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Art, Culture, and Community: My Journey as an Afro-Latina Artist by Andrea Stephania

Growing up in Ecuador as an Afro-Latina, I was fortunate to be immersed in a vibrant tapestry of culture and traditions that have been passed down through generations. Among the most cherished experiences of my childhood was practicing the creation of traditional native sculptures, such as "año viejo," with my family. These age-old art forms not only connected me to my roots but also served as the cornerstone for the creative work that defines my life today. In this blog, I invite you to journey with me through the vibrant and diverse chapters of my life. From the ancestral art of Ecuador to my educational pursuits and professional career, you'll discover how I've harnessed the power of art to represent my culture, engage with the community, and give back to those in need. The Ancestral Craft of Año Viejo Año Viejo, which translates to "old year," is a unique Ecuadorian tradition celebrated with great enthusiasm as each year draws to a close. Families across the country come together to craft elaborate, life-sized effigies representing the past year. These sculptures, constructed using various materials like papier-mâché, cloth, and found objects, are much more than just artistic creations—they symbolize the act of bidding farewell to the past and welcoming the future with hope and optimism. Growing up as an Afro-Latina, this tradition was an integral part of my upbringing. Practicing año viejo with my family taught me not only about the art of creativity but also about collaboration and cultural preservation. These experiences were instrumental in nurturing my passion for art and ignited the spark that would illuminate my artistic journey. Carrying Ancestral Voices into Art The influence of practicing año viejo and my Afro-Latina heritage extends into all aspects of my art. Whether it's the way I mix colors or the marks I make on a canvas, I carry my culture and roots with me, weaving them into every piece I create. These experiences have shaped my unique artistic perspective and continue to be a wellspring of inspiration for me. Educational Pursuits: BFA in Illustration To further hone my artistic skills and expand my knowledge, I pursued a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Illustration at the Massachusetts College of Art & Design in Boston, Massachusetts. My time in Boston was transformative, exposing me to diverse influences and artistic styles. It broadened my creative horizons and helped me refine my craft. A Diverse Artistic Career Today, my career spans a wide spectrum of artistic pursuits: Editorial Illustration: Crafting compelling visuals for magazines, newspapers, and online publications. Digital Marketing and E-Commerce: Collaborating with medicinal cannabis companies to create marketing materials and e-commerce platforms. Fine Art Installations: Designing captivating installations for galleries in Texas and Massachusetts. Graphic Design: Partnering with start-up companies and entrepreneurs across the United States to enhance their branding and marketing. Collaboration with Indigenous Artists One of the most fulfilling aspects of my career is the opportunity to collaborate with indigenous artists. Through these collaborations, I seek to showcase their handcrafted art pieces in pop-up markets and online platforms, providing them with a platform to share their talents and traditions with the world. This initiative supports indigenous communities and helps to preserve their unique artistic heritage. Promoting Art Education and Community Connection I am a firm believer in the power of art to bring communities together and promote creativity and self-expression. That's why I love creating painting events and partnering with local businesses to provide a space for the community to connect through art. In my classes, I guide participants step by step in creating their own masterpieces, fostering a fun and creative environment while promoting art education. Giving Back: Education, Mental Health, and Social Justice I am grateful to have turned my passion into a successful business, and I believe in using this success to make a positive impact. A portion of my profits is donated to causes close to my heart—education, mental health, and social justice. By giving back locally and internationally, I aim to empower and uplift those in need and contribute to a more equitable world. My journey from Ecuador to the art world has been a testament to the power of cultural heritage, creativity, and the unwavering spirit of giving back. The traditions of my Afro-Latina upbringing, particularly the practice of año viejo, have played a pivotal role in shaping my artistic voice. Today, I'm proud to have transformed my passion into a successful business while remaining committed to supporting causes that matter. My journey serves as a reminder of the enduring influence of ancestral voices in art and the transformative potential of art in creating positive change within our communities and around the world.


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