.Inked in Love

NIAD salutes Andrés Cisneros-Galindo’s art and impact 

On Jan. 14, when a public reception opens an exhibit of Andrés Cisneros-Galindo’s work, it will be a celebration of decades of his own printmaking—and also of his decades teaching at Richmond’s Nurturing Independence through Artistic Development (NIAD).

“Memorias Grabadas—Imprinted Memories” will showcase 12 prints, some made as far back as the 1980s, some more recent, “and offer a glimpse into [Cisneros-Galindo’s] long history of printmaking,” said NIAD gallery manager Julio Rodriguez. “Some of them are interpretations of the struggles for social justice in El Salvador, for example.” Cisneros-Galindo’s work also often depicts figures from Mesoamerican mythology, and “personalities he’s encountered.”

By 1985, when Cisneros-Galindo was hired as a printmaking teacher, studio manager and artistic director at NIAD, he had already achieved artistic success. Born in Baja California in 1945, he began studying painting, drawing and sculpture at the studio of Hector Castellon in Tijuana, then moved to the Bay Area in 1967, where he graduated from Cal State Hayward with a degree in early childhood education. He returned to Mexico to complete studies in printmaking and painting. His work has been exhibited locally, nationally and internationally.

“At the time I met [NIAD co-founder] Florence Ludins-Katz, they were looking for a printmaking teacher. I was making posters about what was going on at that particular moment…NIAD was a different world,” said Cisneros-Galindo. Although he had plenty of experience working with young children, he had never taught adults. And in this case, he would be working with adults with different forms of developmental disabilities. 

“I had to revisit and re-examine every aspect of printmaking, feel out the limits—and then go beyond the limits,” he said. But his own life experiences, including working as a ranch hand and migrant farmer, allowed him to approach this new work with humility and joy, qualities that have characterized NIAD’s work with its student artists from the beginning.

NIAD was not the first arts institution founded by Ludins-Katz and her husband, Elias Katz, that was inspired by the disability rights movement. The Katzes had moved to Berkeley in 1966, and Katz’s work as a staff psychologist serving individuals with developmental disabilities at the Sonoma State Hospital made him very aware of the challenges created by “mass deinstitutionalization.” Artist Ludins-Katz had taught at both high school and college levels. 

The couple hosted an art-making event for artists with disabilities. Inspired by this, the Katzes obtained a National Endowment for the Arts grant. In 1972, they established Creative Growth in Oakland as the first institution dedicated to supporting artists with disabilities. NIAD, which originally stood for “National Institute of Art and Disabilities,” followed in 1982, then, in 1983, Creativity Explored in San Francisco. The Katzes are now recognized as pioneers in the field.

Through his many years of partnership with NIAD, Cisneros-Galindo has taught and been taught by the students he works with, he said. “[In the beginning], it was a mutual learning process. For example, we could not do etching, because of the chemicals involved,” he continued. 

But, he noted, students could utilize monotype printmaking, in which a single print is made by applying paint or printing ink to a flat sheet of metal, glass or plastic, then transferred to paper either by manually rubbing or using a press. And they could learn lino printmaking, a form of relief printing in which a drawing is carved into a soft linoleum block. A thin layer of ink is rolled over it, and paper pressed on top to transfer the image. “Some who had the manual abilities could also do woodcuts,” said Cisneros-Galindo. “Printmaking is authentic…an ancient art form.”

All these techniques are on display in NIAD’s Main Gallery in “NIAD Ink: 35 Years of Prints,” organized by Cisneros-Galindo, and on view through Jan. 27. “We have been archiving prints since the ’80s,” said Rodriguez. 

“I have been influenced by NIAD artists; there has been a cross-pollination, an exchange of ideas. I’m not afraid of the ‘academy’ definition of ‘art,’” said Cisneros-Galindo. “I’ve gone beyond that.”

This willingness to accept and celebrate art in all its forms has been inspirational. NIAD artists he has mentored have had their work featured in other galleries and shows. Some of the artists have physical disabilities; others have developmental disabilities; still others have both. According to center materials, “artists enrolled at NIAD work with facilitators, who instruct them in multiple mediums: painting, fiber, ceramics, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, performance, sound recording, and digital media.”

One of the major components of NIAD’s mission is to “[give] people with disabilities the skills and experience to express themselves, be independent and earn income as an artist.” NIAD sells students’ work both in the gallery store and online. Each artist receives a 50% commission from the sale of their work.

“Some of the artists are now represented by other galleries,” said Cisneros-Galindo.

Rodriguez pointed to NIAD artist Dorian Reid, who has worked with the center for 10 years, and has had numerous showings of her prints, ceramics and fiber art in other venues, including a solo show at Philadelphia’s Kapp Kapp. Many of her pieces are for sale in NIAD’s online gift shop/gallery.

Student artists are usually referred to NIAD by the Regional Center of the East Bay, a nonprofit that advocates for children and adults with developmental disabilities, or through a case worker, Rodriguez said. Up to 70 artists learn and work at NIAD at one time. Although the pandemic stopped or limited onsite work for some time, virtual instruction continued on Zoom, and artists are now back in the 4,000-square foot studio three days a week. 

Now, when “Memorias Grabadas—Imprinted Memories” joins “NIAD Ink: 35 Years of Prints” in exhibit at the gallery, visitors will get a true sense of what nearly four decades of artistic service to the developmentally disabled community has really meant. Those attending the opening reception for “Memorias Grabadas” will also have the chance to participate in a printmaking workshop led by Cisneros-Galindo, demonstrating relief printing techniques. “Brayers will be fully loaded!” promises the center.

NIAD Ink: 35 Years of Printsthrough Jan. 27. Memorias Grabadas—Imprinted Memories opening reception Jan. 14, 1-4pm. Exhibit through Jan. 27. NIAD Art Center, 551 23rd St., Richmond. 510-620-0290, niadart.org. Gallery hours: Mon-Fri,, 10am-4pm; Saturdays by appointment. To schedule, contact [email protected]

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