Nuestra Casa, The Exhibition

Is on display on the Tom Lea Gallery of the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens at The University of Thexas at El Paso from Juanuary 17 to December 6, 2012.
The Centennial is located at the corner of University Avenue and Wiggins Road on the UTEP campus. It is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Parking in the Centennial's parking lot and admission are both free.
For more information, contact the Centennial Museum at 915-747-5565 or www.muesum.utep.edu.

Nuestra Casa, the Exhibition includes five major components: the Casa, “tendederos” (cloths lines) of “trapitos,” a tour photo-collage, 10 photo-stories, and an in gallery computer station where museum visitors may access and contribute their own online exhibition content. The gallery space creates an immersive experience through the Casa installation at the same time that it also serves to chronicle the 2009-10 tour of Nuestra Casa (hosted by Project Concern International, ABC with funding from USAID Mexico) and provide a window into the lives of 10 people touched by the Nuestra Casa Project as documented by Damien Schumann. The computer station creates a seamless connection between the gallery installation and the online material and social media such as Facebook where anyone may contribute their perspectives or comment on, “like,” or share the content contributed by others.

The Tendederos of Trapitos. As visitors enter the gallery, what they see first is a forest of draped cotton cloth hanging vertically in rows one after the other obscuring the Casa from view. Each of the floor to ceiling pieces of draped cloth (the tendederos) contain between 8 and 10 small, napkin-size pieces of cloth (the trapitos) with the impressions, thoughts, reactions, blessings, and sometimes well-wishes of those who visited the exhibit during its 2009-10 tour written on them. The selection of these quotes and the creation of the tendederos themselves is the work of UTEP students. Visitors walk through the tendederos reading the messages as they take in the human dimension of tuberculosis and the profound impact that the exhibition has had on so many people already.

The Casa.The Casa is a full-size “colonia or shantytown” style house that brings the world and living conditions that contribute to the spread of tuberculosis and other health disparities to the exhibition. Inside the Casa, furniture, decorations, and photo snapshots create a “homey” ambiance while several chairs set up in front of a television serve as a viewing station for an approximately 20 minute video documenting the history and tour of the Nuestra Casa Project.

The Tour Photo-Collage.On a wall adjacent to the Casa, photographs from the tour locations taken by visitors and participants create a collage representing the Nuestra Casa tour. Short quotes from student analysis of the messages written on the trapitos provide insights into how visitors to the exhibition responded in different cities on the tour. A corresponding QR (Quick Response) code enables visitors to use their mobile devices to access the complete student analyses of the trapitos (Student Trapito Analyses or STAs) on the Nuestra Casa Initiative web site (www.NuestraCasaInitiative.net). The on-line material may also be accessed using the in gallery computer station.

The Photo-Stories.On several walls in the gallery, large high-quality photographs by Damien Schumann provide a glimpse into the lives and struggles of ten people who have been touched by tuberculosis or who know someone or have a loved one with the disease. The photos have no label, only a QR code enabling visitors to see related photos and read the corresponding story about those featured in the Schumann’s photographs on the Nuestra Casa Initiative web site (www.NuestraCasaInitiative.net). The on-line material may also be accessed using the in gallery computer station.

The Gallery Computer Station.Computers at a work-station in the gallery provide visitors with online access to exhibition material. “Nuestra Casa, The Exhibition” is also designed to be a key component, a catalyst, for the wider Nuestra Casa Initiative with programming stressing community participation and engagement in the fight against tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Part of that participatory strategy includes providing online opportunities for Initiative partners and the wider public to engage with the exhibition and the gallery computer work station provides museum visitors without handheld mobile devices access to the internet.