“Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art”
On Thursday, November 21st Professor Crystal Kurzen took her English 394 Special Topic: Chicana/os in Literature and Popular Culture class to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. There they received a tour from the curator of “Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art,” E. Carmen Ramos.
“Her knowledge about the exhibit,” says Professor Kurzen,” and the information she shared with us really helped bring together a lot of the main themes we have been talking about in class this semester. I think my students very much benefited from this trip.”
According to the Smithsonian website, “The exhibition presents works in all media by 72 leading modern and contemporary artists … Our America includes works by artists who participated in all the various artistic styles and movements, including abstract expressionism; activist, conceptual, and performance art; and classic American genres such as landscape, portraiture, and scenes of everyday life.” (Link to the exhibition)
The course is design to introduce students to the literary and cultural productions created by and about Mexican Americans or Chicana/os. Generally, students approach these works from cultural, formal, and historical perspectives while also focusing on the political and social contexts that inform the events narrated in the course texts. In this class, students read, analyze, and write about representative works of various genres within particularized cultural contexts. Over the course of the semester, students consider such topics as identity construction; struggles for self-determination and self-representation; immigrant experiences; language and bilingualism; the marketing of and to Latina/os; and the relationship of the author to his or her communities. While studying how these texts negotiate issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and nation students then discuss how they enrich and enliven conversations surrounding American popular culture.
For lunch on the trip, the students ate at Oyamel, a Mexican restaurant in downtown Washington D.C.
“Our lunch at Oyamel was wonderful,” says Professor Kurzen. “The students were excited to try nopalitos (cactus pads) for the first time, and one brave student even ordered a beef tongue taco. I think we all received a great education through our trip to this contemporary Mexican restaurant.”
This trip was funded by the Sophie Kerr Gift, which primarily is used for the Sophie Kerr Prize presented to one graduating student in May, is also used to provide scholarships for students who show literary promise, pays for library books, and supports various literary activities.