Sonya Fe is the featured artist in this episode of the Son Cuatro: In Conversation podcast co-hosted by art advocate Cheech Marin with Todd Wingate, Director of Exhibitions and Collections at Riverside Art Museum and Norma Chairez-Hartell, Curator at Las Cruces Museum of Art. Arts marketing strategist Melissa Richardson Banks of CauseConnect — who also manages Cheech Marin’s notable Chicano art collection — is the moderator and producer of this series.
Part of RAM’s continued programming leading up to its opening of The Cheech, Son Cuatro: In Conversation is focused on sharing the work and the stories of Chicana/o/x artists, gaining their insights, and helping to inspire more community interaction and support for The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of Riverside Art Museum. Syndicated nationally through Richardson Banks’ MUSED: LA 2 HOU platform, this inaugural four-part series is made possible through the generosity of the Union Pacific Foundation.
Each artist conversation is recorded live with an audience via Zoom and edited into a separate audio episode. The programs are available for listening through RAM’s website at www.riversideartmuseum.org/soncuatro and on nationally syndicated podcast platforms such as Apple, Pandora, Google, iHeart Radio, and others.
Check out Sonya’s work on her website and on social media: Facebook and Instagram. After its premiere at the Las Cruces Museum of Art in New Mexico, her exhibition Sonya Fe: Are You With Me? has embarked on a national tour with its next stop at Riverside Art Museum (October 16, 2021–February 13, 2022).
Enjoy the conversation.
~ Melissa Richardson Banks
Melissa Richardson Banks introduces the program, and shares how she met Sonya Fe in a Eagle Rock parking lot to exchange books and look at artwork stored in her trunk. Todd Wingate shares biographical information about Sonya Fe, and then asks Cheech Marin to share what attracted him to Sonya’s work and what led to his acquisition of her “Retold Story of La Llorona” series of six drawings. (Note: In Latin American folklore, La Llorona is a ghost who roams waterfront areas mourning her children whom she drowned.) Cheech reveals that he was always on the search for the real story of La Llorona, and that he appreciates her facility of telling a story. Key questions posed to Sonya includes “why did you become an artist,” “who influenced you,” and more.
ABOUT SONYA FE: Sonya Fe grew up drawing with chalk and crayons on the cement floors of her family’s East Los Angeles home—an activity that her seven siblings, her Jewish-American mother, and her Mexican-American father fully encouraged. Each night, a new masterpiece was created and then mopped clean by her mother. At age 13, Fe won an art scholarship to attend a summer program at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. She then went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Her beautifully executed paintings often focus on the plight of women and children. During the pandemic, to protest the horrible treatment of migrant children being locked in cages, Fe created eight large-scale murals in Las Cruces, New Mexico — each 50 feet long – to document this travesty. (You can view these online at www.sonyafe.com/home/murals).
Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout California; across the nation; and in Mexico and Japan. Curated by Norma Chairez-Hartell, the exhibition originated at the Las Cruces Museum of Art (May 7, 2021 through July 24, 2021) and will be on view at Riverside Art Museum (October 16, 2021 through February 13, 2022). After Riverside, the exhibition continues on a national tour. Prior to Sonya Fe: Are You with Me?, she had a solo exhibition at the Morris Grave Museum in Eureka, California.
Fe’s work can be found in numerous private and public collections including the CCH Pounder Collection; the Cheech Marin Collection; the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard, California; and most notably, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. Fe has taught at the College of the Redwoods in Humboldt County, California. She has published children’s stories and a drawing book, and is the co-founder of Publishing Children’s Stories, a program for elementary schools that integrates literacy, art, and technology. The artist is also the art editor and a writer for Joaquin magazine, a California-based publication, and she has been published in numerous other magazines. Visit www.sonyafe.com.
