Mexican Folk Art Collective
The Mexican Folk Art Collective (MFAC) has identified the need to showcase Mexican artwork and create connections between Mexican and Mexican American artists. MFAC has organized workshops and cultural conversations in collaboration with McIntosh Memorial Library in Viroqua, WI and the Consulate of Mexico in Milwaukee since 2020. The majority of these offerings have been facilitated online and the recordings are published on the website of the Mexican Government Public Relations Cultural Diplomacy (https://diplomaciacultural.mx/canal/milwaukee/) .
MFAC’s collection represents work from more than 20 folk artists and was exhibited at the McIntosh Memorial Library, VIVA Art Gallery, and the Latino Arts Gallery in Milwaukee in 2021. In 2022 they were exhibited at ArtStart in Rhinelander and the Day of the Dead event in the Milwaukee Art Museum. MFAC also co-organized the “This is Maíz ” program in collaboration with Driftless Curiosity, the McIntosh Memorial Library, and the Consulate of Mexico in Milwaukee. This program gathered artists, farmers, food advocates, and the public to discuss the cultural importance of corn. This year, MFAC’s goal is to become a non-profit and continue presenting cultural programs and exhibitions to promote Mexican folk art and traditions. – Gabriela Marvan
Artists – Fashion Design – Self-employed
Mexican Folk art Collective member
“My name is Julieta Zavala, and I was born and raised in Mexico City until the age of twenty. One day, I had the opportunity to come to the United States. In my mind, I only wanted to go to school and return back to my home in Mexico. I was so excited about this opportunity that I didn’t realize there was one minor detail I overlooked. I didn’t speak any English. I started going to any free English class that was available, which is where I met a good friend and teacher, Ms. Polly Marcus. She was encouraging and helped me to learn more. First, I learned English, then I earned my high school diploma and started taking night classes, which is where I met my husband.
I attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia, where I earned my degree in Fashion Design. I had tried to go to fashion school in Mexico, but it was out of my reach. I took a course at Janet Klein School, but only learned the basics. Prior to this, I worked many jobs, including cleaning houses and offices and working fast food. Then I began working at David’s Bridal where I started out by steaming dresses. Little by little, my boss let me use the sewing machine to fix zippers and make small adjustments. Soon I was allowed to do it all and worked as a seamstress for more than 2 years. During that time, I was attending school two days a week in Philadelphia. Many times, I doubted myself and questioned if I had the talent to be in this field, but in my heart, I knew I had something I needed to express through fashion, and needed to trust in myself. However, I also realized that not everyone will love my work, and only some will understand my vision.
At this point, I was missing my home country so much, as it was a huge part of my upbringing. Growing up in Mexico, everything seemed so normal, such as our traditions, and all of the food that was around me. It was quite different moving here. While I’m incredibly grateful for what I have now, and for what this country offers me, I miss Mexico. I decided to take all of the culture that I missed and use it as my inspiration. My first big hit was a dress that I made with a plastic tablecloth to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. I created an unconventional look (skirt, corset top, and earrings) using oilcloth with Tehuana print. This plastic is traditionally used as a tablecloth in México in households and restaurants. At that time, I started collaborating with a great photographer from Dream Art Studio, named Manuel Flores, who photographed my work which helped me to share and promote my designs.
Today I work from home designing and creating custom orders. I like representing my cultural roots with a contemporary view and have completed many designs which I’m proud of, including Valentine dresses, an International Women’s Day superwoman costume, and a design for Mexican Independence Day. My friend Ada Reyes and I designed and dressed a variety of Catrinas for a Day of the Dead runway show at Penn Museum, Fleisher Art, and the Day of the Dead Festival in Elton MD. In December 2019, I participated in the first Binational Journey for artists of Mexican origin based in the United States with thirty six other artists. The event took place in Mexico City and we held meaningful conversations about the cultural, political, economic, and social needs in Mexico. We also participated in artist meetings to build cross-border connections which allow for expanding collaboration in the field of binational culture.” – Julieta Zavala
Julieta began her participation with the Mexican Folk Art Collective when she spoke during the “This is Maíz ” conversation, sharing about her designs which incorporate corn and natural materials. In 2022, Julieta participated in the Día de los Muertos Celebration by engaging the community through fashion design, demonstration, and workshops. She led volunteers in creating three traditional dresses for Catrinas and Aztec Dance performances using natural elements (corn husks, seeds, and flowers). These pieces were a part of the presentations at the DDM event and were seen by the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior, which represents all of the Mexican embassies and consulates. IME published an article about Julieta and Gabriela Marván ‘s collaboration in the October Newsletter “Casa de México” which was seen by all of the Mexican consulates and embassies internationally.
