First-Annual Frida Fest Celebrates More Than Art

by Naomi Ishisaka

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”  —Frida Kahlo

One day and 111 years after Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón was born in Coyoacán, Mexico, more than 1,000 people gathered on Beacon Hill to celebrate her profound impact on art and culture.

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At the first-annual Frida Fest on Saturday, July 6, members of the artist group Colectiva Noroeste (Spanish for “Collective Northwest”) and the community came together to celebrate the life of someone Maribel Galvan, member of the collective,  said was a “powerful brown woman whose multiple intersectional identities we not only identify with but are also proud to honor.”

The five board members of Colectiva Noroeste and 37 volunteers transformed El Centro de la Raza’s plaza and Centilia Cultural Center into a tribute to Frida Kahlo’s legacy as an artist, revolutionary, and cultural icon. In a pop-up mercado, artisans sold paintings and art, as well as goods such as Mexican-inspired jewelry and T-shirts with feminist slogans like “Chingona,” loosely translated to “badass.”

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Galvan, also the artist behind MariGlvn, the tradename for her Chicana-inspired jewelry and visual art, said that, for her, Kahlo’s life serves as an example of pushing through adversity.

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“In her life, Frida faced different obstacles, heartbreaking moments, and pain. She chose to not allow this to hold her back, but as fuel to her forward, as healing, and a way to tell her story with her work,” Galvan said. “This is significant to me, in that art has definitely been a form of embracing a long-awaited healing process, and reclaiming my identity in different ways—as an artist, mujere, community member, business owner and so on.”

The feminist, indigenous, and inclusive approach to the festival was by design, Colectiva Noroeste member and Creative Mujeres artist Evonne Gonzalez Martinez said.

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“The intersectionality and complex nature of this amazing artist has provided a model of strength, courage—and the power of overcoming adversity to produce amazing beauty in a variety of ways was something that we felt needed to be honored and celebrated,” said Gonzalez Martinez.

Martinez said Colectiva Noroeste wanted to present an alternative view of the Latinx community from what has been in the media.

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“We also hoped to present an opportunity for our community to celebrate the richness and beauty of our gente*—to give folks a safe place to get away from the negativity and weight of being brown people in a, too often, hostile environment,” she said. “We felt that what better way to do this than to celebrate the life and amazing contributions of Frida Kahlo.”

While the group only had two months and a tiny budget with which to plan the festival, Martinez said the community response made the difficulties worth it, and hoped “that everyone felt the love that we put into it.”

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The group is already looking ahead to next year and hopes that, with more funding and more planning time, they will be able to do even more in 2019.

*Gente or “nuestra gente” translates from Spanish to “our people.”

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Photographs by Naomi Ishisaka.

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