Gathering images from the majestic volcanoes surrounding Ciudad de Guatemala in his youth, Hector Castellanos Lara brings forth a lament of sorrow, exile and joy from Central America. His early influences included his father, a well-known commercial painter in Guatemala who worked on giant commercial and political murals from the 1950s through the 1970s. Castellanos Lara’s mother, who drew inspiration from the folk art of Guatemala as a dressmaker, which included images of daily life, also had a major impact on him. From this enchanted beginning an environment of art, joy and struggle, Hector’s work flows today.
In Long Island, New York, during the 1980s he developed his talents as a commercial designer working for El Greco Footwear, Inc. At the same time, Hector began to explore and develop his work in the Fine Arts. Now a resident of Cleveland Ohio since 1990 Hector Castellanos Lara has had numerous exhibitions and workshops in the Cleveland Museum of Art, Playhouse Square Foundation – Education Department, Outreach Programs Young Audiences, Outreach Programs Beck Center for the Arts, Immigrant Worker Project, International Community Council, The Arthouse, International House of Blues Foundation, MetroHealth Center, and Broadway School of Music and the Arts. Including a solo exhibition “Spirit of Spontaneity”, the final exhibit at Cleveland State University Art Gallery and Creighton University “Winter 2015-16” Omaha, NE.
Hector’s participation with many organizations in promoting and working with variety of community arts and cultural programs has established new opportunities for artists in the Greater Cleveland. Starting with his work with Escuela Popular where he coordinated exhibits of emerging Latino Artists from Northeast Ohio, as well working with artist who came from Central America and Mexico to exhibit in Cleveland, Ohio for the first time. From these beginnings he started working with the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Parade the Circle and Chalk Festival as well at The Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin as both an Artist-in-Residence and Outreach Artist in schools and community centers across Cleveland.
This work, organizing community outreach and artists, lead Hector Castellanos Lara to become a co-founder of ALU (Artistas Latinos Unidos), an association dedicated to promoting the art of Latina/os and has served as a connect point for educational, community and social service organizations seeking artists for a myriad of projects. ALU, in coordination with Cleveland Public Theatre, has mobilized students, immigrant community and members of the general public to celebrate Day of Dead, a multi-day event mixing traditions from across the Americas in art, dance, puppetry and music.
As a community lead, artist and organizer Hector works with diverse populations to cross borders – both real and imagined. This ranges from his work as a board member of Spaces Galleries World Artist Program hosting emerging world artists and to work with migrant farm workers through the Immigrant Worker Project. He has worked with organizations such as the International Community Council, Cleveland Public Library and countless local universities (College of Wooster, Cleveland State University, Baldwin Wallace College, Ashland University, Walsh University, Creighton University) to create interactive community art projects. These projects not only awaken the imagination of members or students but also help these organizations create new community relationships.
It is not surprising that another facet of Hector Castellanos Lara’s work is in education and the arts. He has worked in numerous public and private schools (K-12) on interactive educational projects. Most important has been his work awaking people to the tradition of the Alfombras – a sawdust and flower carpets that draw on the traditional and modern images from Latin America and Community Mural Projects. These workshops/projects include presentations on the history and traditions of popular art in the Americas. Hector’s work has not been limited to traditional settings as demonstrated by his bilingual art therapy since 2010 with ALAS (Alliance of Latinos Against Stigma) a project of NAMI & Centers for Families & Children. In art, education and community building the core of Hector Castellanos Lara’s work is to reach across the barriers that bind us to the past and together create a new future.