Guatemalan Carpet Art

aka Alfombras de aserriĀ­n, or "sawdust carpets"

Alfombras de aserrín, or “sawdust carpets,” are typically made during Holy Week to celebrate Easter in Guatemala.  Large sawdust carpets require many people working long hours to create intricate patterns using brightly colored sawdust.  Meant to be temporary artworks, Alfombras are walked on during the Easter procession.

MassMu’s Guatemalan carpet artwork was created by Hector Castellanos Lara with immigrants and refugees from Central America and Mexico, and volunteers from Immigrant Worker Project.  The design is based on drawings by Central American teenage refugees, and celebrates this year’s NEA Big Read book, In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez.  While not meant to be walked on, MassMu’s Guatemalan carpet artwork is still temporal and will only be on display through part of April.

Read more about artist Hector Castellanos Lara below or click here.

The finished artwork and the team of artists:

(All photos on this page courtesy photographer Andrew Mingione)

Artist Profile: Hector Castellanos Lara

Gathering images from the majestic volcanoes surrounding Ciudad de Guatemala in his youth, Hector Castellanos Lara brings forth a lament of sorrow, exile and joy from Central America.  His early influences included his father, a well-known commercial painter in Guatemala who worked on giant commercial and political murals from the 1950s through the 1970s. Castellanos Lara’s mother, who drew inspiration from the folk art of Guatemala as a dressmaker also had a major impact on him. 

In Long Island, New York, during the 1980s, he developed his talents as a commercial designer working for El Greco Footwear, Inc.  At the same time, Hector began to explore and develop his work in the Fine Arts.  Now a resident of Cleveland, Ohio, since 1990, Hector Castellanos Lara has had numerous exhibitions and workshops in the Cleveland Museum of Art, Playhouse Square Foundation - Education Department, Outreach Programs Young Audiences,  Outreach Programs Beck Center for the Arts, Immigrant Worker Project, International Community Council, The Arthouse, International House of Blues Foundation, MetroHealth Center, and Broadway School of Music and the Arts.  He also had a solo exhibition, “Spirit of Spontaneity,” the final exhibit at Cleveland State University Art Gallery and Creighton University “Winter 2015-16” in Omaha, NE.

Hector's experience working with variety of community arts and cultural programs has established new opportunities for artists in greater Cleveland.  He has worked with Escuela Popular where he coordinated exhibits of emerging Latino Artists from Northeast Ohio and with artists who came from Central America and Mexico to exhibit in Cleveland, Ohio, and are exhibiting for the first time.  From these beginnings he started working with the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Parade the Circle and Chalk Festival as well at The Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin as both an Artist-in-Residence and Outreach Artist in schools and community centers across Cleveland.  

This work, organizing community outreach and artists, led Hector Castellanos Lara to become a co-founder of ALU (Artistas Latinos Unidos), an association dedicated to promoting the art of Latinas/os and has served as a connect point for educational, community and social service organizations seeking artists for a myriad of projects.

As a community leader, artist and organizer, Hector works with diverse populations to cross borders – both real and imagined. This ranges from his work as a board member of SPACES World Artist Program hosting emerging world artists and to work with migrant farm workers through the Immigrant Worker Project. 

It is not surprising that another facet of Hector Castellanos Lara's work is in education and the arts.  He has worked in numerous public and private schools (K-12) on interactive educational projects.  Most importantly, his work creating   Alfombras has made people aware of the tradition of the Alfombras–sawdust and flower carpets that draw on the traditional and modern images from Latin America and Community Mural Projects.  These workshops/projects include presentations on the history and traditions of popular art in the Americas.  Hector's work has not been limited to traditional settings as demonstrated by his bilingual art therapy since 2010 with ALAS (Alliance of Latinos Against Stigma) a project of NAMI & Centers for Families & Children.

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