Sarasota Magazine: Supporting "Rearview Mirror" Exhibit at Art Center Sarasota

The following article was written by Gulf Coast Community Foundation and appeared on Sarasota Magazine's website on April 3, 2023.

One of the ways we can improve mental wellness for everyone in our region is by reducing the stigma around seeking support and services.

In December, we at Gulf Coast Community Foundation awarded a $10,000 Sponsorship Grant to Art Center Sarasota through the L. Conway Channing Endowment Fund at Gulf Coast. The grant will underwrite Rearview Mirror, an exhibit at Art Center Sarasota that focuses on mental healthcare needs and issues in the Latinx community by artist Karen Arango.

Art Center Sarasota is a gem in our community, free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome at the art center and they are home to diverse exhibits and artists.

Karen Arango is a Sarasota-based visual journalist from Colombia, South America who has been commissioned by local and national magazines and organizations. She focuses her artwork on collaborating with area nonprofits to create visual stories that promote the awareness of our social needs. She earned a Digital Journalism Master’s degree from University of South Florida, a Photography and Imaging Bachelor’s degree from Ringling College of Art and Design, and a photography certificate from the International Center of Photography. She is inspired by Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado.

In Rearview Mirror (El Retrovisor), on exhibit at Art Center Sarasota from March 23 – April 29, 2023, Arango presents her latest series of community-focused, documentary photographs that explore personal stories of local Hispanic individuals dealing with mental healthcare. Some of the subjects who appear in the exhibit have been interviewed by Arango and their stories are made available through a QR code in the gallery. Arango hopes to bring a face to those who are struggling, and those who are too often forgotten or overlooked, and to raise awareness about this critical issue in our community. Through Arango’s art, we can meet our resilient neighbors and see through their eyes.

Arango and Art Center Sarasota are donating a portion of the proceeds from the exhibit to benefit the Women’s Resource Center’s mental health programs. There are 15 photographs in the exhibit. All of the photos on display are for sale. A panel discussion on mental healthcare in the Latinx community will be held on Wednesday, April 12 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. Art Center Sarasota’s website has the information on forthcoming events.

Photograph of woman closing her eyes with water all around her.
Un Río de Lágrimas (“A River of Tears”) by Karen Arango.

This is the second time Gulf Coast has partnered with Art Center Sarasota to bring an exhibit to our community. Last year, Gulf Coast successfully partnered with the art center and award-winning portrait photographer Susan Sidebottom to share the faces of individuals impacted by the lack of affordable housing. A portion of the proceeds from the exhibit, donated from Sidebottom and Art Center Sarasota, benefited Harvest House as a nonprofit supportive housing provider for those most at-risk in the community. “Karen Arango, a local talent, is bringing to us through her artistry a unique opportunity to walk in the shoes of individuals in our Latinx community. We appreciate this ongoing collaboration with Art Center Sarasota and their commitment to being a hub for visual storytelling,” said Jennifer Johnston, Director of Community Leadership at Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Thriving Communities with Opportunities for All

Kinsey Robb, executive director for Art Center Sarasota, shares, “This year we get to work with Karen who is here in the community. We are trying to create local awareness and we are attempting to find support systems through the lens of Karen Arango. Mental health and mental health awareness is very different for a lot of people. While it might be something that we see embraced by one community, in another community it could be frowned upon or there may be little access to where Spanish-speaking counselors are. We are also making the exhibition a resource where we will have literature. As an arts community, one of the beautiful things about Art Center Sarasota is that we are open, accessible, nonjudgmental, and here for everyone. Through this grant with Gulf Coast Community Foundation, we are able to do something we are not always able to do – support the work of the artist, cover costs for making the artwork, designate gallery space, and have an honorarium for speakers. We really appreciate that in this grant. It is our responsibility as an art center to discuss important topics through the language of visual art.”

We sat down with visual journalist Karen Arango, Art Center Sarasota’s exhibitions director, Christina Baril, and Kinsey Robb, executive director of Art Center Sarasota, to learn more.

Q: What is one story from the exhibition that had a major impact on you?

Arango: “There’s one woman I interviewed from Cuba. What I remember the most from her story is that when she was a young girl her mother would not allow her to cry or experience heartbreak. The girl arrived to the U.S., had issues with her dad, and went through a lot of arguments with him. I just remember her telling me that speaking with a therapist allowed her to cry. She has been crying so much. That is why I named that photo “A River of Tears.” It’s the story of many people. Sometimes you want to be strong, but you have to let it out. It helps us to be more vulnerable.”

Q: How has this partnership with Gulf Coast Community Foundation inspired you?

Robb: “We are really honored that Gulf Coast Community Foundation took a chance and came to us with Susan Sidebottom. Now we are seeing the fruits of that teamwork between a foundation and an organization, and how we can raise the bar every year and support community issues in a different way than just discussion and debate. Art is a catalyst for change. Karen does a beautiful job through her work.”

Q: What’s next for Art Center Sarasota?

Baril: “We are gearing up for our 2023/24 season which will be filled with diverse artists and mediums. After Karen Arango’s show, we have our North Sarasota County Schools Spring Art Exhibition in May and then we have our Regional Juried Show through the summer focusing on identity and the human condition.”

Gulf Coast looks forward to partnering with Art Center Sarasota in the future. You can view their upcoming exhibit schedule here.


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