ABOUT THE CO-HOSTS
Cheech Marin is recognized today as a preeminent Chicano art advocate. In the mid-1980s, he began developing what is now arguably the finest private collection of Chicano art. Much of it formed the core of his inaugural exhibition Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge, which broke attendance records during its groundbreaking 15‐city tour during 2001‐2007 to major U.S. art museums. He states, “Chicano art is American art. My goal is to bring the term ‘Chicano’ to the forefront of the art world.” Following the success of Chicano Visions, over a dozen additional exhibitions drawn from his collection have toured to more than 50 museums in the United States and Europe under the direction of Melissa Richardson Banks (many accompanied by independently published catalogs). Best known as one half of the hilariously irreverent, satirical, counter-culture, no-holds-barred duo Cheech and Chong, Cheech Marin is a paradox in the world of entertainment — he is an actor, director, writer, musician, art collector, and humanitarian.
Norma Chairez-Hartell has worked for the City of Las Cruces Museums in New Mexico since 2015 and became the museum curator in 2017. Among other exhibitions, she curated Sonya Fe: Are You With Me? (May 7–August 24, 2021), which is now on a national tour with its next stop at Riverside Art Museum (October 16, 2021–February 13, 2022). Another notable exhibition that she curated is Lucha Libre: Stories from the Ring, which opened at the Branigan Cultural Center in Las Cruces in the spring of 2020, but it was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is currently on view at the El Paso Museum of History (August 26, 2021–March 13, 2022). The co-founder of the Murals of Las Cruces project, Chairez-Hartell is also the 2021 National Association of Latino Arts. A first-generation immigrant, she moved with her family to the United States when she was only seven. Raised along the U.S. Mexico border, she gained an interest in learning about her roots. In 2010, Chairez-Hartell graduated from New Mexico State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and earned a Master of Arts in Anthropology in 2016 that focused on the visual arts of Southern New Mexico. On May 26, 2015, her work resulted in the listing of Chope’s Town Café and Bar on the National Register of Historic Places.
Todd Wingate has been the Director of Exhibitions and Collections at the Riverside Art Museum since 2016. Prior to coming to the Riverside Art Museum, Wingate served as the Assistant Dean of Students at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). He spent a total of 18 years at UCR and originally arrived there to direct the performing arts program and curated 15 seasons, presenting artists across multiple art forms, including authors Maya Angelou and David Sedaris, musicians Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Kronos Quartet, choreographers Bill T. Jones, Twyla Tharp, Alvin Ailey, and popular groups, such as Los Lonely Boys, Los Lobos, Dianne Reeves, and Perla Batalla. While at UCR, Wingate was responsible for oversight of the construction and management of the $55 million Highlander Union (UCR’s student union) and developed and produced the Heat Music Festival, a multistage rock, electronic, and hip hop festival with an annual attendance of over 13,000. Wingate currently serves as Vice President and Chief Administrator for the Wingate Foundation and is on the board of directors of the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Craft.
Melissa Richardson Banks is an arts marketing specialist who has managed Cheech Marin’s notable Chicano art collection since 2005. In addition to handling his speaking engagements, community events, and professional commitments, she has worked with Cheech to organize, market, and tour more than 13 exhibitions of works from his collection to over 50 museums nationwide and in Europe. Her firm CauseConnect celebrates its 20th anniversary of “doing business by doing good” in October 2021. She specializes in creating strategic marketing partnerships and is known for designing innovative, cost-effective solutions that produce results — from raising funds to raising awareness. In addition to Cheech, she works with corporate and nonprofit clients on projects in the arts, education, and the environment. As Downtown Muse, Melissa is also an independent cultural producer and a seasoned marketing professional. She plans, creates, funds and executes events, programs and projects such as museum exhibits, community festivals, virtual and in-person speaker series, classical music concerts, influencer dinners and salons. To date, she has produced, marketed, managed, and/or funded over 100 museum exhibits, and managed several national tours of traveling exhibits and art shows. She is also a lifestyle photographer who blogs about the arts at www.DowntownMuse.com. Her work online can be seen on Instagram as @DowntownMuse.
- Raul Pacheco of Ozomatli generously allowed use of clips from his song “LaLaLa” for the intro and outro of this podcast.
- Eva Crawford designed the logo for “Son Cuatro: In Conversation” and created the episode artwork.