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Estamos Aqui exhibit opens with fiesta
balloon headdress
Shafer Art Gallery Director Dave Barnes stands under the entrance to the Estamos Aqui exhibit, Friday at the opening reception. The balloon arch, created by Rana Luna Boutique in Great Bend, reminded Barnes of a Mayan headdress. The opening reception featured a mini fiesta with Mexican food, entertainment and childrens activities. - photo by photos by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

About the Estamos Aqui Exhibit

Featuring vivid colors and sometimes startling imagery, the works in the exhibit encourage audiences to ask questions about the nature of cross-cultural exchange and discover how artists find their voices through personal experiences that become part of the artistic process.
The artists featured in the exhibit took an opportunity to learn a specialized silkscreen print technique during a collaborative Austin-based residency.  The resulting portfolio of prints expresses their celebrations, sorrows, challenges, popular culture and personal experiences.
The visual language drawn from varied traditions — including family and religious symbols, political motifs, the Mexican Luche Libre matches, neighborhood (barrio) themes, and Mexican graphic traditions — enlivens the aesthetic dialogue of the exhibition. In addition to 40 framed prints, Estamos Aquí is accompanied by fully bilingual gallery text and labels, as well as a short film that outlines the artistic process.
“An exhibit like this contains imagery that is sometimes surprising and even disturbing,” Gallery Director Dave Barnes said.  “Fortunately, the folks at ExhibitsUSA have done a great job of describing the works and putting everything into context.”
The traveling exhibit is curated and organized by Brad Cushman, curator and gallery director at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The exhibition is toured by ExhibitsUSA (, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance, which sends more than 25 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 communities across the country every year. M-AAA ( is the oldest nonprofit regional arts organization in the United States.

For the reception opening the latest Shafer Art Gallery exhibit, Estamos Aqui, the gallery held a fiesta, serving Mexican foods and providing live entertainment.
Tamales and horchata, a creamy chilled drink made with rice milk, cinnamon and sugar, where among the food choices, served in the foyer outside of the gallery.
Mariachis provided music in the gallery, and the El Sol dancers from Great Bend High School demonstrated several dances from different regions of Mexico. El Sol sponsor Nancy Schuetz said the group began 20 years ago. A former member, Hugo Gonzalez, was one of the artists whose work is being shown in the gallery.
Another local touch was balloon decorations from Rana Luna Boutique in Great Bend. There were balloon cacti in the foyer, and those entering the featured exhibit walked under an elaborate, colorful archway that evoked a Mayan headdress.  
Estamos Aqui (which is Spanish for “we are here”) features contemporary serigraphs by 40 artists, who create from the Latino/Chicano perspective. Gallery Director Dave Barnes added works by two regional artists, Gonzelez from Great Bend and Humberto Saenz from Wichita. Saenz teaches printmaking at Wichita State University, while Gonzalez works at the Great Bend Tribune as a graphic designer and webmaster.
Outside the Shafer Art Gallery, there was a pinata for children.
Barnes commented on the quality of this traveling exhibit, which is toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of the Mid-America Arts Alliance.
“Every work has passion,” he said. “That’s what I love about this show.” While some Shafer Gallery exhibits, such as the annual quilt exhibit, are “feel-good” shows, Barnes said this exhibit has some disturbing pieces. However, he said, it is “art that makes you think.”
The Shafer Gallery is located in the Fine Arts Building at Barton Community College and is open Tuesday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.  Admission is free.  The exhibit will be up through August 10.