Next month, the University of Houston’s Center for Mexican American and Latino/a Studies (CMALS) will publicly launch Latino cARTographies, a mobile video touchscreen and digital platform mapping the city’s Latino art scene, both past and present. The digital artscape is the result of a three-year collaboration between Dr. Pamela Anne Quiroz, Director of CMALS, Executive Director of the Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR), and Professor of Sociology; Juana Guzman, the former Vice-President of the National Museum of Mexican Art and current National Arts Strategist and Associate Consultant for the Bloomberg Philanthropies; the CMALS research team; and the Gibson Group, an international design and content production team focused on high-tech digital interactives.
In 2019, Dr. Quiroz organized the 6th Biennial Latino Art Now! Conference (LAN), which was hosted by the University of Houston (UH) and IUPLR. (Previous editions of the event had been hosted in Chicago and Los Angeles.) During the Houston iteration of the event, Dr. Quiroz became conceived of the need for a digital archive to document and celebrate the contributions of local Latino artists, arts organizations, and communities.
Latino cARTographies employs the Gibson Group’s award-winning TouchCity platform, which uses images and data sourced by the CMLAS research team to create an interactive digital cityscape for visitors to explore. Over the past three years, the CMLAS research team has gathered hundreds of hours of data and 2,000 images related to 170 Latino artists, 80 landmarks, 17 arts organizations, and other important sites within Houston’s Latino communities. This is not the first time a Texas cultural organization has employed TouchCity technology: in 2015, the El Paso Museum of History launched The Digital Information Gateway in El Paso (DIGIE), which utilizes the Gibson Group’s platform.
Dr. Quiroz told Glasstire, “Latino cARTographies is a remarkable innovative digital board that allows people to access 180 Houston Latino artists all with the touch of a finger. This bilingual and interactive visual board provides the ability to explore neighborhoods, meet the artists, and experience the Latino cultures of Houston through a number of interactive and fun activities.”
While Latino cARTographies’ main goal is to create an accessible archive, it will also serve as a teaching tool, which will brings together the fields of visual arts and technology. The three 75-inch digital boards will be available as portable didactic resources that can be transported to libraries, schools, museums, and other organizations. Though there is not currently an online platform that people can access from their personal devices, a website is scheduled to launch in October and an app is in development.
Following the unveiling of Latino cARTographies on September 29, 2022, the boards will be accessible at CMALS, and organizations can contact the Center to reserve the boards for use at their own spaces.