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Meet William Estrada of Mobile Street Art Cart in Little Village and North Lawndale

Today we’d like to introduce you to William Estrada.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Born to immigrant parents who wholeheartedly loved and supported him and his sister Liliana. We grew up in Southern California, Guadalajara & San Jose de las Moras, Jalisco, Mexico, and Chicago’s Southwest side. He was encouraged to become an artist by his High School Art Teacher Mrs. Cheryl Stallings, who introduced him to Jacob Lawrence’s series The Great Migration. Jacob Lawrence’s work alongside Chicago graffiti, Mexican muralists, and Mexican artisans from Tonala, Jalisco inspired him to focus on working in communities as an artist and teacher. His teaching and art making practice, shaped by his work at Telpochcalli Elementary, Art Resources in Teaching, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, Marwen, Insight Arts, Pros Arts, and Yollocalli Arts Reach, focus on exploring inequity, migration, historical passivity, cultural recognition, self-preservation and media representation in marginalized communities. I document and engage my experiences and that of my families and friends in public spaces to transform, question, and make connections to established and organic systems. I love to engage in discussions with people, respond to things happening in the community, and promote counter narratives to questions stories being told about who we are.

I have worked as an educator and artist with Telpochcalli Elementary, Chicago Arts Partnership in Education, Hyde Park Art Center, SkyArt, Marwen Foundation, Urban Gateways, DePaul University’s College Connect Program, Graffiti Institute, Vermont College of Art and Design, Prison + Neighborhood Art Project and The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.

William’s art and teaching is a collaborative discourse of existing images, text, and politics that appoints the audience to critically re-examine public and private spaces. As a teacher, artist, cultural worker, and urban anthropologist he reports, records, reveals, and amplifies experiences you find in academic books, school halls, teacher lounges, kitchen tables, barrios, college campuses, and in the conversations of close friends to engage in radical imagination.

William has presented in various panels regarding community programming, arts integration, and social justice curricula through the Illinois Art Education Association, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois Humanities Council, Smart Museum of Art, the National Guild of Schools in the Arts, National Art Education Association, Teachers for Social Justice San Francisco, Iowa University, Grand View University and Illinois State University. In 2016 he was awarded the Teaching Artist Community Award from 3Arts Chicago.

His current research is focused on developing community based and culturally relevant programs that center power structures of race, economy, and cultural access in contested spaces.

I have worked as an educator for the past 20 years, the people who I have worked with and taught have shaped who I am and what I do. Our stories are central in the making of art, in using art as a tool to critically examine systems around us, and to celebrate our stories and those of our neighbors.

Has it been a smooth road?
Art is not always appreciated or respected, Artists don’t always get paid for their labor. Yes, financially it has been hard, emotionally it can be exhausting, Learning to advocate for the work we do as artists is critical and I am just learning how to be better at it.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
As a teaching artist with nearly twenty years of experience working in schools and arts organizations, The Mobile Street Art Cart brings collaborative, community-relevant art-making to the streets of Chicago’s neighborhoods. For the past ten years, I have staged street art workshops in various communities of Chicago. It has been very rewarding to teach people directly in the communities they live in and to be immediately responsive to issues and ideas that people and others are thinking about. It has always been important that my teaching and art-making practice is relevant to the communities in which I work. I started the street art workshops as a way to talk to people in communities I worked and have lived in, and because I knew it would allow me to engage with people and communities who I might not otherwise talk to through a school or organizational program. What excites me most about this project is the art and ideas that come from literally taking these workshops to the streets. As a Mexican male, my presence and intentions in public spaces is sometimes questioned. My street workshops provide an opportunity for various people in the community to engage with me as a visual artist and teacher. Through this engagement, I share with them resources in the community, opportunities for art making in neighborhood organizations, and possible projects we can generate together through participation and support. People share with me project ideas they would like to see, concerns I should address, people I should work with, and spaces I should access. The Mobile Street Art Cart makes this work more accessible to communities. The Mobile Street Art Cart is designed to function on the sidewalk and have the capability to be pushed by a person or pulled by a bike. I have studied Mexican ice cream carts and food vendor carts in Mexican communities to assist in the development of a design, the mobile vendors in my community are cultural preservationist. They build community by bringing people together. My intention is to build workshops with community members to address relevant issues using art as a tool to organize, preserve culture, and question. Through the workshops in the streets, we are engaging with community members in spaces that are traditionally inaccessible to educational platforms. Culturally relevant art practices are the foundation to the workshops I collaboratively develop with community members.

The Mobile Street Art Cart is designed to function on the street and has the capability to be pushed by a person or be pulled by a bike. I have studied Mexican ice cream carts and food vendor carts in Little Village to assist in the development of the design. The Mobile Street Art Cart is designed to achieve the following: 1) Provide free art projects with people on the streets in their neighborhoods; 2) Address issues relevant to the community; 3) Create a temporary space where the community and I can talk about art and its impact on our communities, and 4) Share resources to support artmaking and community-building. The Mobile Street Art Cart amplifies the creativity that already exists in our communities by addressing relevant social issues through art making in the streets.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
William Estrada, Tai Ollin Estrada

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