Esmeralda Vasquez (she/they) is a Teaching Artist with Urban ArtWorks, a multi-disciplinary artist and muralist, and a member of Washington State’s transformative teaching community known as TAT Lab. Her experience as a Latinx / LGBTQ+ artist from the Yakima Valley has expanded her view of the world and inspired her drive to connect with people from diverse backgrounds. Her journey as an artist and educator has recently taken flight, quite literally, with her striking mural at the Museum of Flight as part of their “Art + Flight” initiative. Urban ArtWorks supported a community paint day for her Museum of Flight mural. This spotlight sheds light on Esmeralda’s creativity, her connection to her heritage, and her dedication to inspiring young artists.

Esmeralda’s mural at the Museum of Flight highlights her unique vision and shows a sense of playfulness and wonder reminiscent of childhood. Esmeralda’s artwork often carries hidden details and Easter eggs that reward careful observation. Beyond the surface, her art tells stories and creates connections.

As a Teaching Artist, Esmeralda finds joy in working with young artists, and she encourages young minds to explore the possibilities of art, inspiring the next generation of artists.

We sat down with Esmeralda to ask her a few questions:

What message or emotion were you hoping the mural conveys to viewers? Murals often have hidden details or Easter eggs that reward careful observation. Are there any hidden elements or subtle references in your mural that viewers should keep an eye out for?

I designed this mural with the intention of capturing the feeling of freedom through flight inspired icons and imagery. There’s a playfulness to it that is reminiscent of childhood and the wonder that comes along with it. When you see it, I hope you feel that sense of freedom, possibility, and growth that these icons symbolize.

Public art often has the power to inspire and connect with people on a personal level. Have you received any memorable feedback or stories from museum visitors or community members about their experiences with your mural?

During production week I received so many kind words of encouragement and admiration for this mural from visitors and museum employees alike, but one unique interaction comes to mind that happened during one of my paint days at the mural site. This sweet elderly woman came up to me while I was painting to give me these amazing watercolor sketches that she created during the community paint day. In her sketches, she documented moments in time that can’t be recreated, and that makes me appreciate this whole experience even more. Shout out to @redharparts for capturing the early progress of this mural through her beautiful artwork. I framed both pieces, and they now live by my desk at home for me to see every day.

In your role as a Teaching Artist, what is your favorite aspect of working with young artists, and how have they inspired you?

I love working with young artists because I love being reminded of how and why I became so attached to art when I was a kid. Every time I get to introduce them to things as simple as mixing two colors together or the impact that public art can make, it’s very rewarding, and a little bit nostalgic for me. In my youth, when I was really starting to lean into art and learn about the possibility of it becoming a career path, I didn’t have anyone around me that was a true example of what that could look like. So, as a muralist and a person of color, and now a teaching artist as well, I’m inspired to keep going on this journey because when I was a kid I really needed to know that someone like myself existed.

How do you incorporate elements of your culture and heritage into your art?

This is something I’m still learning how to do everyday. The artwork that I create now is still a fairly new style to me, and it’s only going to continue to evolve which is really exciting. It started last year when I did a piece for Dia de los Muertos called “La Cobija”, which translates to “The Blanket” in English. With that piece, I discovered my love for patterns and warm colors that are reminiscent of traditional Mexican designs found in talavera tiles and even textiles like Mexican blankets and clothing. Adapting to this new style has inspired me to create work that makes me feel deeply connected to my beautiful and colorful heritage, and I’m really proud of that. For so long I was not ready to explore color in the ways that I do now. Color means so much to me personally and also for my culture, so it feels really good to finally be in a place in my life where I can express that for myself and feel like it’s actually true. Have you ever heard the song Color My Life by Chicano Batman? That’s exactly what it feels like, but in song form.

Esmeralda curated a special playlist to celebrate Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month. Every track on her playlist features talented Latinx and Spanish artists. What makes this playlist even more unique is that she has seen nine out of the ten artists perform live in concert.

Listen to Esmeralda’s playlist!
and follow her on Instagram: @esoveresmeralda

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