GIOVANNI VALDERAS used to think of art as something created just for galleries. But while teaching in Dallas community colleges, he realized his students often found art inaccessible and intimidating. 

“I thought, ‘I’ve been doing this all wrong — my work needs to be out in the community,’ ” he explained. 

So he began making piñata-inspired houses and installing them “guerillastyle” around Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood, drawing attention to the affordable housing crisis and its impact on Black and Latinx communities. 

Teaching, too, is part of his practice. Now an assistant professor in TWU’s division of Visual Arts, Valderas is thrilled when students approach him after his presentations to share comments like, “I feel like you’re talking directly to me.” 

He clearly is. That’s why he makes art that draws from, and speaks to, his culture and community. 

“Artists,” he emphasized, “can be catalysts for change.” 

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