Underground Culture: Reaching out to Hispanic youth

Art education and history are often neglected subjects, but Tania Carlstrom hopes to increase the awareness and availability of these fields in the Hispanic community.

Carlstrom, a local artist, recently formed Underground Culture, an art school and supply store designed to aid Hispanic children. The not-for-profit organization is currently being run out of Carlstrom’s home, but she plans to move the school to a permanent location soon. Students will have the opportunity to enroll in a variety of classes covering crafts, painting, drawing and art history. The school also offers low-cost art supplies and a gallery for artists to display their work.

To assist her in launching this program, Carlstrom enlisted the help of fellow artist and friend, Melinda Peterson-Fluaitt, who was profiled in last week’s issue of The Rock River Times. Together they have written a mission statement and are applying for a tax grant to help finance the project’s many goals. In the mission statement, they express a desire to “help fellow artists reach their own personal goals with their artwork, whether it is in ideas or just the different avenues that are available to them.”

Carlstrom also hopes to inform the Hispanic population of the opportunities that Underground Culture provides and celebrate the work of undiscovered artists. She explained that this objective inspired the organization’s name.

“Underground stands for all the unknown artists everywhere, whether it is locally or nationally. Culture stands for all the different varieties of cultures that are out there in this world. We have to be proud of our culture no matter where our ancestors come from,” said Carlstrom.

Peterson-Fluaitt believes Underground Culture will also serve as a necessary artistic outlet for youth. “There’s such a need out there now with the schools closing this avenue,” Peterson-Fluaitt said. “There’s going to be a lot of people lost in the cracks.” To help these children, Underground Culture offers two scholarships, for $100 each, to exceptional students who plan to continue in the arts. Of these two students, one must be of Hispanic descent.

Underground Culture is scheduled to participate in art shows at the Texas Lounge, 1007 S. Main St., in Rockford on Aug. 20, Sept. 5, 11, and 26. Paintings, drawings, crafts and jewelry will be sold at these events. The organization will also take part in Fiesta Hispana Sept. 25 at the Boone Country Fairgrounds. Carlstrom and Peterson-Fluaitt will be doing face painting, crafts and marching in the parade. These two artists call their partnership “a joining of minds.” Carlstrom explained that they have a clear vision for Underground Culture. “We are here to stay not only for the art community, but also for the future…the children.”

To learn more about Underground Culture, e-mail Carlstrom at undrgrndculture@aol.com.

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