– Gabriela Marvan
Link to “Casa de México” article (Page 46-53) https://ime.red/casa-de-mexico/octubre-2022/interactivo/
Julieta’s work will be included in the Mexican Folk Art Collective exhibition at the Pump House gallery in La Crosse in September of 2023 and in the Latino Arts gallery in Milwaukee from December 2023 through February 2024.
Ometochtli Mexican Folk Dance Director
Semillitas – Spanish in Nature – Owner
Mexican Folk Art Collective board member
Alejandra Jiménez was born in Cuernavaca, Morelos, México in 1984 and started
dancing when she was five years old. When she was twelve, she joined Grupo de Baile
Folklórico Eulalia Guzmán in Cuernavaca. She was passionate about performing arts,
education, and nature, so she pursued a bachelor ‘s degree in biology and education from the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos and a degree in Mexican folk dance and arts from the Centro Cultural Universitario de Cuernavaca.
In adolescence, she danced for the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos en Cuernavaca, for the Cuernavaca Sol Naciente Academy, and for the Chicahuastli
Dance Studio in Mexico City. In addition, she joined the Mexican folk dance research
team at Instituto de Investigación y Difusión de la Danza Mexicana. She also taught folk dance at elementary, middle, high school and adult levels for several educational institutions.
In 2010, Alejandra moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where she completed a master’s
degree in education at Carthage College. While at Carthage College, she taught Latin
dance and created choreography for the annual dance at Carthage’s Wartburg
Theatre. She also created an environmental education choreography for study-abroad
students in Guatemala.
In 2012, Ale moved to Milwaukee to work as an Environmental Educator and Summer Camp Counselor at the Urban Ecology Center, where she also led Mexican folk dance classes for the community. While in Milwaukee, she performed for the Mexican dance academies, Hermanos Avila and Escamilla Entertainment. In 2020, she started her own dance company, Ometochtli, to help Mexican American children connect with their cultural heritage in Milwaukee. She also started teaching Mexican folk dance to children at the community center Core El Centro both virtually and in person. In 2022, Alejandra participated in a Mexican Folk dance workshop led by the prestigious Mexican dance company, Amalia Hernández, at the Marcus Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee. Alejandra is thrilled to be able to share her culture through corporal expression. Her mission is to share and promote Mexican traditions as an opportunity for the community to enrich social responsibility and international understanding. – Alejandra Jimenez Marvan
In 2021, Ale joined the Mexican Folk Art Collective and began participating in the DDM celebration. Her participation with MFAC also includes participation in the exhibition, “Cercano”, for ArtStart in Rhinelander, Wisconsin in 2022. In this art residency, she taught Aztec Dance and Mexican Pre-Hispanic Heritage to 200 5th graders over 2 days at the Rhinelander school district. She also conducted presentations through Mexican Fiesta, where she explained the meaning of the dance movements to the Rhinelander community. Alejandra participated in the Day of the Dead celebrations in the Milwaukee Art Museum, where she led presentations and organized an interactive dance with kids. She will be part of the Mexican Folk Art Collective exhibition at the Pump House gallery in La Crosse from September through November of 2023 and in Latino Arts gallery in Milwaukee from December 2023 through February 2024. Ale serves on the Mexican Folk Art Collective board and her skills in education have added value to the collective. Alejandra and her daughter, Camila, were part of the Catrina presentations at DDM in 2021 and 2022. – Gabriela Marvan
DDM 2021, preparing the copal, traditional fire for the ritual.
