El Barrio & Beyond

A Celebration of Latinx Culture

This exhibition, curated by Richard Michelson, originally opened at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard

from July 9th – 30th, 2023. It is currently at R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton MA from November 12th 2023 – January 15th 2024.

• July 9th | 4 pm Opening Reception with Raul Colón

• July 11th | 10 am Painting with Colored Pencils: Workshop with Raul Colón

• July 12th | 4 pm Gallery Tour with Richard Michelson

• July 20th | 4 pm Poetry Reading with Martín Espada and Richard Michelson

• July 21st | 10 am Poetry, Politics, Banned Books, and Trigger Warnings: A Conversation with Martín Espada and Richard Michelson

Almost 20% of the US population, roughly 65 million people, identify as Latinx. Their ancestry is Mexican, Brazilian, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Guatemalan, and other South/Central American or Spanish cultures. Yet until recently Latinx children have had little chance to see themselves in Picture Books, Museums, and popular culture. The Pura Belpre Award, given to “a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth” wasn’t established until 1996. Even today, when we hear of Latinx book illustrators it is often in reference to their work being banned.

We hope this exhibition helps to further proclaim the power and beauty of work by Latinx artists.

Featured Artists

Raul Colón and Rich Michelson at the 33rd Annual Children’s Illustration Celebration
Primavera | 15.5×18 in, Colored Pencil

Raul Colón

Raul Colón grew up in Puerto Rico, where he studied commercial art. He moved to Miami in 1978 to work at an educational television center, and ten years later he made New York his home, and began a freelance illustration career. An acclaimed artist, Colon’s work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, Time Magazine, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. An award-winning illustrator of over thirty books for children, including gallery owner Richard Michelson’s: As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom, and Roberto Clemente, which was recently banned in Florida, and is being highlighted in this exhibition. The industry has recognized Colón with a Golden Kite Award, two Pura Belpré Awards, a gold and silver medal from the Society of Illustrators, and two Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Awards.

Colón uses very unique techniques in his artwork to create texture and rich, deep colors. He begins with textured watercolor paper, adds 5 to 8 washes on top of each other, and then uses colored pencils and a scratchboard instrument appropriately called a ‘scratcher’ to draw down through the layers.

See more of Raul’s work here.

Lauren Castillo
This is a Story Cover | 10×10.25 in, Mixed media

Lauren Castillo

Lauren Castillo is of Cuban and Spanish descent. She studied illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art and received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is the author and illustrator of more than twenty critically acclaimed picture books children’s books, including the 2015 Caldecott Honor winning book, Nana in the City. She currently resides in Harrisburg, PA.


See more of Lauren’s work here.

Joe Cepeda
Mess in the Kitchen | 14.75×22.75 in, Acrylic on board

Joe Cepeda

Preferring grace over style, message over technique, and story over extravagance, Joe Cepeda seeks to create work with integrity and authenticity at its core.

Born and raised in East Los Angeles, a proud Angeleno, Joe’s mother is from Durango, Mexico. His father was born in Texas, by way of Chihuahua, Mexico.  Joe’s serpentine road through college began studying engineering at Cornell and finished with a BFA in Illustration from Long Beach State. Months after leaving school, Joe took his wares to New York and secured a book contract after his first meeting with a publisher. He’s been illustrating books ever since. Joe is the award-winning illustrator of more than thirty books for children while continuing to create images for magazines and other publications, as well as keeping an eager eye to the ever-changing landscape of illustration.  He is the only artist to have been chosen twice by Nobel Prize winning author, Toni Morrison, to illustrate her children’s books.

See more of Joe’s work here.

Mike Curato
Many of the Cars Roar | Pencil, 13.5×34 in

Mike Curato

Mike Curato is of Filipino and Irish ancestry. He is the author and illustrator of everyone’s favorite polka-dotted elephant, Little Elliot. Mike had the pleasure of illustrating  All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle, and contributed to What’s Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle and Friends. Curato  won the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show Founder’s Award and His graphic novel, Flamer, received a 2020 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Young Adult and the 2021 Massachusetts Book Award for Middle Grade/Young Adult. It was also the most banned book in the fall of 2022 in PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans, having been singled out by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

See more of Mike’s work here.

David Diaz
Cats Together | 26x26x3.5 in, Mixed media

David Diaz

Born in New York of a Puerto Rican mother and American father, David Diaz mines his diverse cultural understanding when illustrating a story, depicting different races with depth and sensitivity. He received the 1995 Caldecott medal for his very first picture book. Smoky Night, (by Eve Bunting) was based on Los Angeles street riots and was inspired by sketches David made while on a trip to Brazil. He created gouache paintings framed by bold borders with intricate photographic collages as backgrounds. The relatively flat paintings are perfectly matched to the textured collages, vibrant when the action heats up, softened by the end of the story. Each subsequent book expanded his stylistic range, as he experimented with photo collage, silhouette forms, vegetable dyes, gouache, and pencil with secondary illustrations created by using Adobe Photoshop.

