NATALIA CERVANTES/Coachella Uninc
INDIO – Raices Cultura, a youth organization in the heart of the Eastern Coachella Valley, has a big presence at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this year with the installation of “Paraiso,” an original work of art displayed at the world famous festival.
Last year, Goldenvoice, the promoters of the festival known simply as Coachella, also featured an art installation by Raices inside the campgrounds where thousands of festival goers stay for the three-day event held annually in April.
“We have a group of young men and women who came together and…put together what their vision of the Coachella Valley looked like in their perspective,” says Carlos Gonzalez, co-founder of Raices. “The students came up with a bunch of different ideas, and we ended up meshing them up all together. The name of the installation is ‘Paraiso,’ which means Paradise.”
Raices Cultura was founded in 2004 and focuses on youth opinion, art and community. It was shaped and formed by the youth involved into what they wanted it to stand for. The literal Spanish translation — “raices” means roots and “cultura” means culture — is fitting as the group is focused on establishing cultural roots not just within the community but also within the members.
As Paraiso was being installed on the festival grounds, two Raices students, Clara and Arturo, describe what the installation would look like: a depiction of the Coachella Valley with mountains, windmills, palm trees, sunflowers, desert animals and bright colors with neon lights.
“It’s eye-catching,” says Clara, one of the artists.
Megan Long, another artist, describes it as a “giant diorama” that is “two dimensional but 3-D looking.”
Most of the youth involved are Coachella Valley High School students recruited by art teacher Peggy Long, who says they’re all spectacular students who stood out to her in a good way.
“They’re great listeners,” says Long. “It’s rewarding watching the students learn and enjoy themselves.”
The students not only get to enjoy painting, but have also learned how to use many tools and life lessons. Long says, “They had to learn how to use tools that we would find simplistic, learning skills with their hands as well as their minds. It’s not just painting, it’s a lot of mathematical work as well.”
Candelario, another young artist, adds, “It’s surreal being here and having our artwork here.”
Gonzales adds, “It’s great that Goldenvoice is allowing us to bring that local perspective to Coachella Fest. It’s a great opportunity for us, we’re very lucky to have been given it…to get paid and have your art displayed in such a public setting is very fortunate.”
When asked how the exposure affects Raices he replies, “I don’t think it affects Raices so much as it affects the students. To have their artwork known on an international platform, is pretty amazing stuff. They get to build these experiences that they’ll always cherish for the rest of their lives.”
Long, the art teacher at CVHS, sees the effect outside of the Raices environment. “I see [the students] at school and they become like a family,” she says.
Clara is grateful for the attention this project has given to Raices.
“It gives more positive attention to Raices. They help us do so many things and it’s so nice. They give us so many opportunities that we wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else.”
Students do not have to be artistic to join Raices. The group is dedicated to exploring the cultural roots of the community and of its members. Raices is located at 1494 Sixth Street in Coachella. For information, visit their website.
View more photos by Natalia Cervantes here.