Aixa Pascual works to promote Latin American visual artists
STORY: H.M. Cauley
PHOTO: Sara Hanna
Aixa Pascual has her own immigrant story. She grew up in Puerto Rico, came to the mainland to study international relations at Princeton University, then earned a master’s in journalism at Columbia. A job with a business magazine brought her to Atlanta 19 years ago, and since then, she’s written for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and worked in public relations for Kennesaw State before taking on the communications role for the Latin American Association in Brookhaven. Two years ago she segued into a position at the LAA that gives her the chance to discover, promote and support Latino visual artists—a job that also helps tell an overlooked aspect of the immigrant story.
Tell us about the LAA.
We serve people based on their needs: Do they need English classes, help with their kids’ applications for financial aid, finding information on how to become entrepreneurs, legal immigration services or Medicaid? But we’re much more than that. Art and culture are a very important aspect of being Latino, but a lot of time people don’t see that; it’s something we have to showcase. So more than anything, we’re trying to support Latino artists by being a source of encouragement and connection, and to help them understand what they do is important. Atlanta has a lot of very talented, vibrant Latino visual artists from South and Central America and the Caribbean, but there’s no center of support for them.
What sort of art projects has the LAA supported?
We have some art here in our space on Buford Highway. In May we got a new mural on the side of our building facing the street. It was painted by a former DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient who’s now a teacher at Cross Keys High up the street. It has beautiful butterflies and the themes of education and being here to stay. About a year ago, a Mexican artist left us a big U.S. flag with portraits of Hispanic people on it that’s inside the building. And I’m currently working with another artist who wants to donate a piece about immigrants.
What kind of exhibits has the LAA sponsored?
We’ve done two that came from a high school competition for students. We distribute a call for submissions to the schools, and we’ve had about 20 entries each year that we exhibit at a real museum. Two years ago it was at [the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia]. Last year, we did a joint event with students and artists we’ve been working with, and transformed our auditorium into a museum. We’re now getting ready to work with MOCA again this year. The theme is about portraying the undocumented experience, but students don’t have to be [undocumented]. They just have to capture the experience of being an immigrant or outsider in their art.
How else does the LAA promote the community’s culture?
Two years ago I started a book club that reads contemporary Latin American literature in Spanish. We read the classics, such as Gabriel García Márquez, and some I’ve never heard of. How else are you involved in the arts? I’m part of Brookhaven’s arts council. We’re in the process of hiring someone to do a cultural assessment of what they have, what they want and how we identify ourselves with the arts.
Are you artistically inclined?
I have no artistic talent! In my office I have eight pieces of art I’ve done at those places where you go and sip wine [and paint] with your friends. I’m not a visual artist by any means, but it’s my pleasure to support them.
LATIN AMERICAN ASSOCIATION
Atlanta-based writer and editor contributing to a number of local and state-wide publications. Instructor in Georgia State’s Communication department and Emory’s Continuing Education division.