Inspired by the innovation of Viennese Secessionists such as Gustav Klimt (1862-1914) and Egon Schiele (1890-1918), Diaz aims to break away from any constrictions and develop his own way of telling stories through illustration. Many of Diaz’s books deal with social issues fraught with controversy; but no matter what the subject matter, the artist seeks to illustrate books that offer hope. He is the recipient of three Pura Belpre Honor Awards.

See more of David’s work here.

Frank Espada
Frank Espada
Alberto, Resident at PROMESA Drug Treatment Program, Bronx, New York | 7.75×11 in, Silver Gelatin Print

Frank Espada

Frank Espada was a documentary photographer born in Puerto Rico, best known as the creator of the Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project, who photographed the civil rights movement of the 1960s as well. His work is in the collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the National Portrait Gallery and the Library of Congress.

See more of Frank’s work here.

Learn more about Martín Espada’s poetry reading here.

Juana Martinez-Neal and Rich Michelson
One Potato, Dos Potatoes | 12.75×21.75 in, Mixed media

Juana Martinez-Neal

Juana Martinez-Neal, is a New York times bestselling illustrator  born in Lima, Peru. Her children’s books have received a Caldecott Honor, a Pura Belpré Medal, a Society of Illustration Gold Medal, an Ezra Jack Keats Honor, and the 2020 Robert F. Sibert Medal for Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story.

Juana now lives in Connecticut with her husband, two sons, daughter, two dogs.

See more of Juana’s work here.

Yuyi Morales
Mama Sings Every Day | 17.5×14 in, Archival Pigment Print

Yuyi Morales

Yuyi Morales, born in Mexico, is a children’s book author and illustrator. Yuyi moved to the United States in 1994, and during her first years she remembers that she had no job, no friends and she barely spoke a few words in English. When she took her son, Kelly  to a public library in the city of San Francisco, she was amazed and inspired by the section of children’s books. Morales learned English by reading to her son Kelly who did not know or care if she mispronounced some words, and she could always use the illustrations to show something she did not know. She felt so inspired by those vivid colors and illustrations from the books that she had been reading to her son, she wondered whether she could make picture books like those. That journey would become her book Dreamers, which received the 2019 Caldecott Honor. She has also won six Pura Belpre Medals, four Pura Belpre Honors (the most of any illustrator),  a Latino Book Award, a Latino Literary Award, a Christopher Award and a Jane Addams Book Award.

See more of Yuyi’s work here.

Edel Rodriguez
Caroline or Change | 19×15.5 in, Acrylic on paper

Edel Rodriguez

Edel Rodriguez, born in Cuba, is an artist who has exhibited internationally with shows in Los Angeles, Toronto, New York, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Spain. Inspired by personal history, religious rituals, politics, memory, and nostalgia, his bold, figurative works are an examination of identity, cultural displacement, and mortality. In 1994, Rodriguez graduated with honors in painting from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. In 1998, he received a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from Manhattan’s Hunter College graduate program. Throughout his career, Rodriguez has received commissions to create artwork for numerous clients, including The New York Times, TIME Magazine, The New Yorker, and many other publications and book publishers. Rodriguez’s artwork is in the collections of a variety of institutions, including the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., as well as in numerous private collections. Ad Age  has recently called Rodriguez one of the 50 Most Creative People of 2016, alongside David Bowie and Prince.

See more of Edel’s work here.

Eric and Gallery owner Richard Michelson
Mambo Mucho Mambo | 10.5×10 in, Oil on paper

Eric Velasquez

Illustrator Eric Velasquez, the son of Afro-Puerto Rican parents, was born in Spanish Harlem and grew up in Harlem. His dual heritage coupled with the experience of living in dual cultures in New York City gives Eric a rich and unique cultural perspective. He earned his BFA from the School of Visual Arts. Eric’s first picture book won the Coretta-Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. In 2010 Eric was awarded an NAACP Image award for his work in “Our Children Can Soar” which he collaborated on with 12 notable illustrators of children’s literature. Eric won the 2011 Pura Belpre’ Award for illustration and was also nominated for a 2011 NAACP Image Award. Twice as Good , written by author and gallery owner Richard Michelson, was a finalist for the Harlem Book Fest Phillis Wheatly Award, and was the only book blurbed by President Barack Obama during his Presidency. “Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library” by won the SCBWI’s The Golden Kite Award and The International Latino Award Honor.  Eric Velasquez lives and works in New York.

See more of Eric’s work here.

Richard Michelson

Richard Michelson, Curator

I have had an Oak Bluffs campground cottage for a dozen years, but I resisted curating exhibitions during the summer months, since that is my time to relax and simply enjoy our community. After George Floyd’s death, however, Ann Smith approached me about curating a special exhibition of contemporary award-winning Black illustrators. R. Michelson Galleries has been promoting minority illustrators for over forty years, but the overwhelming response I received for bringing my artists (including Jerry Pinkney, Bryan Collier, Ekua Holmes, and Pat Cummings) to Featherstone Art Center was uplifting. I thought it would be a one-time event.  However, when Florida and other states began banning books, overwhelmingly those by Black, Latinx, Queer and marginalized writers and illustrators, I knew it was imperative to give those artists a microphone and a spotlight. After immigrants from south of the border were flown (without warning) to the Vineyard, it seemed fitting to celebrate the many facets of Latinx culture. 

See Richard’s books here.