Creative Life in the Gateway Arts District
Married with two children, Fernando is a guitarist and Araceli is a poet and actress. They were both born in Peru and currently live in Hyattsville.
Fernando and Araceli met when they were university students in Peru. Fernando won the Testimonial Music competition as a composer at the Floral Games at the National University of Engineering in Peru. Araceli’s poetry group was organizing a concert at the University of Lima called “Poetry for the Peace”. It was 1992… After that day and several life events later, they are still enjoying sharing poems and music.
Fernando: I came from Peru with my Guitar, Cajon and Cajita (a small Afro-Peruvian percussion instrument). I started playing Peruvian music in my daughters’ school and in reunions at church or gatherings with friends. It was amazing to realize that I could be a music ambassador of my culture. My art evolved to include not just Peruvian, but South American music. This year I started a new musical dream, learning to play the Balalaika (a three string guitar popular in Ukraine and Russia). My favorite is gypsy music that goes great with Afro-Peruvian percussion; I am just experimenting with this approach.
Araceli: I write poetry and childrens’ plays. My poems have been printed and cited in Anthologies as Peruvian poet of the ‘80s. In the U.S. I presented my first poetry book: “Versos sin Precaución” (“Verses without Precaution”) at Portico IDB Bookstore. I’m part of NABUART, a group of Hispanic writers who participated at Telemundo Soap opera writers’ worshop, where I digitally published two stories for kids. I work at “Teatro de la Luna” (Hispanic Theater Company) with a program called Traveling Theater, which means we bring performances to schools and libraries. Last year I was the Big Bad Wolf, a good guy in the hilarious adaptation of the Little Red Riding Hood. This year we are working in a play called “Siempre Amigos, Buddies no Bullies”, another bilingual performance.
Art is our style of life. We have two daughters that also love to share the stage with us either doing jam session with our neighbors, singing with the choir in church or even in formal presentations at schools and city performances. Sofia sings and is learning piano. Samantha sings and is learning the Ukulele. They both play the Cajon.
When asked about a typical day in their home, the two admitted that sometimes there is a lot of juggling—they set up rehearsals and at the same time schedule work and manage the school calendar. They share chores, and then have to schedule presentations and special events for the school or art teachers. “If we didn’t have those commitments—rehearsals and presentations—it would probably be easier, but boring. We love being an artistic family,” says Araceli.
When asked about how the two manage financially as artists, Fernado added, “When I graduated as an electronic engineer, starting a career in the arts was not easy. Eventually, we moved to the U.S. because there were new opportunities. As an immigrant living in Hyattsville, I am more than happy with all the opportunities I found in this city. I am growing as an artist, I feel proud to live with artists. Here I realized that I can improve my finances with my art; what really matters for an immigrant family is the budget.”
As for The Gateway Arts District, Araceli says, “Art really lives here! We have the space to share our art and learn from others too. Last year Pepe Piedra taught us how to paint with acrylic. It helped a lot to have a studio and Pepe available in the neighborhood. It was a great time! Having a rehearsal space in the neighborhood helps me a lot with the family. I can have rehearsals close to the children. I found a niche at the metropolitan area of DC for Bilingual Theater and that allowed me to practice my art.” Fernando said, “I would like to see more opportunities to decorate the city with art, be part of a team to create a dynamic sculpture in the District; it is a dream of an electronic engineer that likes music and art.”
This year in ArtFest the two had the opportunity to perform for first time in the city. Before that they mostly performed in schools sharing their musical heritage. This year Fernando was also part of Jumbo Ane CD “Worship Forever” with translated lyrics and vocalization. The production was released in Maryland in three languages and in Lagos, Nigeria.