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Ruben Guzman (Oakland) collaborating with Centro Legal de la Raza (Oakland)

Award: $40,000 Traditional Arts grant awarded in 2013

Completed: April 2015 and presented at Centro Legal de la Raza’s 40th Anniversary Celebration

Artist Ruben Guzman collaborated with Centro Legal de la Raza (Centro Legal) to create Ollin, a mixed-media sculpture incorporating the traditional art form of cartonería (papier-mâché), and addressing the theme of immigration. The sculpture–named with the Nahuatl word for “movement”–responds to long-standing issues of immigration and human rights in the United States as well as recent progress towards immigration reform. The image represents a torch–a light helping immigrants on their journey.

Centro Legal,  a community-based legal services center founded in 1969, works to advance the rights of immigrant, low-income, and Latino communities through free and low-cost legal advice and representation in the areas of employment, housing, and immigration. It provided Mr. Guzman with access to youth enrolled in its Youth Law Academy. Following multiple interactions with the youth, Mr. Guzman produced a sculpture that responds to and is inspired by their conversations. Centro Legal unveiled the sculpture at its 40th Anniversary celebration, and two Youth Law Academy events. It now is on display in its lobby where it will be viewed by hundreds of low-income Latino community members each year.

Ruben Guzman, a practitioner of the traditional Mexican art of cartonería for 25 years, learned it from Mexico City’s Linares family, considered the leading practitioners of this artform in the world. His cartonería pieces are included in collections of the Smithsonian Museum, the Sonoma County Museum, and the Oakland Museum of California, among others.