Centro Hispano’s pop-up food/art fusion is for ‘dreamers’

Event to highlight local Latinx chefs and artists
Centro Hispano’s pop-up food/art fusion is for ‘dreamers’
Three core organizers for Centro Hispano's upcoming An Evening of Dreaming event stand in front of a mural. (Left to right) Karen Menéndez Coller (Centro Hispano executive director), Bethany Jurewicz (VEA events founder) and Nina Gehen (Centro Hispano director of development).

Recent political decisions by President Donald Trump regarding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA , have moved the issues of immigration front and center. Immigrants are now at risk more than ever of losing previous protections. Centro Hispano looks to engage community members at its upcoming community-inclusive event, An Evening of Dreaming , from 6 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 22 and 23 at the Centro Hispano building on 810 W. Badger Road. The two-night popup event brings together local chefs and artists in an interactive open-house gallery.

“We just want this event to be thought-provoking and we want people to feel that ‘wow,'” says Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menendez Coller. “That at Centro, we are doing things differently and operating ahead of the trend and cutting edge, doing things differently for the community and with our partners. And I want everybody to leave feeling connected and more empowered within this city.”

About 800,000 people are enrolled in DACA as of 2017. They are nicknamed “Dreamers” after the 2001 DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act)–hence the title of Centro Hispano’s event. This American legislative proposal is a multi-phase process for qualifying alien minors. It first grants conditional residency and then permanent residency once meeting further qualifications. Since its conception, it has been reintroduced several times, but has since failed to pass.

“This decision by the Trump Administration was very clear,” says Nina Gehan, Centro Hispano’s director of development. “It put into question the lives of many people that we serve, including approximately 75 percent of our youth. It is important for us to show that we are there in support of our community at this time.”

An Evening of Dreaming ticket prices have been dropped completely after generous donations from area sponsors. Most notably, Madison’s area hospitals and clinics have chipped in significant funds at the event’s gold level. Centro Hispano is graciously asking for a suggested donation of $40 when registering online, but all levels of contribution are welcome to offer accessibility. All proceeds will support Centro’s mission of empowering youth, strengthening families and engaging the community.

Each night of the event will allow for 200 attendees, the first 100 being able to enjoy the chef-plated food created for the event. Doors open at 6 p.m. for mingling, live music and a cash bar. At 7:30 p.m., a spoken word artist will perform, followed by a short political keynote address on the current climate by Menendez Coller. Then, participants can explore the sprawling space of the center in an open-house gallery format. For those that remember Madison Library’s Bookless event, consider this similar.

“Our [Latinx] community already has a lot of power. It’s just making sure how they actually exercise it and that there are vehicles there for that to happen,” she says. “Outsiders need to feel empowered in creating a system that appreciates our community more so that our community can really flourish and exert that power.”

The event’s vision is from the input and imagination of Bethany Jurewicz, founder of VEA (Visual, Edible, Audible) Events . Her excitement is nothing short of contagious. “Centro reached out to me because I will bring a different audience and allow the showcasing of many Madison artists that are often not featured. Eighty-five percent of the chef and artist participants are Latinx,” Jurewics says. (The term Latinx , is part of a “linguistic revolution” aiming to move beyond gender binaries. It’s inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants.)

Elements were added to the event after additional donations were secured, including participatory art projects. For example, artist Mallory Shotwell will be creating a map of Wisconsin using collaborative fingerprints from attendees to depict a visual representation of community that highlights equality. She will also collect attendees’ oral histories documenting any fears they may have about DACA. A how-to-engage station, from Centro Hispano, will offer direction for attendees who want to invest further–resources are also available on the Centro Hispano website .

Three local chefs will each pair with an artist to create a fusion of food with various medias. As paint colors are translated into local ingredients, expect to be surprised at the blurring of lines between these two art forms. Participants will commence at a canape station set up in Centro’s rear garden with a rendition of an appetizer. Here, Sujhey Beisser (Centro Hispano board member and Five Senses Palate food blog) will guide attendees to create their own dishes.

It won’t be hard to miss chef David Rodriguez’s food truck, Melted, also parked outside. He’ll be contributing street tacos paired with muralist Rodrigo Carapia’s installation that will become a permanent piece for Centro’s interior.

Chef Giovanni Novella of Cento and Fresco will also prepare a Latinx/Italian fusion dish paired with installation artist and guild member Pete Hodapp–disorienting, repetitive, lace-like geometric patterning and squid ink are a couple of the teaser components.

Finally, chef Armando Sandoval of Bassett Street Brunch Club will combine forces with neon/black light artist Carlos Gacharna from 100 State to create food with “a glowing potential.” Guests should be prepared to feast both their eyes and palates at this station.

This event will also be a farewell to Centro Hispano’s current building interior as they prepare for profound changes. They were awarded a major remodel from Design for a Difference and FLOOR360 that will completely transform the space at the beginning of October (Oct. 1-15). Many of the much-loved murals and mosaics will be preserved, but otherwise, Menendez Coller says to expect a completely new space. This pending remodel also gives artists an opportunity for additional freedoms within their installations for this two-night popup event.

“We want to highlight the difficulties that these immigration decisions are making, but what we really want to do is celebrate all of the beautiful things that we all bring to America,” Gehan says.