Finding Common Ground Through Art and Memory

IMG_0419Patsi Aguero grew up with a rich cultural history. Her mother was from Spain, and Aguero was born and raised in Ybor City. As an artist, her heritage has always been apparent in her work. Yet she was becoming more and more disturbed by the divisiveness between races and cultures.

“I thought, how could I be of greater service in this situation? What could one person do to make a difference?” she says. “I decided I could start bridging the gap by focusing on our similarities rather than our differences.”

Aguero has owned a house in Gulfport for the past 25 years. When her mother became ill, she was her mother’s caregiver for six years, even moving to Atlanta for two years. Her mother passed away in May 2015, and Aguero returned to Gulfport.

The loss of her mother, and her increasing discomfort with the divisiveness she saw and heard around her caused Aguero to reflect on the memories and traditions of growing up in Ybor City.

“After the death of my mother I began to excavate memories from the past. I saw a pattern begin to emerge,” she says.

The similarities Aguero was seeking to incorporate into her work were elements of her childhood that included food, religious rituals, music, art and laughter.

“The diverse tongues all spoke a similar language, which is the heart of community spirit,” she says.  “Losing my mother made me think more about the past and my childhood.”

Ybor City was once known as the cigar capital of the world, and Aguero began using cigar boxes as a vehicle to portray universal themes from a first kiss to a first communion.

“What better way to show Ybor City than with cigar boxes and tell a story through that medium,” Aguero says. “The cigar boxes are a springboard from which to start a conversation about our similarities.”

Aguero has always been an advocate for the healing power of art. She has been a fundraiser and art activist for Art For Life in Tampa and Bark For Art in Gulfport. She is a grant writer and currently on the board of the City of Imagination. She is a National Board Certified Teacher who has taught art at both public and private schools, ending her teaching career at Nina Harris School in Pinellas Park teaching special needs children.

“It’s amazing to see children who have no other way to communicate be able to communicate through art,” she says.

In addition to creating the cigar boxes, Aguero continues to paint on canvas in tropical hots and cools, of subjects that also celebrate the human spirit. Her studio is in the back of her house near downtown Gulfport, letting in plenty of light and overlooking her lush back yard filled with native foliage.

“I believe if you follow whatever talent God has given you, you will be the happiest you can be,” says Aguero. “I hit my sweet spot when I am painting and am the happiest I’ve ever been.”

Aguero will host her fine art exhibit “An Evening of Diversity” on Friday, November 6. The event starts at the Catherine Hickman Theater with an open exhibit reception from 4 to 6 p.m., then moves to the Arts Building by the Dog Park from 6 to 8 p.m. for a reception and multi-cultural interactive experience. The show is dedicated to her mother.

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