Mexican Folk Art Collective Member
“I moved to the United States and began to work with Juan Flores, a Mexican artist. I began promoting corn-husk crafts around Wisconsin in 2014 and have been participating in craft fairs and served as an instructor in arts programs at the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, United Community Center (UCC), Milwaukee Art and Hope, and private schools.
I plan to continue on the path of promoting hand-made crafts from natural and recycled material, and my goal is to open a cultural center where the Milwaukee South Side Community can develop their artistic skills.” – Yesica Coria
Yesica is an experienced graphic designer with a passion for preserving traditional art forms. She has eight years of experience and specializes in working with corn husks. Yesi dedicates her time to teaching art to both children and adults within the Milwaukee Latino and American communities through private and public schools. Additionally, she has showcased her art at various local art fairs, including Strawberry Fest in Cedarburg, Wi, Holy Hills, and other fairs in the Milwaukee area. One of her notable achievements is being invited as a guest artist to the Day of the Dead event at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Her ultimate goal is to continue promoting and preserving traditional art forms for all generations to appreciate.
Yesica has been a member of the Mexican Folk Art Collective since 2020 and participated in the DDM celebration in 2021 and 2022 by leading workshops on creating marigold flowers using “totomoxtle” or corn husks. Yesica also participated in “This is Maíz”, speaking about her art using corn husk and how important it has been for her to connect with her roots through creating this traditional art. Her work is displayed in the Mexican Folk Art Museum shop in Chicago and Latino Arts, Milwaukee.
Yesi was part of the exhibition, “Cercano” in 2022 for ArtStart in Rhinelander and the Día de los Muertos event in Milwaukee Art Museum in 2021 and 2022. She will be part of the Mexican Folk Art Collective exhibition at the Pump House gallery in La Crosse from September through November of 2023 and in the Latino Arts gallery in Milwaukee from December 2023 through February 2024. – Gabriela Marvan
Mexican Folk Art Collective Member
“I am the product of migration. Using art to create feeling and engagement is a tradition that has been passed down to me. Family and culture created the canvas of my identity. My grandma was from Guadalajara, Jalisco and my Grandpa was from Crystal City, Texas, and they migrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is where I became identified as a graffiti artist. Woven into the fabric of my graffiti upbringing was Mexican culture. Because graffiti existed heavily in Mexican populated areas of Milwaukee, it seemed to be a Mexican thing to do.
I did the majority of my mural work alongside my brother, Julian, and we migrated away from each other many times. Upon migrating back to each other, we were able to expand our knowledge and artistic skills. Both he and I have worked in a handful of factories and industrial occupations. We have been chosen by the world to be the artist representative of a working class, street culture. Painting murals for Dia de los Muertos is a gateway to honor my ancestors by creating feelings and engagement for others to enjoy. I hope my ancestors will be celebrating in the afterlife like when we were all together.” – Adam Correa
Ireri Andrea Muñiz Ortega
Artist – Embroidery, Altarista (Day of the Dead Altar/Ofrenda Composition)
Mexican Folk Art Collective Board Member
Andrea Muñiz was born in Mexico City and grew up in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico. She is a textile artist and started learning to embroider in 2017 as an activity to connect with her emotions and community. Andrea found a way to express the richness of Mexican culture through fabrics and threads. After learning contemporary stitches and natural dyes, she began exploring traditional Mexican stitches and techniques such as tenango and randas.
Andrea moved to the United States at the beginning of 2021, and this milestone led her to continue celebrating traditions, honoring her roots, and being part of a community. After meeting Gabriela Marvan, founder of the Mexican Folk Art Collective, Andrea became involved in the first Driftless Region’s Day of the Dead Celebration in 2021. She served as a lead volunteer by organizing the construction of the ofrenda (altar), announcing explanations about the meaning of Day of the Dead to visitors, and harvesting the iconic flower of this celebration, the cempasúchil (marigold). For Andrea, being part of this event has great cultural, emotional and collective value. She enjoys sharing this tradition that has inspired her to continue connecting with who she is and where she comes from.
