In 2018, MICA launched the Ruby Chacón Social Justice Arts Award to recognize Salt Lake Valley residents who are advancing justice and equity in our communities through the arts. It is named after MICA co-founder Ruby Chacón, a Xicana artist, educator, activist, and community leader whose murals and other artwork can be seen across the Valley.
Ruby has dedicated her career to supporting young and emerging artists and to amplifying the individuals, stories, and cultures that have been kept out of our national narrative. It is in that spirit that we honor members of our community with this award. See below to learn about past recipients.
Not long after the news of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department shocked the country, the SLC Mural Makers honored the life of Floyd by painting a beautiful mural on the exterior walls of the Fleet Building, on the corner of 800 South and 300 West. Soon thereafter, many other portraits began to appear next to that of George Floyd: these portraits honor, celebrate, and uplift the lives of just a few of the countless victims of police brutality here in Utah, and across the country. This collection of murals has become a place where our communities come together to mourn, celebrate, and reflect.
Dr. Leticia Alvarez Gutiérrez is an Associate Professor in Education, Culture & Society at the University of Utah. She is a Purépecha Xicana scholar and educator whose research draws from critical social theory, ecological systems theory, a sociocultural view of development, migration scholarship, cultural assets frameworks, Chicana feminist theory, ethnographic and participatory action research (PAR) approaches.
Leticia is also the faculty mentor for the Mestizo Arts and Activism Collective, a group of high school students, undergraduate mentors, researchers, university faculty and artists who work collaboratively to create positive change in their communities. Through culturally relevant methods of teaching and learning, MAA works together to foster an engaging space for high school students to develop community-based leadership skills and create community based research projects that address issues that matter to their communities.
Jean Tokuda Irwin, a naturalized citizen, holds a B.A./M.A. from the University of Texas (UTMB). Since 1991, she is the Arts Education Program Manager for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums advancing opportunities for lifelong engagement in the arts. She serves on NASAA/AE’s Diversity, Equity, Access & Inclusion Group & NEA/POL Accessibility Working Group, Spy Hop Advisory Board, Emerald Hills Institute Advisory Board. Past professional service includes National Endowment for the Arts panels, reviewer 8 years on the President’s Committee for Arts and Humanities Education; NASAA/AE Advisory Group & Leadership Taskforce, Coalition for Minorities Advisory Committee to the Utah State Board of Education; the Utah Indian Education Taskforce. Her mixed media work appeared in the 2002 Cultural Olympiad featuring 20 works by Utah women. The Goddess of Hysterectomy was featured at Art Access and in national publications. In 2020, a work that focused on the children locked in U.S. border cages was included in the Clay, Paper, Scissors Gallery in Laramie, WY.
Header image of piece from “Hands Up Don’t Shoot: A Group Exhibition”