La Comunidad exhibition at the Alice C. Sabatini Gallery in Topeka



This month is Hispanic Heritage Month and many communities are hosting events to celebrate the local Hispanic culture.

One of these celebrations takes place in Topeka, Kansas.

From September 3 to November 21, an art exhibit is open at the Topeka and Shawnee County Library. The exhibition is called La Comunidad, and I am honored to have works of art on display in the exhibition because my painting of musician Mariachi Teresa Cuevas is in the gallery. The painting is now owned by the Cuevas family, and they made sure to include it in the exhibit to honor Teresa and the history, passion and creativity she shared with her community.

Community is often larger than mere geography or immediate family. It can be about shared experiences, struggles, triumphs and interactions that weave our lives together.

Born in 1920 to parents who fled the Mexican Revolution, Teresa Cuevas grew up in Topeka, Kansas. Playing classical violin at the age of eight, she was invited to play in the Topeka High School Symphony.

After graduating from high school in the 1930s, Teresa found no opportunities. A talented and intelligent young Latina had little chance of finding a good job. She got married, had a difficult relationship and had five children. She joined with her music and performed in the church choir.

She later divorced her husband and got more involved in his music. She discovered a love for Mariachi music, which she called “Mariachi Fever”. She developed an all-female Mariachi band in an era of male-dominated Mariachi music. His band, called Mariachi Estrella, became a hit in Topeka and began to branch out and perform in other cities. The turn of events when they arrived in Kansas City to perform proved fatal for the group of women who were just beginning their musical careers.

At 7:05 p.m. on July 17, 1981, as they walked along the Hyatt Regency Hotel’s second-floor walkway, the walkway above them suddenly collapsed and knocked them all down. Four of Mariachi Estrella’s members died in the crash, which left 114 dead and 200 injured. Teresa Cuevas has recovered from her crushed vertebra, concussion and severe bruising.

The music helped her recover as she focused on teaching mariachi to her grandchildren and continued to perform in the church choir.

Mariachi is kept alive and new all-female groups are still forming in Topeka, in the tradition of Teresa Cuevas’ Mariachi Estrella group.

Zan Popp, Curator of Exhibitions at the Alice C. Sabatini Gallery, explains: “The purpose of the exhibit is to showcase the Hispanic arts of Topeka and the community at large. It was an opportunity to recognize the divinity of Topeka and the role that the Hispanic community has played and continues to play. We wanted to focus on the arts and culture.

Visit the Alice C. Sabatini Gallery at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library to see murals, paintings, sculptures, dance, music and costumes by Topeka Latino artists. By blending cultural traditions and contemporary histories, this group of artists showcases the depth of talent and vision of the community.

La Comunidad exhibition at the Alice C. Sabatin Gallery in Topeka.


“La comunidad es más grande que la geografía o la familia, es acerca de compartir experiencias – la experiencia compartida de La Comunidad.

Desde las artes visuales a las artes escénicas, murales, pinturas, esculturas, danza, música, disfraces y coches modificados (lowrider cars), los artistas latinos en Topeka están creciendo. Mezclando tradiciones con historias contemporáneas, este grupo de artistas muestra talento y una vision profunda de la comunidad. ‘


Artist Michael Chavez, who exhibits a painting titled “In Transit”, explains the dynamics of his work.

“The prevalence of migration is global,” said Chavez. “The reasons include social, religious, ethnic, political and natural disasters. The barren landscape and tumultuous clouds (in the painting ‘In Transit’) represent the arduous journey but offer enough glimpses of promise to continue. On the other hand, the fence partially in front and partially behind the girl presents the greatest challenges of assimilation and acceptance for migrants and natives. above the entrance to Hell, from Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy”.

Other artists participating in the 2-month events include Jamie Colon, Mario Garcia, Osbaldo Gonzalez, Huascar Medina who is the 2019-2021 Kansas Poet Laureate, Vivian Moser, Stephanie Munoz-O’Neil, Joey Rocha , Luke Rocha, and Andy Valdivia.


Lowrider Auto Show: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, September 18, East Library Parking Lot

This fabulous lowrider car show will feature cars as well as bikes. Local airbrush artist Jeff Hisey will demonstrate his various techniques. Don’t forget to spend some time in our craft corner!

Artist talk: Joey Rocha, 7-8 p.m. Thursday September 23, Galerie Alice C. Sabatini

Local visual artist Joey Rocha will discuss his painting process and his work.

Salsa dance: dance for a Sunday afternoon, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, September 26, at the Marvin auditorium

Watch Kansas dance troupe, Viva Social Dance Studio, perform their salsa moves. Then we will all follow their instructions and participate in the party. Bring your dancing shoes!

Oral History Workshop Donna Rae Pearson, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 29, Marvin Auditorium AB

Local History Librarian Donna Rae Pearson will show you how to collect oral histories from family and friends.

Artist conference: Jamie Colon, 7-8 p.m. Thursday October 7, Galerie Alice C. Sabatini

Local artist Jamie Colon will talk about his paintings and murals.

Mexican folk dance: dance for a Sunday afternoon, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, October 10, Auditorium Marvin

Watch the local Ballet Folklorico de Topeka dance troupe perform Mexican folk dances. The troupe was created in 1976 under the leadership of Ediberto Gonzalez Sr.

Beginning of the Hispanic genealogy workshop, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, November 4, Reed Studio

Genealogy Librarian Sherri Camp will show you how to research your Hispanic heritage. Learn how to create a family tree and get tips on the library resources available to help you tell your family story. Registration required.

Flamenco dance: Dance for a Sunday afternoon

3 p.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday November 14, Auditorium Marvin

Watch live flamenco music and dancing. Featured artists included guitarist Beau Bledsoe, singer Antonio Rojas, percussionist John Currey, violinist Coleen Diekerand and dancer and choreographer Milinda Hedgecorth.

Popp also hopes that by showcasing art and various cultural events, a better understanding of the role Hispanic artists play in telling the story of their community.

The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library is located at 1515 SW 10th Ave, Topeka, KS 66604-1374.

Find more information about the events and location online:


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