Get to know Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful, the Department of Art and Art History’s new Social Practice Artist-in-Residence

Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful has spent his life becoming a local. Whether it be in the Bronx where he officially calls home, a small town in Michigan, a suburb of Barcelona, or in the Dominican Republic where he got his roots, Estévez aims to establish community with those around him and the city itself. His work is inspired by his surroundings, and seeks to truly know what different places are about. 

Alongside exhibiting and performing both in the US and internationally, Estévez holds an MFA from Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, and an MA from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York.

He may travel and work all over the world, but for the next year and a half, Estévez will assume the role of the Department of Art and Art History’s new Social Practice Artist-in-Residence. He will be teaching two classes this spring, “Art Within Walking Distance” and “Commuting into Community.” 

Both are about “getting to know how to embody [Austin] in different ways, how to be surprised by the city, how to be of service to the city, and how to get lost in the city,” Estévez says. “I think about walking as a political activist tool and a tool for change because when I go out in the city, my body, my presence is already changing things.”

“Art Within Walking Distance” will be propelled by, well, walking. The classes will walk through various areas of Austin, looking at places with public art, monuments, sacred sites, cemeteries, and other sites of public activity. “There’s something very powerful about walking because the body is so present in an immediate way. It’s like, ‘I'm here’ and the body’s not being cocooned by a car,” Estévez says.

“Commuting into Community” focuses on community-based art practices, largely led by a discussion on what outsiders can bring when creating art for a hyper-local community they become part of. The students will co-create with the people and spaces around them, and look into what co-creation means for audiences.

“I usually say that I no longer have an audience as an artist, although that's not always true. I lost my audience because for the most part, everyone is co-creating with me,” Estévez says. “We're co-creating through experiences, so there’s no nothing to watch. We’re all involved in the process.” 

Although Estévez had only visited Texas for a short period of time before joining UT, he was inspired by the activism and the power of communities he met when traveling along the Texas/Mexico border. Now, he’s looking forward to learning from his students, and thinks that will have the biggest impact on his personal practice he’s been developing for the last 30 years.

“That’s something that I look forward to, hopefully, inviting the classes to engage with. Can we sit with each other? Can we sit with some of the thoughts that perhaps make us uncomfortable? Can we listen to one another,” Estévez asks. “I feel that that’s so much needed, especially now. Can I listen to those who might think differently from me?”

Estévez has exhibited and performed work at places such as Madrid Abierto/ARCO, The IX Havana Biennial, Prague Quadrennial, Queens Museum, MoMA, Princeton University, Rutgers University, El Museo del Barrio, Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, and The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, among others. His residencies attended include P.S. 1/MoMA, Yaddo, and MacDowell.

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