Out of the classroom, into Punto de Vista

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The children wondered where the cow’s other leg had gone. (Courtesy Photo)

by Daniel Wirtheim

One of the children asked where the cow’s other leg had gone, the one that would have been obscured from the painter’s angle.

Angel Fant, who mentors children through ArtistCorps, a UNC School of the Arts program, was quick to explain that omitting the leg was a deliberate move, an effort to achieve realism.

Fant uses art to teach the Common Core curriculum at Title I schools, which are considered to have a majority of high-poverty families. She says the shapes and rhythms of paintings can be a good jumping point for understanding geometry or mathematics.

Fant was leading a group of children from an after-school program at the United Metropolitan Church through the Punto de Vista exhibition at the Delta Arts Center on the east side of Winston-Salem when the child asked about the cow.

The gallery typically features African-American artists, but the Hispanic Arts Initiative launched Punto de Vista, an annual exhibit, now in its fourth year.

The name translates to “point of view,” and the exhibit features selected Latino artists who reside in North Carolina and offer their own perspectives on Latino culture. Delta Arts Center Executive Director Nadiyah Quander believes Punto de Vista can bridge cultural gaps.

“We try to find points of connection between Latino and African-American communities,” Quander said. “Art is a great place to have that happen.”

Delta Arts Center is in a majority African-American community but Quander says that most of the museumgoers to the Punto de Vista exhibit have been Latino.

Quander says she hasn’t seen the diverse groups that Delta Arts Center harbors at other galleries in the area. They hosted a night of salsa and sangria that brought out a young, hip audience, and an Afro-Cuban band played on opening night, attracting several different demographics. But the gallery most often attracts groups of children. And Quander says that’s good for the children on the east side because art has a kind of therapeutic quality that can help mental health in high-stress environments.

“We’re giving them therapy,” said Quander. “They need therapy.”

It was an early-release day for children in the after-school program visiting Punto de Vista. Music began to play in the gallery, a compilation album of danceable Latin rhythms with trumpets and percussion. The children were learning how to dance a variation of the mamba, with emphasis on the hips. Those who weren’t embarrassed shook wildly with their friends. Fant told them to watch her for a demonstration. She grabbed a partner closer to her own stature, a humble Triad City Beat journalist meandering in the gallery, and led him through the movements. After the dance lesson she led the children through the gallery while the music played overhead.

Admiring two paintings by Nico Amortegui, a Colombian artist living in Charlotte, the children argued as to whether the shapes were organic or geometric. Amortegui’s paintings have the busy and vibrant air of street art — a mix of both organic and geometric shapes. They seemed to be the most popular among the children who wanted to move through the gallery at a quick pace. Along the way they learned about repetition, rhythm and balance.

A few of the children said they liked to paint. When they stopped in front of Victoria Morales’ “Hard Work” and questioned where the cow’s leg had gone, Fant told them they can paint however they would like but if they want to paint realistically they need to study anatomy.

When the children left, the gallery was silent again. Fant took a deep breath and exhaled in an exhausted sigh. She said she thought the children enjoyed their time with South American art but it’s hard to tell how much knowledge they actually picked up from the tour.

“The hope is that it’s exciting enough that they’ll want to go home and talk about it,” Fant said. “That they’ll want to do some research on their own.”

The Punto de Vista exhibit runs through October 31 at Delta Arts Center. Visit deltaartscenter.org for more information.