By Greg Archer | Contributing Columnist
Creative passions run deep for Cynthia Huerta. The intrepid Mexican-American multidisciplinary community artist and curator has been an advocate for the arts and Southern California’s BIPOC communities for nearly 20 years. As the Riverside-based artist moves into 2024 new opportunities to impact more people through art have emerged.
Like many artists, Huerta hopes the projects will create shifts in perspectives relating to BIPOC communities.
“I’m a big believer in making art accessible to marginalized communities and people in dire need of any kind of art therapy or just support through the arts,” Huerta said. “I’ve been doing this type of work for a long time, bringing access to art to different communities of color for many reasons but for me, it’s super important to make art accessible.”
Huerta’s art spans the spectrum of watercolor, painting, sculpture, muraling, printmaking, mosaic, and pyrography. As she progressed in her field, opportunities to partner with UC Riverside School of Medicine, Cal State San Bernardino, Google, and Success in Motion emerged.
“I’m seeing the benefit now of it all,” she said. “I would do these events and projects, but it was always on donations or my own money.”
Huerta recently received a grant from the Inland Empire Community Foundation through the Creative Corps Inland SoCal Program, which offers grants to local, regional, and statewide organizations in 58 counties for unemployed and underemployed artists. The funds allow artists to create public awareness messages and projects in support of civic engagement and community participation.
“The grant really opened the doors for a lot more healing and support through the arts,” Huerta said, noting that before the grant arrived, she’d launched Love with Joy Art Club. The recent funds will further that endeavor and others the artist is working on.
Joy Art Club emerged when Huerta was the keynote speaker at UCR for a Latina group. Inspired by new possibilities to reach more people, and recalling the art workshops she regularly held pre-pandemic, she felt it was time to launch something new.
“I thought, ‘Who wouldn’t want to join an art club? Who wouldn’t want to come and do free or $10 classes?’” she said. “I never want to charge people more than $35 for an art workshop. So, I launched it at that keynote event in February and it was well received.”
The first workshop took place at the Civil Rights Institute Inland Southern California. More than 40 people attended with a theme centered around healing the “inner child.” A second workshop took place in early November, this one in honor of Trans Lives Matter.
“More than 15 people came, and they got to learn how to do printmaking,” Huerta said. “We also created beautiful flags in honor of the Trans Lives Matter movement. I want there to be an understanding that we want to be allies, and we want to support this community that has often had a lot of violence against them.”
An upcoming Dec. 3 mosaic workshop will take place at The Garcia Center for the Arts in San Bernardino, focusing on gender-based violence. There’s an interesting twist with this event.
“We will take a plate and write about the violence that has occurred in our lives, and it’s going to be in the theme of healing and supporting one another.” Huerta said. “Then we will break the plate and reimagine it as a mosaic, having people use whatever imagery they want so that it’s also connected to nature.”
She noted that the nonprofit organization, Partners Against Violence, in San Bernardino, will be on hand to also offer support with counselors for more in-depth care or discussion.
All of it filters into Huerta’s ongoing mission to use art as an emotional and mental elixir. Many of her other initiatives — most spotlighted on her website lovewithjoyart.com — lean into that arena, ranging from a COVID-19 mural project and a Black Lives Matter mural project to an upcoming Anti Racism Art Workshop. Most artwork created in the workshops are later revealed to the public.
“It’s amazing to do this work and I want to keep making a difference,” she said.
For more information, visit www.lovewithjoyart.com
Inland Empire Community Foundation works to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy.
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