(Students participating in ¡AVANZA!, a Central Oregon Community College program, work on a piñata at the High Desert Museum that will be on display and then destroyed during Family Fiesta, which will take place from 1-4pm at the Museum. It’s free with admission | Photo by Kyle Kosma, courtesy of High Desert Museum)
Music, games, piñatas, oh my! Coming to the High Desert Museum on Saturday, November 18 from 1-4pm, artist Justin Favela’s event Family Fiesta celebrates Latinx communities of Central Oregon with activities for all ages.
Free with Museum admission, this event will feature Central Oregon-specific games, piñatas, papel picado making (a traditional Mexican decorative craft created by cutting elaborate designs into sheets of tissue paper), food and music. The event is in connection with the High Desert Museum exhibition Favela created called Vistas del Cielo, a colorful mural made of piñata paper.
“A Family Fiesta is a performance that I do with my family at cultural institutions,” says Favela in an interview with the Des Moines Art Center. “Having a Family Fiesta on the grounds of a museum is very special to me because it lets my family, and people like my family, know that they belong in this space.”
Since 2014, Favela and his family have hosted nine Family Fiestas at museums across the country. “One of my aunts is always in charge of decorations, another is always coordinating our outfits,” says Favela. “Everybody has a job and it’s become a family tradition.”
Members of the Central Oregon community are encouraged to take part in the Favela’s tradition by attending Family Fiesta. Various community groups across the region have already joined the fun, crafting games and piñatas for the party.
Camp Chica, an organization that provides bilingual adventure camps for elementary-aged girls in Central Oregon, designed their own version of Lotería for Family Fiesta. The Spanish word for “lottery,” Lotería is a traditional game of chance that’s similar to bingo but played with a deck of cards. Camp Chica’s cards were specifically designed with Central Oregon in mind — including much of the Museum’s wildlife. Now a part of Vámonos Outside, Camp Chica shares the organization’s mission to “connect, engage, and empower our Latinx/BIPOC community by creating outdoor recreation opportunities to make a lasting impact on individuals and families.”
Another group, ¡AVANZA!, used the same materials Favela utilized in his creation of Vistas del Cielo to construct hand-made piñatas — ranging from a bull to a statue in Mexico City and a Cheetos box — that will be on display, and later destroyed, during the event. The goal of ¡AVANZA! is to encourage Latinx youth to graduate from high school, pursue higher education, obtain rewarding careers and contribute to their communities.
“The COCC ¡AVANZA! program promotes in each student the experience and articulation of his/her cultural heritage and explores positive ways to share the richness of their culture with others in their community,” says Central Oregon Community College (COCC) Latinx College Preparation Program Coordinator Claudia Bisso-Fetzer, Ph.D. “Therefore, they have been working with the High Desert Museum to express and articulate their culture using familiar material to them.”
Alongside the Lotería from Camp Chica and piñatas from ¡AVANZA!, Museum visitors can also look forward to creating their own papel picado — a traditional artform using paper and chisels to construct intricate designs for celebrations. The artform began in the Aztec culture and became well known in San Salvado Huixcolotla in the state of Puebla in Mexico. In the creation of these papel picado, attendees can learn about recurring themes in this artform and design their own version to take home.
“We are excited about the partnerships we’ve built with Camp Chica, ¡AVANZA!, and Vamanos Outside in preparation for Family Fiesta,” says Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “It’s an honor to have Justin Favela and his family here to celebrate cultures in the region and the Vistas del Cielo exhibition.”
Vistas del Cielo takes the visitor on an immersive journey through a sometimes-overlooked history and culture of vaqueros, braceros and traqueros who have worked, roped and ranched throughout the region’s history. Meant to feel accessible and at the same time evoke reverence, the installation is described by Favela as “a kid’s imagination of their grandfather’s story in an amusement park.” He calls art his way of taking up space and expressing joy.
Vistas del Cielo (highdesertmuseum.org/vistas-del-cielo) will be on display through November 26, 2023. The exhibit is made possible by 107.7 FM with support from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.