By Adela Mendoza, executive director of the Hispanic Alliance of SC
In recent days there has been intense community dialogue surrounding the Wings of the City art exhibit in Greenville, South Carolina. This is a good thing.
Art is supposed to elicit emotion and stimulate conversations. The beauty of diversity is that each one of us sees the world through the unique lens of our lived experiences and when different perspectives are shared and welcomed, our view of the world is enriched. Public art is so powerful because it widens our lens. By design, it alters the environment as we know it and forces us to rediscover it. It is approachable and feels deeply proximate. It speaks to us in a language that feels familiar, so it is just natural that we experience a dialogue within ourselves.
Throughout this week we have been asked for reactions on our community’s response. Are we surprised? Are we concerned? Are we offended? The answer to all these questions is no. We are grateful.
Wings of the City is the first temporary exhibit displayed in public places in Greenville and this is the first time art is installed in Falls Park, the crown jewel of our beautiful city. This is a new collective experience, and it can feel like a big change – even if impermanent. This is also the first time a Mexican artist is exhibiting his work in our region in such a monumental way, literally. That is a more enduring change … one that honors our community’s transformation and our desire to embrace it.
The Hispanic Alliance envisions a vibrant and inclusive community where everyone has access to opportunities for success and prosperity. As our Hispanic population continues to grow (now nearly 6% in South Carolina and 10% in Greenville County), our work will expand and find new ways to shape an environment where all cultures can add to the beauty of our evolving community and feel welcomed, supported and celebrated.
An essential step towards belonging in one’s community is being able to contribute. The purpose of bringing Wings of the City to Greenville was to support our social and economic recovery after COVID. Our goals were to provide an incentive for people to enjoy outdoor spaces safely, to create an experience that celebrated the cultural richness and global spirit of our Upstate, and to put Greenville on the map, once again, as a world-class destination by becoming the first city on the East Coast to host this internationally-acclaimed art exhibit.
As communities across our country began to reopen this year we knew people would drive to destinations rather than fly, so the partnership with regional networks through the Hispanic Alliance, Visit Greenville, and Mexican Consulates in North Carolina and Georgia played a critical role in turning travelers’ attention towards Greenville. We applied for accommodation tax grants through the city and the county to increase our ability to leverage these partnerships and invest in regional promotion of the exhibit to attract visitors who will help boost our local hospitality industry and businesses.
The financial support to transport the exhibit from Sacramento and install the nine sculptures now being displayed was provided by many corporations and foundations. As diverse as they are, they all foresaw the impact that an exhibit of this scale would have in our local economy and in our shared efforts to build inclusivity and cross-cultural dialogue.
On Tuesday, May 18, Greenville County Council will decide whether to allocate $7,500 to Hispanic Alliance or redirect it elsewhere. If granted to Wings of the City these funds will be a needed investment in our economic recovery, but more importantly, it will model effective local government willing to listen to their constituents. Whether the Hispanic Alliance is granted these funds or not, public art is fulfilling its purpose. We deeply appreciate our community’s outpouring of support and encourage you to continue engaging in positive, community-building dialogue.
The artist, Jorge Marin, seeks to change the urban landscape and tell personal and collective stories with his sculptures. It is our hope that we as a community will choose to build a collective story of inclusion, understanding, and unity, as we celebrate the universal bond of human connection. Please visit the collection and tell us about your wings. Where could wings take you? Where could they take us as a community?
To learn more about the exhibit, visit www.WingsofGVL.com.