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Student participates in historical High exhibit

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April 16, 2013

Over there: Artist Frida Kahlo presents herself with pet spider monkey peers in “Self-Portrait with Monkeys.”

Right here: Artist Diego Rivera’s most accomplished and earliest painting of calla lilies, “Flower Day,” won first prize in the First Pan-American Exhibition of Oil Paintings.

José IbarraJosé IbarraGeorgia College junior José Ibarra guides local families through the colorful and authentic artwork of the two 20th-century Mexican painters during tours at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

“I pick five family-friendly pieces from the exhibit to discuss with visitors to help explain the shapes, colors and techniques used by these influential artists,” said Ibarra, a fine arts major. “As a bilingual student, I’m also able to connect with both Spanish- and English-speaking families to help interpret the artists’ work.”

The legendary couple’s paintings are on display at the Museum through Sunday, May 12, for the “Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting” exhibition — the only time the work of these icons has been featured together at a major museum in the Southeast.

The exhibition features more than 120 works, including paintings and drawings by the Mexican duo. The exhibit also contains photography by artists who have captured the couple’s shared passion for each other and Mexico’s revolutionary culture during the 1920s and ’30s. 

Ibarra received the opportunity to learn about and share the couple’s work through the High’s College Family Guide Program.

The program allows bilingual college students with a common interest in art and community engagement to connect with families by leading museum tours and assisting in art-making projects.

“Frida and Diego has attracted a new audience to the High,” said Erin Dougherty, manager of family and new audience initiatives at the museum. “The College Family Guide Program has been a wonderful way for us to connect with that audience, make them feel welcome and help them engage with the artwork.”

A self-taught painter, Kahlo began teaching herself to paint after a trolley car accident left her bedridden for more than a year.

During 1928, she met Rivera, a famed commissioned artist of public murals, at a Mexican Communist Party event. A year later they married.

The two had a passionate yet tumultuous marriage of extramarital affairs that ended in divorce then remarriage. Living together, the duo enjoyed producing separate art that represented Mexican traditions, history and culture.

To enhance students’ educational experiences with art exhibitions like Kahlo’s and Rivera’s, Georgia College partnered with the High during 2011. The partnership provides resources that integrate the arts into students’ coursework.

Georgia College is the second University System of Georgia school to participate in the partnership, which also provides university faculty, staff and students free admission to special exhibitions and permanent collections.

“This experience has allowed me to gain an in-depth appreciation for these legendary artists’ work and learn more about their interesting history,” said Ibarra. “This exhibit also is a great place for anyone to start exploring Mexican art and life during that time period.”

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ABOUT GEORGIA COLLEGE: Georgia College, the state’s designated Public Liberal Arts University, combines the educational experience expected at esteemed private liberal arts colleges with the affordability of public higher education. Its four colleges – arts and sciences, business, education and health sciences – provide 6,600 undergraduate and graduate students with an exceptional learning environment that extends beyond the classroom, with hands-on involvement with faculty research, community service, study abroad and myriad internships.

Founded in 1889, Georgia College boasts one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation with Corinthian columns fronting red brick buildings and wide open green spaces. Georgia College also offers graduate education at the historic Jefferson building in downtown Macon, at Robins Air Force Base and online.

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