdez Preserves Culture

Posted Mar 18 2006

A feature on Detroit-based artist Vito Valdez. This article appeared in the January 2000 issue of Mi Gente magazine.

Take a drive through Detroit’s Mexicantown, visit a local art gallery, or even visit the Bowen branch of the Detroit Public Library, and you’re bound to see the work of home-grown talent Vito Valdez. As a youth, he spent time in Detroit’s southwest side and its neighboring suburbs before being drafted into the army. With the help of the resulting G.I. Bill, he attended the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit before spending some time in Montreal. Since then, his work has appeared in various European countries, including Belgium and Germany, and throughout the United States in cities such as El Paso, Texas. More than just a world-renowned artist however, Valdez is also an ardent community activist and can be found working with youth and elders through southeast Michigan. During a recent break from teaching at the Detroit Institute of Art, Valdez sat down and talked with Mi Gente.One of Vito's murals in Mexicantown, Detroit

What role do artists play in community?

Artists should educate youth and seniors, and everyone in between. They should educate the public that their voice is important. That what they have to say about themselves, who they are at this particular time, what they have to say about where they live and who they are. It’s the expression of an individual and the group.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?
The Cobo Hall Garage Mural project for the City of Detroit, my work on the southwest side (of Detroit), co-founding Inner City Voices and Visions, and working at the DIA.

Can you elaborate?
At the DIA I work with school groups and community groups such as Southwest Community Health and Camp Oakland – a camp for wayward youth. Different groups come in each week and we also have a four-session program. We have a multimedia program and the students paint, draw, sculpt, etc. I’m also involved with the “El Arte” program. The DIA sends artists out to work in local schools. I recently worked with a third grade class at Harms Elementary School for ten weeks. Our theme was the International Human Rights Day, with a focus on children’s rights. The student’s work was put on display at Wayne State University.

What are some of the things that you’ve done in southwest Detroit?
Well, I’ve worked with youth, and with seniors, doing arts programming. I did many of these programs through Inner City Voices and Visions. Our focus was multicultural, intergenerational arts programming. (These programs) were at Ste. Anne’s church, LA SED (Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development) and we’ve done them outdoors with public artwork. I also worked with the Matrix Theatre Group, doing their stage sets and posters. However, I’m no longer affiliated with ICVV and I’m working as an independent now.

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