Updated: Jan 14, 2019
As soon as you sit down with Rosalia Torres-Weiner, you quickly realize we have a visionary in the Charlotte community.
Rosalia grow-up in Mexico City. Her childhood home was an open brick ranch, which allowed light to stream abundantly into the airy interior. Her home was the first house on the block to have a swimming pool—the property also hosted a racquetball court, and beautiful gardens. A tomboy as a child, Rosalia spent hours swimming in the family pool and playing in the gardens. It was a neighborhood bustling with activity, full of children playing and people socializing. One of her most vivid memories were of the funeral processions that passed by her home on the way to the local cemetery. Living on a dead-end street, the only path to burying loved ones was the one that paraded past her home. “Watching the procession, and listening to the mariachi play, was like watching entertainment!” Rosalia exclaims, “I say it was entertainment because saying farewell to someone is not a sad occasion. It is more like a celebration of life. I fully embrace the cycle of life,” says Rosalia. “If my last day on earth was today, I would embrace it knowing that I live each day to its fullest.”
People of CLT brings you an inspiring conversation with artist and community activist, Rosalia. We especially enjoyed discussing her thoughts on community and life, while listening to her words of wisdom.
What's your creative process?
It starts with a conversation. Through my community outreach efforts, I have conversations with many people, and these conversations are the inspiration for my art. It is a fulfilling experience for me because the story is told, while I educate the community through an image that I create.
What games did you play as a child?
My favorite game was racing cars with my brother and two sisters!
We made our own toys, like boxcars. We built them from objects that we discovered in our neighborhood, such as discarded wood for the door panels, and scraps of carpet to cushion the seats. When the cars were finished, I painted them magnificent colors! We didn’t have a Home Depot in Mexico City, so we needed to be innovative. I share this memory with my own children to empower them to feel that all of life’s puzzles can be solved.
You are an artist. How many years have you been creating your art?
I have been creating since my children were ten years old. It was at that point in my life when I began my creative journey as an artist.
How did you conceive of the name, Red Calaca Studio?
It is named after my favorite Mexican holiday called, Day of the Death. It celebrates life. It reminds me of how important it is to do something good each day with passion!
Who has influenced your life journey the most?
Mexican muralist, Diago Revera. His murals are like a picture book of Mexican history. When I was a seven-year-old girl, I was fascinated by his murals. Walking the streets of Mexico City, I would read his art and learn about the history of my birth country.
So, early in your life, you experienced art as storytelling tool?
Yes, and it still influences my art today.
What causes do you champion?
I champion all people, but especially our Latino children in our community. One of the many ways I do this is through my Mobile Art Truck. I bring art to all children and especially to under-served children in Charlotte. Art is my teaching tool. I drive up with my truck and my heart to inspire them to see their potential, to be anything they dream of, while helping them to express their heart through art.
How do you keep your tricked out taco truck turned mobile art studio running?
I keep the truck moving using many methods from crowdfunded campaigns to grants. Two campaigns yielded lots of fruit: they supplied the generator for the truck. Grants from Cultural Vision and Culture Blocks, as well as from the Arts & Science Council, keep art on the move.
What professional projects are you most excited to complete this year?
First is my solo exhibition scheduled for October 2018 at the Leland Gallery Museum of Fine Arts, Georgia, College Department of Art—I have been working like crazy to prepare. Then, I will create my picture book, titled The Magic Kite!
What is the story behind the book?
Well, it begins with the kite project (el papalote project). You see, there was a time when I painted murals for a living. A journey from decorating the walls of
my children’s bedrooms to a successful business until the economy slowed in 2010. The slow down caused a creative emptiness for me, which is not a good place for an artist to be. Always having the need to create something, the idea of the kite project came to me.
What is the kite project?
It is many things layered upon each other. It starts with my work on a picture book titled, The Magic Kite (El Papalote Mágico), where I imaged a young Latino boy named Tito who could be a superhero for families who were losing members to deportations. I gifted this boy with superpowers, like flying incredible distances, with a magic kite. In search of his father, who was recently deported, Tito takes to the sky, and flies all the way to Mexico!
Wanting to give back to the community, I opened up my studio to create kites! I found families who had lost loved ones with the help of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. We all came together to help the children craft their own magical kites—every detail was thoughtfully selected, even the kite tails were made from scraps of clothing belonging to parents who were gone. In 2013, the kites were displayed at Levine Museum of the New South.
Then in 2014, something exciting happened! I was gifted with a summer residence from the McColl Center for Art + Innovation. During my time at the center, I illustrated the story on 30, 2x2 panels.
The kites got so much attention that a play was born! In 2015, the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte adopted the story as a children’s play. Seeing characters like Tito brought to the stage and given a voice was a joy for me.
This year, I have been called upon to create a logo for FIESTA! Quinceañera, a digital documentary series for PBS Storycast channel.
Looking back on your life, what wisdom would you choose to share with People of CLT?
Hold on to your Globo! Globo is Spanish for balloon! Our dreams are held within red balloons. Red because our dreams are made of both passion and our hearts. Hold onto the string of your dreams and never let go! When I came to Charlotte, I saw a blank canvas of possibilities. The community helped me realize my dreams. Look to fulfill your own dreams through opportunities to help others. The satisfaction of seeing others painting their canvases will make you a happy person.
What metaphor is the best comparison to your life?
One of my favorites is by Octavio Paz, "Deserve your dream!"
Editor Note: If you would like to donate to Rosalia’s mobile art truck cause, please visit her website redcalacastudio.com
Author, Darla Desiderio, pictured with Rosalia.