Last year in March, Victor Luis Garcia had the first few pages of his children’s book, Alphie—a work in progress—on display at the Illinois High School Art Exhibition, and was recognized as one of their Top 20 Scholarship Recipients. Victor is one of our Chicago Scholars’ Ambassadors, and is currently a freshman at the University of Michigan. Today, in honor of Children’s Book Week, we followed up with Victor on his life since the exhibition, and on the progress of his book.
– Victor Luis Garcia – Chicago Scholars Class of 2024
The last time we spoke, you had just received an award for the art from this book. What have you been up to since then?
I started my first year at the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art and Design! I don’t need to pick a major within Visual Arts because the Stamps curriculum allows for, and encourages, students to experiment with a variety of mediums. Since then, I have been working with a nonprofit called Healthy Hood Chicago under the Mural Movement team, where we have been working closely with a variety of Chicago-based artists to beautify underserved communities. We have worked on two Black and Brown Unity walls, a mural in memory of Vanessa Guillen, a mural to honor those we have lost to Covid-19, a mural in San Diego for a children’s play area for those who are seeking asylum—which was the first time I got to actually paint a mural instead of assist artists—and we are currently working on a mural project to honor Adam Toledo, where we will then have a vigil to go alongside it.
What inspired you to create Alphie?
As a Queer Chicano Artist, I am passionate about exploring identities and intersectionality through my work. I want to tell the unique and important individual stories of minority groups that don’t often get appropriately told in the media. Something I needed to hear at a younger age was that it was okay to be gay. I internalized homophobia at such a young age, and it affected my personal development as I got older. It doesn’t sit well with me knowing how common this experience is within the queer community, especially knowing that it is still relevant today. I needed to find a way to eliminate the self hatred queer youth have towards themselves as this demographic has the highest suicide rates. I find it heartbreaking knowing there are people who never lived a day of their life being their true, authentic selves.
The messages taught in your book, or at least in its concept, seemed like it could apply to everyone. Why direct it towards children as opposed to other people around your age or older?
I wanted to make this children’s book as a resource to be used for younger audiences to engage with. The overall goal of this book is to teach the importance of self love and acceptance. If I knew at a younger age how liberating being your authentic self could be, I would have done it way sooner! The benefit of this book is having adults read this book to children. The book covers heavy issues of anxiety and disownment within a family. Being queer in today’s society isn’t easy, and the last thing I wanted to do was depict an untruthful story. When a cisgendered heterosexual reads my book to children, they will also gain a deeper understanding of queer folk by seeing what goes on behind the scenes. Everyone gets to learn something, and together it will slowly wash away ignorance and preconceived ideas of the LGBTQ+ community.
What are your hopes for your book?
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has really slowed down my process in publishing this work, but I do hope to one day publish it!
What are your plans for the future, academically? Artistically?
I plan to graduate with a Bachelor in Fine Arts and a Minor in Marketing. Although I am unaware if I will continue children’s books, I know I will still work with broader themes of identity and intersectionality. I have a few big plans for my future. I plan to one day open up an Art Museum on the east side of Chicago in order to bring resources to the communities in the area. Another goal I have is to open up a Maker Space which will allow for creative youth, who don’t have a studio space nor the art materials to be creative, to explore with equipment they might not have access to at home. This space will allow for youth across the city of Chicago to come together, establish a community, and create meaningful relationships. Overall, these two goals are similar in the grand idea of providing free resources to youth in order to keep students off the streets and somewhere safe where they can engage with visual art!