For EAST 2017, we’re collaborating with The Projecto -- an arts and music curator founded by husband and wife, Alfredo Rios and Coka Trevino -- to produce a two-day, two-venue showcase. With a shared goal of diverse representation, we chose seeing differently as our theme because we wanted to showcase artists who represent not only different styles and media, but also identities and perspectives. seeing differently is simultaneously about art’s ability to introduce us to new ways of seeing as well as a celebration of the wholeness of the creator.
The theme seeing differently stemmed from our mutual frustration with the lack of diverse voices in the creative space. All of us (Regine, Nina, Alfredo, and Coka) are immigrants and immediately bonded over our motivation to break stereotypes. Before they came to the US, Coka and Alfredo established themselves as influential curators of musicians and artists in their hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. They both had industry experience (Alfredo as a drummer and promoter; Coka as an art student and museum curator) and an expansive network that they utilized to produce unique projects and cultivate up-and-coming talent.
“When I met Alfredo, he was a musician and I had just started working at renowned museums. He told me to charge for booking and management and had experience playing for bars and working with artists and crew so we decided to join forces,” recalls Coka.
“We worked with connections and talent and wanted to help people grow.”
Alfredo and Coka both moved to the US together seven years ago to avoid the turmoil in Mexico. It was a tough decision for them to leave their community behind, especially after all of the work they had done to bring people together.
“I was afraid and didn't speak English,” admits Alfredo. “I actually learned English on tour with a band here, and I'm proud of how it happened.”
As adults with established careers in the creative industry, they thought they’d be able to transition their experience easily to jobs in the US. When they started the job search, however, unexpected challenges immediately surfaced.
“We went to university, and I've worked at museums with big collections. And here, it's like it was nothing,” Coka reveals. “We came here, and we had to start from zero because our experience was deemed worthless if it wasn't in this country. Employers wouldn’t even give me the chance to volunteer and work for free. It was insulting.”
“It felt like all of our previous work and efforts weren’t valid or relevant just because it wasn't here when actually it’s proof of our resilience, strength, and adaptability.”
Now, after hustling to prove themselves and finding people that were willing to recognize their ability and experience, Alfredo and Coka are grateful for the stability they’ve created. During the past few years, they’ve worked hard to rebuild the same kind of flourishing, multi-dimensional, and talented community that they had in Mexico.
“We work with a bunch of Mexican artists and want to create that trade. Mexican art is not just Frida's. It's not just skulls,” asserts Coka. “We want to make sure that we are represented as contemporary and not just a stereotype.”
Working with The Projecto, especially for an event like EAST 2017, is immensely gratifying because of their commitment to quality work, diverse representation, and growth through community. Alfredo and Coka are so evidently passionate about the work that they do and have a deep understanding of why it’s so important.
“If I have something clear, it's that you can grow and reach your full potential only through community,” advises Coka. “You need to breathe and be a sponge. Absorb everything from the community because that is the only way that you will know what you can do.”
Join us and The Projecto for East Austin Studio Tour (Studio 95) this weekend, November 18-19th! We’ll have diverse artists from Austin, NYC, and Mexico, installations (including a collective blue one), free drinks from local sponsors, and jams by our favorite DJs (including Alfredo himself).