the Global Midwest

Join the artists and cross-institutional team in understanding the role of arts and music in social expression in Chicago, South Bend, Omaha and Columbus. We invite you to explore this site, view the art, and interpret the unique qualities of Latina/o art in the Midwest. You will see all kinds of transnational experiences—from migration, to bi-national identities, to the transnational networks that the artists are a part of. Here, the visual and musical arts illuminate how the Midwest is becoming global in the Latina/o context. 

Hidden Histories of Latina/o Art, Aesthetics, and Expressive Culture

amara art

Grant Information

Thanks to a grant from the Humanities Without Walls Consortium, this cross-institutional project includes faculty from the University of Notre Dame, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and Ohio State University. Rather than presuppose the Midwest as global, this project traces how the Midwest has become globalized overtime by way of the Latina/o presence, and trace this history through art and expressive cultural practices aesthetic in scope—visual art, music, and dance— “arts of living.” These tell the multiple and complex histories of migration and settlement with special attention to the spaces created for cultural production and their role in forming strong and vibrant communities.  

Art—Amara Betty Martin, Vigencita de la Villita (Mixed Media 2016)

About the Project

Intensified transnational migration from Latin America to the United States requires attention to the routes, impacts, and articulations of material living through immaterial means—art and expressive culture to reveal the ways in which the Midwest exists not as a singular place, but rather as a conjunctural space comprised of innumerable places with transnational and transregional flows, and everyday social interactions and interconnections extending out and into Latin America.

Our project considers the dynamics of change and transformation, and examines the role of arts and music in advancing collective social expression in Chicago, South Bend, Omaha and Columbus.  At the center of our study is not a unifying theory, but a thicket of homegrown vernacular theorizing (Briggs 2008) emergent from the Latino community, embodied in aesthetics, and that tell the stories of mobility, exclusion and inclusion, place-making, and the cultural politics and poetics of everyday life.

By collaborating with visual and performing artists to explore transnational migration and the circulation of Latino art and music that allows us to rethink and refigure both as constitutive and shapers of a global and transnational Midwest.  Thus, we will consider new ideas by bringing scholars and artists-practitioners together to develop ways of thinking and teaching about Latino arts in a global setting within a humanities context.  

Our analysis necessarily tethers Latino aesthetics and aesthetic practices to unique processes of migration and labor circulation which have contoured histories of settlement and growth of a multiplicity of Latino-origin groups in the Midwest for over a century, and in doing so, demonstrate the role spaces of aesthetic cultural production have played in forming strong and vibrant communities.  Both identifying and gathering material in archival records and conducting ethnography will provide a humanistic perspective on the vitality of Latino communities over time.   

Partner Institutions


Our Team

Gilberto Cardenas, University of Notre Dame
Alex E. Chávez, University of Notre Dame
María de los Angeles Torres, University of Illinois at Chicago
Olga U. Herrera, University of Illinois at Chicago
Juan Casas, University of Nebraska-Omaha
Victor Espinosa, The Ohio State University