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Carmen Tafolla receives COSA Distinction in the Arts medal

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Dr. Carmen Tafolla, professor in the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies, is one of six recipients of the City of San Antonio Department of Art and Culture’s 2017 Distinction in the Arts Medal. She will be presented with the medal for literary arts at a special celebration on Oct. 17 at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

“It feels a bit humbling to be grouped with the likes of the great artists who have received the award in the past, like Flaco Jimenez, Dr. Tomas Ybarra Frausto, Teresa Champion, Aaronetta Pierce, and Jesse Treviño,” said Tafolla. “It makes me feel a special responsibility to merit standing by their side in creating the arts that this community can feel pride in sharing.”

Tafolla is the author of more than 30 books and hundreds of poems in anthologies and textbooks. She served as the first San Antonio Poet Laureate and as the 2015 Texas State Poet Laureate.

“This award fills me with gratitude, especially when I consider the big picture of our community and its heritage,” said Tafolla. “When I think of the crafters of the arts in this area, I never think of just the current year, but of the hundreds and thousands of years in which the inhabitants of this special place have tried artistically express the beauty and the uniqueness of this place we call home.”

Currently, Tafolla teaches courses in the College of Education and Human Development on transformative children’s literature. She is also a co-chair for the upcoming National Latino Children’s Literature Conference.

“The COEHD has invested itself in meaningful changes to the lives of human beings, not just a narrow focus on improved intellectual functioning, but truly integrating learning into the well-being and development of the whole person,” said Tafolla. “My receiving this recognition by the City of San Antonio is a validation of our college’s commitment to the arts and to the community, whose voices the arts express.”

Tafolla was born and raised on the west side of San Antonio. As a child, she remembers the lack of books and films available that reflected her Mexican American culture. This, she said, is what inspired her to begin writing.

“I, along with other Mexican American kids, felt a deep hunger to see our own reflections in the mirror of society, to have some affirmation that we had not been ‘disappeared,’ that we really existed, and that our lives were worth something,” she said. “As the years passed, and the more I presented my dramatic performances and my poetry readings worldwide, the more I understood that the central theme of my work was the valuing and empowerment of our individual and cultural diversities as human beings.”

Over the last forty years, her published works have continued to gain international attention, earning her two Tomás Rivera Children’s Book awards, two International Latino Book awards, and an Americas Award. But her greatest award, she said, is the excitement she sees when people experience her work for the first time.

“For many individuals of color, and from the lower-income levels of our society, they have not seen themselves accurately represented in art, and have never had the pleasure of their own true reflection of the world that surrounds them,” Tafolla said. “I write from my heart. I write from my barrio. If I can validate a person’s life, uniqueness, struggles, and beauty through my books and performances, then I will have accomplished my goal.”

Learn more about Dr. Carmen Tafolla.

Learn more about the City of San Antonio Distinction in the Arts Medal.

Photo Caption: San Antonio City Councilman Roberto Trevino poses with the recipients of the 2017 Distinction in the Arts Medal. Dr. Carmen Tafolla is seated on the left.

Photo by: Fred Gonzales

2017 dia honorees

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