Oaxacan Weaver Receives Invite to Artist Leadership Program at Smithsonian Institute

Meet Porfirio Gutiérrez, a native of Oaxaca, Mexico who spends his time between Ventura, CA and Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca. He and his family are masters of traditional Zapotec weaving and are among the last few artisans who posses the creative skills associated with this fine art. 

Their village, Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca, has been famous for the art of weaving for centuries. Nearby archaeological sites dating back as far as 500 B.C. still stand decorated with the same patterns and symbols that are used in today’s designs.

Gutiérrez started weaving when he was 12 years old, the same way his forefathers did – a tradition that goes back more than 2500 years.

Porfirio Gutierrez, Oaxacan weaver

Porfirio Gutierrez, Oaxacan weaver

From November 30 through December 12, 2015, Gutiérrez will travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in The National Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) Artist Leadership Program (ALP) for Individual Artists, which enables indigenous artists to research and document their findings – invitation that was extended to only four individuals through the Smithsonian Institution. Gutiérrez is the only individual representing Latin America. 

“It has been an honor for me and I’m very proud to be part of this wonderful tradition,” said Gutierrez. “I have spent many years promoting not only our work but the wonderful culture that we have in Oaxaca, Mexico.” 

According to the program’s description, the primary objectives are for individual indigenous artists to focus on artistic processes while researching the vast collections of the Smithsonian Institution (SI); to meet and consult with staff at SI and other arts organizations; participate in a public art panel discussion, speaking as voices of authority on their art; break down stereotypes about indigenous art; and, through a personal artistic narrative, speak to social justice issues and current events important to indigenous communities.

The program aims to rebuild cultural self-confidence, challenge personal boundaries, and foster cultural continuity while reflecting artistic diversity.

“This program will allow me to do research about the process and the symbols of Zapotec weaving,” said Gutiérrez. “This information was passed down to us from our ancestors and I want to make sure what we are doing is accurate since Smithsonian Institute has done an extensive research on cultures around the world. 

After my research, I will be leading a community youth program in my village taking place in the summer of 2016. As weaving traditions fade, this program will teach kids how to work with wool, natural dye, plants and insects.” 

Gutiérrez has other projects in the works including an exhibit at Ventura County Museum called “FRAGMENTOS” referring to what is left of his ancient culture.

For more information on Porfirio Gutierrez, visit www.porfiriogutierrez.com

2 comments for “Oaxacan Weaver Receives Invite to Artist Leadership Program at Smithsonian Institute

  1. 2015-11-21 at 11:35 am

    The goals and focus Smithsonian Institute’s Artist Leadership Program/NMAI are inspiring. Porfirio Gutierrez, highly respected for his artistic mastery, knowledge and skill – combined with his dedication and commitment to maintaining his ancestry traditions and culture – will bring so much to the project! It will be a joy to watch the program’s progress.

  2. 2015-11-17 at 1:24 pm

    Porfirio does very nice work, but “He and his family are masters of traditional Zapotec weaving and are among the last few artisans who posses the creative skills associated with this fine art.” is very inaccurate. He is only one of the many artisans working in this fine art in the village of Teotitlan del Valle.

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