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A Conversation with Manuel Cuevas & Ofelia Esparza

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Mexican Cultural Institute

2829 16th Street Northwest

Washington, DC 20009

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Join the Mexican Cultural Institute for a conversation with Manuel Cuevas and Ofelia Esparza, two artists of Mexican heritage recipients of the 2018 NEA National Heritage Fellowship, moderated by Director of the Smithsonian Latino Center Eduardo Díaz.

Born in 1933, Manuel Cuevas gained popularity sewing prom dresses in his hometown of Michoacán at the young age of 14. His talents later took him to Hollywood, where he began working with influential designers and artists, ranging from Nathan Turk to Elvis Presley. His focus was primarily in rhinestone-adorned and embroidered suits distinguished by their country and western style, a genre whose multi-ethnic origins Cuevas witnessed both in Mexico and the United States. Manuel Cuevas continues to work diligently in his designs today, which are displayed at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Ofelia Esparza is a Mexican-American altarista, or altar maker, whose work pays homage and evokes memory of people, events or places through the use of photos, traditional foods, flowers, handmade and found adornments. Esparza was born in East Los Angeles, where her upbringing in Chicano communities influenced her love for traditions and activities surrounding Día de los Muertos. As an elementary school teacher for 30 years, Esparza infused her curriculum with Mexican art and culture, introducing the importance of cultural practices to her students. Still, she continues to teach workshops in the Building Healthy Communities Boyle Heights initiative and at the State Correctional Institution for Women and has exhibited her work at various museums such as LACMA.

The NEA National Heritage Fellowships recognize the recipients' artistic excellence and support their continuing contributions to the United States' traditional arts heritage.


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Mexican Cultural Institute

2829 16th Street Northwest

Washington, DC 20009

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