Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Visioneer’s Gallery: Project Paz
As Juarez continues to struggle with drug violence, artists band together to aid the children of that beleaguered city
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Systemic violence is one of the most debilitating epidemics challenging the notions of progress in global societies today. There's perhaps no city worse hit by this disease than the Mexican town of Juarez located across the Texas border. Declared "the most violent zone in the world outside of declared war zones," Juarez has been at the center of narcotics trafficking for decades. Of the 2,600 killings that were directly linked to the drug war in Mexico in 2008, 1,400 of them occurred in Juarez. By 2010, the number of killings had jumped to 3,075, translating into 229 killings per 100,000 inhabitants. These numbers make Juarez 25% to 30% more violent than the second- and third-highest-rated crime cities in the world. Against this backdrop, it's no surprise that there's massive exodus from the city, with 116,000 homes reported abandoned last year—400,000 people forced out of their homes. This domino effect of crime and poverty has left Juarez completely "dispirited and disorderly," a city hijacked by drug cartels.
In a city where politics and governance have utterly failed to provide citizens with basic security and where the entire economy functions under the menacing shadow of narcotics trading, the only channels that can provide rays of hope and renewal and a connection with outside communities are strands of culture and art. In 2010, Sergio Urias, a lawyer in New York whose close friend was kidnapped in Juarez, organized a group of friends, equally frustrated by the complete stalemate on progress in Juarez, to create a tangible platform to contribute to the healing of Juarez through non-governmental initiatives. They created Project Paz, a group dedicated to raising awareness about the situation in Juarez and to promote peace in the region. Formed with friends in the fashion and art industries, Project Paz has rallied some of the best-known artists, designers and photographers to get involved through art and fashion exhibitions, and within three years of inception, the group has already raised $235,000 to help children in Juarez.
"We wanted to get the designers involved on a more personal level and to use their creativity in an innovative way," says Project Paz co-founder, Eugenia Gonzalez Ruiz-Olloqui. "They could show anything—a scent, a memory, a color, an item, etc."
Soliciting such pieces as "Passion" from Prabal Gurung, "Opened Doors," a photography triptych by Kean Etro, and "Carnations" by Derek Lam, the exhibition gave the audience a rare insight into an intimate aspect of these public figures.
Peter Som, one of the designers who participated in the exhibition, states, "This project is so important to me because children should never have to grow up in a place where they live in fear. Fashion and art have always played an active role in supporting such causes, and this one is no exception. We are all doing what we love, and we are so incredibly lucky that we had that choice. Many of these kids may not have that choice. We all have to do our part. These after-school programs will give them something constructive and fun to focus on and foster their growth, and most importantly, give them a chance to dream."
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