By Emely Bonilla, Sept. 27, 2022

The Cal Poly Pomona library takes steps to emphasize the importance of ethnic stories by curating and sponsoring events such as Art in the Park on September 21, a Zoom lecture hosted by Salomon Huerta. 

Justin Torres, CPP’s first ethnic studies librarian and co-coordinator for Art in the Park, described how the library hopes to provide a platform for both students and faculty to organize various events. This event acted as the first steppingstone for the community to see how the library can be a resource for event planning; the library is open to collaborating and sponsoring activities on campus. 

“When I think of the library I think of a safe place, but also a place where events can happen. A place where we can showcase different things,” said Torres.  

As a CPP alumnus, Torres described how he felt that there has been a need for the campus to push important topics revolving around ethnic studies and the creation of the position of ethnic studies librarian allowed for this push to happen. 

Art in the Park is the first of many events curated by Torres with the help of Professor Alvaro Huerta, Salomon Huertas brother, to highlight different disciplines that can appeal to many ethnic groups.  

The webinar was a free lecture featuring Salomon Huerta, a first-generation artist who was born in Tijuana, Mexico and detailed his struggle towards a higher education. Throughout the lecture Huerta displayed his work on the screen and described the tools used to create the piece and the inspiration behind it. As a first-generation student with an art focus, he did not feel prepared for a higher education and had to face many challenges to be where he is today. 

Photo courtesy of Justin Torres

Huerta was raised in the projects of Boyle Heights, Los Angeles and attended Lincoln High School where he felt he was offered little to no resources to help him obtain a higher education. Through persistency and determination, he was able to attend ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena and later attend UCLA for a master’s in fine arts. Currently, Huerta has displayed his art in museums nationwide such as the Smithsonian Institute, the Museum of Contemporary Art and many more. 

Alvaro Huerta, an urban and regional planning and ethnic and women’s studies professor, collaborated with the library to create Art in the Park with the hopes of inspiring students with all backgrounds and struggles.  

Professor Huerta chose his brother to host this online seminar because he knew Huerta could, “show Cal Poly Pomona students a concrete role model of someone who came from the bottom and made it to the top, but without forgetting his roots of where he came from.” 

With the recent passing of California legislative bill AB-1460 the state has now required that all students from the CSU system take an ethnic studies course to obtain their degree beginning with the graduating class of 2024. Since this is not a requirement for all students attending CPP, events like Art in the Park are able to begin a smoother transition for placing a required emphasis on ethnic studies.  

CPP is one of the universities within California that falls under the HSI (Hispanic-Serving Institution) category. The title of HSI is awarded to schools nationwide that have at least a quarter of Hispanic students and faculty members. Professor Huerta recognizes the importance of highlighting the students that create this demographic.  

Professor Huerta believes that “our status as HSI is something we should not neglect. We need people like Justin and his role at the library can educate the broader community about issues of social justice and the role of art within these communities.” 

Justin Torres and Professor Huerta will continue to work together throughout this semester to create interdisciplinary activities to motivate students at CPP. 

Samantha Castaneda, a biology student, attended Art in the Park and describes how it “impacted me as a Latina because this was the first time, I have ever felt a connection with an art piece. To see my culture painted in a beautiful light was heartwarming.”

Art in the Park is just the beginning of the library’s efforts in bringing light to ethnic studies and the stories that form it. The next event will be a documentary screening of “Backstreet to the American Dream” taking place at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, September 28. For more information about any upcoming activities visit the library’s website. 

Feature image courtesy of Justin Torres

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