Building a Seedbed for Change: Meet Lorena Cofradía
Mar 16, 2022
Art is a heavy and complex topic that is so diverse that everyone has their way of defining and understanding it. For some people, art is the activity by which a person, having experienced an emotion, intentionally transmits it to others. For others, art is about showing a different perspective, and the “more cynical” will say that art only exists because math is too hard. Whatever the case may be, the fact is that art needs to be classified and distributed because simply when art is created, it becomes part of a group (either cultural, regional, or thematic).
That is where cultural promoters and managers are fundamental. Promoters need to make artwork available while ensuring their development, like in showings and exhibitions. Conversely, they also have an essential role- one that is educational in the sense that those exhibitions need to be accessible to different crowds while showing a narrative line and coherence. Cultural managers serve as mediators between works of art and people- they take care of the deals and connections between art, institutions, and the outside world.
Being a cultural manager or promoter is already a heavy burden but doing both at the same time is extremely complicated. So, today we want to introduce and celebrate our friend Lorena Cofradía, a cultural manager and promoter who has worked closely on solving social issues in different communities, including gender inequality. A communicator and photographer by profession. Nowadays, her work is centered around two projects: Lacustre (founded by herself) and AURORA (co-founded with C de Cultura, GAMA, and Yo Estoy Aquí). Both are independent and multidisciplinary projects that seek to create art spaces, communities, and exchanges in Mexico City while empowering women and shining a light on gender inequalities.
Regarding sustainability and social progress, Lorena worked on an art project at Central de Abasto (Latin America’s largest wholesale market). The project aimed to revalue collective areas in Mexican City through art. This led to a series of murals and a collaboration with the United Nations Information Center for Mexico (CINU). The project provided an opportunity for dozens of urban artists to showcase their interpretation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The function of these goals is to raise awareness and set targets to eradicate poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of the 2030 Agenda. The project at Central de Abasto looks to achieve a better world through art by giving a new meaning to such an important space.
Meet Lorena Cofradía
Hello, Lorena! Thanks a lot for accepting this interview. Recently you founded Lacustre and co-founded AURORA, what were some motivations behind these projects?
To solve social problems, you have to work with the community and that kind of work requires you to be there. In that sense, it was like the Central de Abasto project, but there, the size was completely different. Central de Abasto is the largest market in Latin America, after all. It was like a city in itself and although there was a connection with its inhabitants, it never ended up being deep. Something similar happened with a project in Nicaragua. There I had to work with a very isolated community where they were working with a turbine because they had no electricity. Yes, you arrive there and try your best to be part of the community, but you never integrate completely with it. So, they are projects to build and integrate the community from scratch and with long-term impact. I realized that working with communities for such a short time does not allow you to work in-depth, it does not allow you to see a long-term change. With Lacustre, I seek to reintegrate the community, to create a seedbed to develop long-term social change projects.
AURORA puts the spotlight on women artists who seek new forms of living through street art. We want to show the gender inequality and discrimination they face daily. The festival is called Aurora because it is a light that is put on women so that they are in the spotlight and their voice reaches more people. Aurora also is the name of the first Mexican muralist, Aurora Reyes. AURORA from the beginning was founded as a community and a cooperative project that is only possible with the support and work of all of its parts. That is, we seek to create links between women artists to create a more united community without losing our individual voices.
How did you choose the space that would become Lacustre?
I have a special kind of love for the house that is now Lacustre because it is my grandparents' house. Of course, it is located in a difficult area of Mexico City. For as long as I can remember, there have always been problems of crime and insecurity in the area. Those issues made my family protect me and not let me leave the house too much. So, I adapted and resignified the space to have a reunion with that community and the roots of that place. The name comes from the fact that the terrain was a lake area (Lacustre means "Pertaining or relating to lakes" in Spanish). Also, my grandfather worked with chinampas (Aztec floating gardens used for agriculture), so the idea of the seedbed is also there. The history of the place is also quite rich because it is one of the seven barrios of Iztacalco's Historic Center. It is very important to rescue that history since it has been lost over time due to urbanization.
What does Lacustre represent for you on a personal level?
