Electric Machete Studios join forces with four other galleries for an art crawl


If you haven’t come across "Latinx," you might want to familiarize yourself with the new-ish term. It’s being embraced by many with heritage that stems from Latin American countries, but feel the words "Latino/Latina" or the Mexico-specific "Chicano/Chicana" aren’t inclusive enough.

For Directions Art Crawl

Two Rivers Gallery
Free; donations accepted

“There are so many labels,” says Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra, one of the members of Electric Machete Studios, an arts collective and gallery based on the West Side of St. Paul. “That’s part of what we struggle with as a Latino community. 'Latino' isn’t really the umbrella term, with so many different cultures and ethnicities within that. Not everybody’s Mexican, not everybody’s Chicano. So there’s this new label of Latinx.”

Collective members of EMS prefer to use the “x” because it encompasses both the gender spectrum and unnamed indigenous ethnicities. “Part of our work as a collective is about reframing the immigration and Latino experience and culture as being indigenous people of the Americas, which in turn helps reframe the conversation about immigration,” Crisanta de Ybarra says.

EMS’ roots go back to the early 2000s, when the hip-hop group Los Nativos were part of an anti-Columbus Day show at the 7th Street Entry that showcased Latino and Northern Native artists.

“It was political music, a party, resistance, and it started to grow with more and more art onstage. Then, pretty soon, the art part was too big,” she says. They brought the exhibit to Intermedia Arts, where it was renamed “Dimensions of Indigenous.”

Electric Machete grew out of that, with a focus on uniting artists of the Americas around common experiences and movement building.

“What we all have in common as an arts collective… is that across all our different disciplines, we’re all doing art for social change,” says Crisanta de Ybarra.

That common resistance grew especially strong during recent events. “We saw an amazing unity of indigenous people coming from all over to support the efforts at Standing Rock,” she says. With a renewed effort to find common ground and unity in order to gain more political power, groups have come together.

(Vera Choguaj Chajil)

That’s part of what this weekend’s For Directions is all about. The inter-tribal, indigenous group exhibition takes place across five different venues, united around common themes of decolonization, identity, resistance, and survival, especially relating to shared issues with the environment and cultural preservation.

EMS is participating, along with the newly opened Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center in St. Paul, plus All My Relations Gallery, Two Rivers Gallery, and the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center in Minneapolis.

The name for the crawl, For Directions, comes from All My Relations Gallery’s director Rory Wakemump. It’s a play on words, referring to the cardinal four directions, while also referring to how people can live sustainably through indigenous practices.

Each venue will take it’s own spin on the theme. For EMS, they are exploring weaving as a metaphor for bringing traditions together. Showcasing both traditional and contemporary artists, the space will feature everything from traditional Guatemalan pieces to modern mixed-media work. That includes art by Laura Colon, who juxtaposes found record albums with Taino designs.

While it was challenging to coordinate the art crawl with five different locations, Crisanta de Ybarra says their unifying goals kept the project moving forward. “What unites us all is the whole reason we are coming together in the first place,” she says. “It’s our love for Mother Earth and the need to come together in resistance against the forces that are keeping indigenous people oppressed in continued assimilation and environmental genocide."


“Weaving Traditions Together Exhibition” runs May 20 through July 31.
Electric Machete Studios
777 Smith Ave. S., St Paul
There will be an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. this Saturday.

The For Directions art crawl begins at 6 p.m. at the three Minneapolis galleries. A bus will take folks to St. Paul then back to Minneapolis at the end of the night.

(Xilam Balam)