In 2022, Andrea became a member of the Mexican Folk Art Collective and participated in the art residency for ArtStart in Rhinelander, WI, where she taught traditional Mexican art and traditional board games with an introductory Spanish vocabulary to 200 5th graders for 2 days. Andrea’s work was on display for the installation “Cercano” in 2022 for ArtStart in Rhinelander.
She will participate in the Mexican Folk Art Collective exhibition at the Pump House Gallery in La Crosse from September through November of 2023 and at the Latino Arts Gallery in Milwaukee from December 2023 through February 2024.
Gabriela Jiménez Marván
Artist – Self Employed – Cartonera (traditional technique using paper and paste)
Mexican Folk Art Collective Founder & Board Member
Marketing Coordinator, Viroqua Food Co+op
Gabriela was born and raised in Cuernavaca, Morelos, México. Family and the Cuernavaca artisan community introduced her to the traditions of Mexican folk art at a young age, and she carries the value of these traditions in her current projects in the United States.
Gabriela’s mother enrolled her in drawing and painting classes at the Cultural Center at Morelos University at an early age, and in young adulthood, she completed a focused study of cartoneria at the Museum of Contemporary Indigenous Art in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Cartoneria, the Mexican folk technique using paper and paste, is her passion and primary form of artistic expression to this day.
In 2004, Gabriela earned a bachelor ‘s degree in graphic design and communication from Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City. In 2007, she earned a specialty degree in media design from the National School of Design of Fine Arts Institute in Mexico City. In 2018, she earned a degree in Mexican Folk Art from the Center of Arts of Morelos in Cuernavaca, Mexico. In 2019, she completed a Spanish as Second Language Degree from the National University of Mexico in Mexico City.
After the completion of her formal training in Mexican folk art and media design, Gabriela pursued her interest in educational instruction for students of all ages. She instructed Graphic Design Basics and Digital Design at the Universidad Riviera in Playa del Carmen, México.
Gabriela co-founded an educational arts collective named Meztli in Cuernavaca Morelos in 2016. During her work with the Metztli Collective, she instructed children, adults, and seniors, using art to teach environmental concepts. She also taught grade school children at the Encuentros Spanish Language School in Cuernavaca, Mexico in 2017 and 2018. In her tenure as an instructor, she began to merge her lessons of Spanish language and contemporary environmental issues with traditional Mexican folk art to invoke a sense of pride in Mexican heritage, Spanish language, and cultural immersion.
As a result of the pandemic in 2020, Gabriela founded the Mexican Folk Art Collective (Marvan Folk Art LLC.) Through the collective, she continues to share her knowledge and make a positive impact both in Cuernavaca, Mexico and Viroqua, Wisconsin, which she has called home since 2019.
In 2021, Gabriela was a guest lecturer and folk art instructor at the Mexican Cultural Institute and offered a two-day class entitled “Craneos en Cartoneria / Decorated Skulls in Paper Mache”. In 2021, she also co-founded and co-hosted the First Annual Driftless Region’s Día de los Muertos Celebration as the United States Director of the Mexican Folk Art Collective (Marvan Folk Art LLC.) As part of the community celebration, Gabriela has led Mexican cartonería and papel picado workshops in collaboration with Driftless Curiosity, the McIntosh Memorial Library and local schools. She continues to serve as a member of the organizing committee for the event.
In 2022, Gabriela curated and submitted her cartoneria pieces for the exhibition titled, “Cercano”, a Mexican folk art exhibition for ArtStart in Rhinelander. She was part of the team of artists selected to participate in an art residency for ArtStart in Rhinelander, where she led a traditional piñata workshop for 200 5th graders over 2 days. She also participated in the Day of the Dead event at the Milwaukee Art Museum with an exhibition of her work.
Gabriela has a passion for community projects which bridge the distance between her Mexican and United States communities. Her love for these projects drives her to educate and connect Mexicans, Mexicans Americans, and all people to participate in the rich traditions of Mexican folk art.