Michelle Angela Ortiz shares her origin story, the inspiration behind her powerful murals, and more in this CreativeMornings Philadelphia talk.

As a skilled visual artist, muralist, and community arts educator, Michelle Angela Ortiz explains her large-scale murals focused on issues of immigration and mass incarceration: “I purposely place my art in public spaces to say ‘we are here, we have been here, and this is what we contribute.”

About the speaker

Michelle Angela Ortiz is a visual artist/ skilled muralist/ community arts educator who uses her art as a vehicle to represent people and communities whose histories are often lost or co-opted. Through painting, printmaking, and community arts practices, she creates a safe space for dialogue around some of the most profound issues communities and individuals may face. Her work tells stories using richly crafted and emotive imagery to claim and transform “blighted” spaces into a visual affirmation that reveals the strength and spirit of the community.

For over eighteen years, Ortiz continues to be an active educator in using the arts as a tool for communication to bridge communities. As a highly skilled muralist, Ortiz has designed and created over 50 large-scale public works nationally (PA, NJ, MS, NY) and internationally. Since 2008, Ortiz has led community building and art for social change public art projects both independently in Costa Rica and Ecuador and through the United States Embassy as a Cultural Envoy in Fiji, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Venezuela, and Honduras. In Cuba, she completed the first U.S. State funded public art project since the re-opening of the United States Embassy in Havana in 2015.

Ortiz is a recent Rauschenberg Foundation Artist as Activist Fellow, a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist National Fellow, and a Santa Fe Art Institute Equal Justice Resident Artist. In 2016, she received the Americans for the Arts’ Public Art Year in Review Award which honors outstanding public arts projects in the nation. She is also fellow of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture Fund for the Arts (2011), recipient of the Leeway Foundation Transformation Award (2008) and Art & Change Grant (2013, 2012 & 2006.) She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Moore College of Art & Design and a Master’s Degree in Science of Arts and Cultural Management from Rosemont College.

Favorite quotes from this talk See all

We are living in a time where we have an administration that supports white supremacy, hate, and racism. And as we tear down these monuments, both the physical and symbolic monuments, I'm dedicated to building new monuments than honor and elevate the people that are continuing to fight for freedom. — Michelle Ortiz

When I come to this work, in all these different settings, it's not just finding the connections of our humanity, but it's understanding how I can utilize the creative process to amplify and elevate others' voices through the platform of public space in the most authentic way that I can. — Michelle Ortiz

Stories are powerful, especially within the context that they're told or represented. And, in my practice, i ask myself 'how do I begin to shift power structures? How do I utilize my privilege, skills, and resources as a way of providing opportunities to others? How can I support them to have the courage to share their stories, especially in spaces where they're not represented?' — Michelle Ortiz

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