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Sharing joy, pride through art

Simon Silva lectures at CSUMB April 11

Artist and author Simon Silva has channeled the difficult and painful experiences of his childhood in a family of migrant farm workers into bold and proud expressions of Chicano culture.

The community is welcome to attend his presentation on “Nurturing Creativity,” set for 7 p.m., April 11, in the University Center on Sixth Avenue on the CSU Monterey Bay campus. The event is free; no tickets or reservations are required.

Silva is famous for his vibrant paintings that depict stylized portraits of farm workers bending to harvest crops, suns radiating heat and picturesque fields and valleys. He has used his painting to empower himself, honor Chicano culture and honor the dignity of farm workers.

His presentation will provide parents, educators and other community members with tools to help students become critical thinkers, lifelong learners and confident leaders. He will reflect on his own experiences to present art as a means of inspiring learning and as a source of self-esteem, empowerment and cultural pride.

At first, Silva had a generic artistic style. He painted horses and landscapes that he thought people might be interested in buying. But literature changed his life.

“I had never been a reader,” he said. “The only thing read in our house growing up was the Bible and the yellow pages. Then, my brother-in-law loaned me a copy of “Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya.

“There was so much material that was familiar in terms of characters, story lines and some of the things I had gone through. It was a real revelation and it opened up a whole new world for me.” The book set him on the right path to look at the experiences in his life and to find value in them. “Literature saved me,” he said. “I had tried to run away from these experiences – I was carrying shame about them.

“Through Chicano literature, I was able to focus on Chicano culture in my artwork. It’s what I needed to paint—not only for myself but also for those out there who have no self-esteem. It’s an opportunity for me to tell a campesino, ‘You’re important enough for me to paint and you’re also important enough to write about.’

“Through my paintings and writings, I’m able to make a powerful situation out of what I had been ashamed of,” he said. “The same can be said for ethnicity. If you’ve been told all your life that you are inferior and can’t do it, you won’t. I was fortunate in that I had my art to keep me going.”

The event is sponsored by the Associated Students Cultural Enrichment Committee, Student Activities & Leadership Development, and the Office of the Dean of Students. Books and prints will be available for sale at the event.

For driving directions and a campus map, click here.