All posts tagged: Mario Contreras

How La Villita Envisions Justice: A Reporter’s Reflections

Since I began covering the Envisioning Justice initiative in Little Village in Spring 2018, something that Open Center for the Arts Founder and Executive Director J. Omar Magana told me has stayed with me. He said that he sees the Chicago neighborhood – where, in 2004, he opened his community art center – as a world-class village. It took me almost a year of meeting and speaking with artists and activists who live and work in La Villita, to understand what he meant. As part of the cohort of journalists documenting the ways Chicagoans have harnessed art to address criminal justice issues in their communities, I’ve had the extraordinary privilege to learn from the people at the intersections of this work. Little Villagers specifically represent a unique approach to community organizing – one that embraces interracial solidarity, and cross-issue advocacy. Holding power brokers accountable feels particularly salient in Little Village. The creeping threat of gentrification is still somewhat distant here, unlike the neighboring area of Pilsen, where brand new luxury apartments share blocks with single …

Little Village Through A Looking Glass: An Interview with Media Instructor Mario Contreras

As part of Chicago’s Envisioning Justice project to address community concerns around criminal justice through arts education, Open Center for the Arts in Little Village worked with teaching artists to bring specialized courses focused on immigration, incarceration, and political organizing to their students. Filmmaker and media instructor Jesús Mario Contreras was one such educator, teaching a series of filmmaking classes to youth and young adults from the neighborhood. He shared with me about his particular teaching philosophies of art as cultural communication, youth allyship, and the importance of self-reflection. Anjali Misra: How did you become involved with Open Center? Mario Contreras: Pepe Vargas from The Chicago Latino Film Festival recommended a friend of mine for  the job of instructor. Arlen Parsa, director of The Way to Andina, thought I’d enjoy the opportunity. AM: Can you describe your work with Open Center? What was day-to-day teaching like, and what were some highlights (best personal moments with students, staff, community members, etc.)? MC: I was one of many instructors that Open Center students worked with over the …

Battle for Independents at PBS

On December 18, I was invited to attend a live-feed viewing of the National Black Programming Consortium’s panel on Digital Diversity. The conversation was framed around the upcoming application for serial projects about the Black experience, but I was there to glean some knowledge and to listen to Maria Hinojosa, host of Latino USA and founder of Futuro Media. I was welcomed into the group because of my affiliation with Diverse Voices in Docs. I ran into Gordon Quinn and Becki Stocchetti of Kartemquin Films, who were also accepting applications for the third round of DVID. Tony Williams, director of Carbonerdious: Rise of the Black Nerd, and I were there to represent the inaugural class. Jeff Baraka and Noel Occomy were there on behalf of the Year Two Fellows. WTTW hosted us, and we had time to do a round of introductions before the panel started. Gordon used the opportunity to talk about a decision that was making waves among indie filmmakers, especially the newly-formed Indie Caucus. “The Indie Caucus had come into existence before …