Despite the Distance, Art Unites the 956

Words by Josue Ramirez

Edited by Abigail Vela

People from the Lower Rio Grande region have a strong affinity to our area code— Puro Pinche 956, after all. But we are not the only folks who can rep the telephonic code. Outside of the RGV, Laredo is one of the larger cities in the 956. Despite the many similarities in history and experiences, the bond between the region might seem strained because of the distance. Cultivarte Laredo, a program of the Daphne Foundation, provides resources for fronterizx artists and bridges that distance among creatives throughout the entire 956. 


The Virtual Artist-in-Residence (V-AiR), Cultivarte’s signature program, is in its third year. The program will grant (3) South Texas artists stipends of $1,250 to work remotely for three months to create a new body of artwork while working closely with a mentor and engaging with a virtual audience. 

The selected artists will be required to present a virtual community engagement on social media and actively document and share their residency experience. Their residency will conclude when they present the artwork created at the residency in the AiR Cohort Group Exhibition in the fall of 2023. 

The V-Air 2022 Cohort at the opening for their group show Place/d at Texas A&M International University at the Center for Fine and Performing Arts Visual Gallery. Image by Cultivarte.

RGV V-Air Alumni

UTRGV MFA Candidate Karla Gabriela De La Fuente was a VAiR 2022 Cohort member and benefitted from the past residency program, “My experience in Cultivarte was incredible. I had the opportunity to share my work with other artists tied to the border and experience a collective process through the guidance of our director, Maritza Bautista.”

During her time at  V-AiR with Cultivarte, Fuentes explored the materiality, technique, and artistic potential of handmade paper. Her project’ mantra, “Todo Hecho a Mano,” or “Everything Handmade,” was explored through her papermaking practice.

Fuentes created seven series using different dyes and materials, including US Dollars, Confetti, Snakeskin, and Espinas, each exploring the human experience through motivation, memory, cultural history, and emotion.

“I investigated the technical design of Papel Amate by the Otomi Peoples and incorporated the use of modern materials and locally sourced natural elements. I created a hybridized medium that transcends cultures and borders, exactly as I, a Fronteriza, do.”

V-AiR 2022 Artist Karla Gabriela De La Fuente, image by the artist.
Cultivarte’s Virtual Artist in Residence (V-AiR) 2023 Open Call, image by Cultivarte.

Cultivarte Ahora!


The opportunities for artist residencies along the frontera in Texas are rare and limited. Accessibility is a concern along the border because of distance, the hyper surveillance of citizenship status, and the general lack of creative infrastructure. Because of that, the hybrid space that V-AiR provides for artistic studio practice and educational resources is a great match for many. 

For V-AiR Alumni Karla de La Fuente, programs in the arts like those provided by Cultivarte are vital to our communities because “they provide outlets for artists to advance in their practice and, most importantly, inspire future generations of border

The V-AiR Open Call closes on March 11th.  

Interested artists should review requirements and apply!

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