An immersive art experience called “Finding La Yarda” will re-create a room from the housing unit built for Mexican American railroad workers in Lawrence from 1920-51.
“Using film, sound, art and photography, this two year digital storytelling project will culminate in a walk through gallery installation in late summer of 2024,” according to a Wednesday news release from the Lawrence Arts Center.
Marlo Angell, project director, previously worked on a documentary on the subject, Searching for La Yarda, with filmmaker Lourdes Kalusha-Aguirre. The film included oral histories of people who had lived in La Yarda before it was destroyed by a flood, and the stories of their descendants.
“This new project will build off of those oral histories by inviting new conversations about the importance of place, culture and togetherness through the lens of a physical environment,” according to the release.
In order to make this room happen, “a creative team of artists will work in collaboration with former La Yarda residents and their descendants to create an artistically rendered living space from the Santa Fe Apartments,” according to the release. “From brick facades to decorative flowers, tactile set pieces will provide physical dimension to the housing units that until now have only been visible through photographs and paintings.”
“LED screens mounted in window sills and table tops will reveal fleeting moments through the medium of experimental film. Building off of filmmakers Marlo Angell and Peter Jasso’s work with public art and community engagement, the narrative arc of the films will be created based off of new story circles with La Yarda families during the summer of 2022.”
Arts Center Ceramics Artist-in-Residence Jonathan Christensen Caballero will be a key artist on the aesthetic design of the project. His upcoming exhibition has thematic ties to Kansas’ Latino history, according to the release.
“From ceramic sculptures in the garden to isolated hands fashioning dresses from flour sacks, Caballero’s work will provide isolated moments for participants to reflect on.”
In addition, photographer Ann Dean will take portraits of residents of La Yarda and their and descendants. The portraits will be displayed in various locations throughout the city.
“These large scale images will highlight the contributions of the Mexican American community in Lawrence and reach people outside of traditional gallery spaces,” according to the release.
Individuals and families who are connected to La Yarda can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved in the project.
“This is not a project we’re doing for the community, but with the community,” Angell said in the release. “Finding La Yarda will not be the vision of a an artist collective, but an interpretive experience driven by the sketches of past residents, the stories of elders and the dreams” of their descendants.
Learn more about the project at this link.
The project is made possible by a sub-award from Stories for All: A Digital Storytelling Project for the Twenty-First Century, an initiative hosted by the Hall Center for the Humanities in partnership with the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Kansas and supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, according to the release. “Stories for All brings together over forty Kansas-based partner projects dedicated to gathering marginalized and suppressed histories, interconnecting them, and sharing them widely through digital media.”