Women’s Community Art for Social Justice in Mexican American Chicago


Photographs courtesy of Mounika Bayavarapu

Art collective Mujeres Mutantes presents their mural art at UIS

The ECCE Speaker Series hosted Women’s Community Art for Social Justice in Mexican American Chicago Oct. 2 just as Hispanic Heritage Month came to a close.

The organization of Latin American students (OLAS) along with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Women and Gender studies and NPR Illinois co-hosted the event and invited local Chicago-based women artists that focus their art closely around their Mexican roots. 

Speakers discussed how their experiences with community engagement shaped their artistic careers and how art is a vital part of social change. All panelists also delved into the way their art uses traditional Mexican styles and practices to make larger points about social justice and the impact of gentrification on communities of color.

Associate Professor at The School of the Art Institute, Nicole Marroquin, was the first to speak, and lectured on how her work was largely influenced by student led walkouts on the Lower West Side of Chicago between 1967-1974. Marroquin is also a cultural worker, teacher, parent and strategist who looks to work with other teachers and students dealing with research, and even art exhibits.   

After Marroquin, Naomi Martinez, Teresa Magana, and Kira Padilla from the all-women collective Mujeres Mutantes (or Mutant Women), spoke about art as empowerment. Mujeres Mutantes is an art collective from Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood that encourages community art steeped in the Mexican tradition. The group specifically looks to empower women of color and make art accessible to underprivileged communities. 

The collective also works closely with the non-profit Port Ministries to offer free workshops, art galleries, and projects for local artists that need a safe space or want to showcase their art, but don’t necessary have the resources to do so. The initiative is meant to show that art is engaging and empowering as well as a way of creative escape for not just women but also for all people passionate about art. 

“Art was a form of creative escape,” said Magana on her own creative journey. “A Healthy escape.  It’s very therapeutic for me. In my line of work-I feel like the way I teach it with them it seems therapeutic for them.”

The name Mujeres Mutantes is meant to reflect the ever-changing nature of art and how artists can always grow and learn through the creative process. 

“Mujeres Mutantes means we are forever evolving, growing, striving, to be better and adapt to our environment,” said Padilla.

For more information on Nicole Marroquin’s work as an activist, artist, and researcher, visit her website at www.nicolemarroquin.com. To find out more information about the Mujeres Mutantes Art Collective, or Port Ministries visit their website: mujeresmutantes.com.