Meet the Artist: Bryant Parroquin
By Lea Hart
From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the Poole College of Management annually celebrates Latinx Heritage Month by acknowledging the heritage and culture of our Latinx students, faculty, staff and community.
This year, Poole College commissioned a mural in the East Courtyard of Nelson Hall that focuses on this year’s theme, Hacia adelante, which translates to “moving forward”. Bryant Parroquin combined his background in graphic design and his Hispanic culture to create the Latinx Heritage Month mural.
Q&A with Bryant Parroquin
Tell us about you and your cultural background?
I was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and lived my entire life in Siler City, NC. Both of my parents are from Mexico. They came to the States as teenagers for the opportunities here, and to help their siblings and my grandparents back in Mexico. They lived in California for a while, but when my older brother was born they moved to the East Coast because they’d heard there were job opportunities and it was a good place to raise a family.
How did you come to be involved in the new Latinx mural project at the Poole College of Management at NC State?
Gavin Bell, a college friend, works with the university. He connected me with Tayah Butler (Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Poole College). She was looking for someone to do a mural in honor of Latinx Heritage Month, and was looking for someone with a Hispanic background and knowledge of the culture. I have a background in graphic design and creating art, so I connected with Tayah and it went from there.
Your work displays a brightly colored Lotería board illustrating shared traditions and cultural symbolism – how did you decide on this idea and what is the meaning behind it?
Lotería, for me, has always been a game I cherished. It always brought family together when I was growing up. During any holiday you could think of, our family would get together and at some point during the day, we’d play Lotería. We would always have so much fun.
At the same time, my nationality and country of origin was Mexico, but I grew up in the United States. I’ve always had this identity question growing up – Am I Mexican? Am I American? Who do I identify with? It was about learning a new culture and keeping my own culture. In the artwork, I tried to merge the two together. I used the game I love so much to express my identity. It’s a message about how, every day since I can remember, I never knew what part of my culture I might express during that day. I was making choices based on my religion, or my gender, or my nationality, or my language. It’s about those connections of taking pieces of each culture, figuring out what fits me and how I want to identify – not what my parents or society want me to be.
Where did you look for inspiration when thinking about the creation of this piece?
Much of it came from within myself, along with conversations I had with friends in college about identity. I went to college at UNC-Chapel Hill with students from around the world. We all might question if we’re expressing our nationalities enough and our parents’ traditions. But at the same time, we were in college in America. Are we outsiders or are we American? Questioning and learning about my identity was a major factor in college. I was meeting people from all over the world. Learning more about my identity during those years really helped shape this project for me.
The theme of this year’s Latinx heritage month is “moving forward,” how does your work speak to that?
Being more open to different identities and how people identify has always been a difficult topic to discuss in a Latinx household. It’s good to talk about who you want to express yourself as, and how you want to identify moving forward. It’s about creating that person for yourself and what you feel comfortable with.
What does this piece mean to you, personally?
It means a lot. It’s my first major piece. The fact that so many people can connect with it means a lot, too. There’s always people out there, questioning and learning about their identity. They’re showing growth and self-thought about who they are and what they cherish. “Neither from here nor there” was an expression used when I was growing up. Being able to express that and see other people connect with that idea means a lot. I was able to dedicate a piece of it to my grandmother who recently passed away, as well. I used to play Lotería with her a lot.
What do you hope this piece will mean to the NC State/Poole College community of students, faculty and staff?
I hope it shows that there’s no mold for all people. Everyone is different and everyone holds onto different things in their culture. I hope they can cherish those differences. Identify what makes you comfortable and what you believe, and just be true to yourself – push away those outside pressures. It’s also about the fact that, even though we’re so different, there’s so many things that bring us together as well. In every image, I tried to put differences, but at the same time, similarities. It’s a conversation starter. People may not know there’s a Spanish version of the show, Judge Judy, for example. Or they might connect over images of food and start a conversation. It gives them a chance to start those conversations that maybe there’s not time for in the classroom.