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OUR BACK YARD FINE AND PERFORMING ARTS


Mercedes Inez Martinez (BA ‘11) teaches music, creates art, and is the founder of a cultural arts center in Pilsen. Art from the heart


Teaching and building community through the arts By AARON COOPER


side of Chicago, her main goal is to help children learn music and performance. But Martinez, who is part Mexican and part Spanish, also passes on her knowledge of Latino culture to the predominantly


W


hen Mercedes Inez Martinez (BA ‘11) walks into the classes she teaches at John Barry Elemen- tary School on the northwest


Spanish-speaking student body. One minute, she’s teaching children about basic


music theory, like note reading, singing tech- niques, rhythm, harmony, melody, and vocabulary. The next she’s teaching them Aztec drumming and about the Aztec legend of the white eagle, the founding of Mexico City, and how that all relates to images depicted on the Mexican flag. In addition to her teaching, which is supported


by a contract with Pulse Beat Music, Martinez founded and is artistic director at the MAGI Cultural Art Center in Pilsen. She is also a vocal- ist, guitarist, and accordionist who performs with various groups, including the Mexican folk band


Son Monarcas (“They are Monarchs” in Spanish), referring to Monarch butterflies. She also does freelance scenic design and painting of sets and backdrops for theatre companies. Martinez grew up in El Paso, Texas. She got to


know Chicago during summers in high school while attending improvisational comedy work- shops at Second City and working with sound and lights at Lookingglass Theatre. She would stay with her older sisters, one a professional dancer and choreographer and the other an actress. When her senior year ended, Martinez had one


more class requirement to fulfill—her language requirement. She traveled to Spain and studied


28 LOYOLA UNIVERSITY CHICAGO


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