Lacustre represents a part of me. Not only about my roots, but it is also a project that I do not want to label and classify in a particular field. I want it to be able to carry out many types of activities. I want it to be like a seedbed to reintegrate the community and communicate the feelings I have for that space. It is a project in which I can work with a community for a long time to have more impact and see long-term results.
What you do today is what you wanted to do when you were little?
No, it's different. I always knew I was going to do something creative, but I've never liked to categorize myself into something. I've always been interested in a lot of things, and when you are little, you think that career paths are straightforward.
What do you like about urban art?
I like to cause and see people's reactions while the artistic process is taking place, once the work is finished and once it is part of the urban space. It doesn't matter if it's a positive, negative or neutral reaction. A reaction shows what is going on in your environment and in the community in which the artwork was created. I enjoy seeing how you can inspire, anger, make people laugh or make them think about a social issue.
As a woman working in male-dominated spaces, have you experienced any prejudice, discrimination, or lack of support towards you or your ideas?
Yes, working with diverse communities means that you will confront gender inequality. Urban art involves working on the streets and exposes you to verbal aggression or other kinds of attacks. Their treatment and language are different when they must work with a woman. On management, the treatment has always been very respectful. Also, I am lucky to be surrounded by a great number of women managers and promoters. In other words, gender inequality is more obvious among communities but is not common in my professional circle. Of course, all this comes from the side of management and promotion. Women artists face a lot of gender discrimination and inequality. That is why in AURORA we seek to recover the spaces and boost their voices.
What is the importance of having a physical space to promote art?
Having a physical space allows you to have the freedom to do with it what you want. The space can also be a way to build an identity for the project. Also, if the public likes the space, they will come back even if the content is different.
What do you think about today’s progress on gender equality?
We still have a long way to go but deconstructing ourselves allows us to move forward at a good pace. Deconstruction allows us to adapt and accept new ideas, as well as decide how we want to carry out those changes. Empathy and understanding are fundamental to continue developing gender equality.
Is it possible to achieve a sustainable society without gender equality?
No, we need gender equality because a sustainable society is not achieved by only meeting one of its goals. United Nations' 2030 agenda establishes that we need to achieve all its goals to have a sustainable lifestyle. I must confess, I am a bit pessimistic about it. We are a bit late, but I do believe that there can be a change if we plant the right seeds and help them grow. Every positive change has value, no matter how small it is.
What comes next for these projects?
I don't like to classify Lacustre as a gallery, a community space, or a workshop. It is a very rich space, and I have dedicated myself and learned so many things that I want to apply. It is not fair that the space holds only one kind of activity or purpose. I don't mean that it will stop promoting urban art or stop doing film screenings. Those goals and activities will continue, but I plan to expand its horizons and explore many areas without losing its aim. AURORA and Lacustre are seedbeds for community reintegration, places to merge art with their physical space.
What piece of advice would you give to women that want to join the art community or develop their own projects?
Do not to be afraid to make mistakes. Part of doing a project is to be adventurous, to learn from the experience, and use that to be a better manager and promoter.
As you can see, public spaces need to be a place of gender equality to create a true sense of community. Lacustre and AURORA support and seek to develop women's rights and to reduce gender inequality through art and community support. That is why we must continue to make visible the problems that we still have to this day in terms of gender equality. Art reminds us that we all deserve equal and fair treatment without any kind of violence, stigmas or stereotypes. Lorena’s projects represent and put the spotlight on diverse women so that any woman who passes by that area can identify with them, with their struggles, but also their strength and passion. It is only through equality that we can reach our common nature.
Lorena Cofradía is a communications professional who works in the creative and multimedia industry. Her career path includes audiovisual production, photography, advertising, and art direction for national and international companies as Condé Nast, GQ, Grupo Medios, MVS, Sephora, and Cuauhtémoc-Moctezuma. In recent years, she developed her career as a cultural manager and producer for projects that use art as a tool for community integration and social change. In September 2021, she founded Lacustre, a space that decentralizes cultural manifestations and serves as a space for community cultural integration in addition to promoting Mexico City's historical past through workshops, interventions in public spaces, and film screenings.