Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

from ¡Azucar!

This month you’ll find celebrations of Hispanic heritage in all sorts of corners of the city – and that’s thanks in part to the efforts of Helene Ruiz. The Bronx native lives in Mechanicsville VA these days, but nothing has slowed her commitment to artists, culture and the community.

Before we launch into the quick Q & A, here are two events to keep track of:

Sabor Feminina (Female Flavor) at Pine Camp Cultural Arts Center through November 2. The free show features Ruiz’s Goddesses series, with nods to Cuban Yoruba spiritualism.   Mon – Fri 10 – 7 pm. Saturday 10 am – 2 pm.

¡Azucar! at Art6 Gallery, Oct 5, 5 – 10 pm. Ruiz ushers in First Fridays doing what she does best: gathering artists together to celebrate in one voice. This multimedia event will feature the work of several Latin visual artists as well as the Latin Ballet of Virginia and Cuban percussionist (click to listen) Melena la Rumbera.

Five questions with Helene Ruiz

Helene Ruiz

What’s a nice Bronx girl like you doing in Mechanicsville?

My parents moved to Virginia almost 30 yrs ago. My father passed back in 2001, my mom is getting old and my sister suffers from MS, so I figured, why not move there, help out with the house and help them? After all, art is everywhere anyway! I can always get back and forth to NYC whenever I need, it’s not that far away.

Why did you think it was important to pull together ¡Azucar! in Richmond?

I thought it was important to use art as a means of education on the diversity of Latinos thus hopefully eliminating stereotypical images. Also, in this exhibit, I am dedicating one area to the Orishas in order to show the connections of spirituality and culture to Africa. When the slaves were transported to the islands, they were forced into Catholicism. They worshipped their gods secretly under the Catholic icons since they were not allowed to worship their gods openly.

You met Salvador Dali in 1973! Not many people can say such a thing. Tell us about the experience and how it impacted you as an artist?

I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity to be part of an art class at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In one of the life drawing classes, we were asked to sketch a very large model. I was sketching her like she seemed to me, as a large melting candle dripping over the chair. Dali was walking through the classroom looking over the students’ shoulders at their drawings of this model. When he came to mine, he patted me on the shoulder and winked his eye. I, at the time, had no idea who he was. Then the teacher told me OMG! That was Dali! He liked your drawing! This further confirmed my love for surrealism at a young age.

You were the founder of an artist collective called the Urban Individualists. Does that group still exist in New York? Is ¡Azucar! a sample of the arts collective experience? When I moved from New York, the collective kind of scattered all over the USA and internationally as well. However, most still do participate in shows I organize. And, yes! This is a sample of an arts collective experience I would say!

New projects you want to tell us about? If I could slow down this mind of mine it would be weird! lol…but I am certainly thinking of a few proposals for the future! And there will always be ideas for projects, the usual set backs are funding, venues, etc.

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