Talking about Art, History and Community
In The Last Conquistador, the city of El Paso, Texas is embroiled in conflicts because of a piece of art. Renowned sculptor John Houser wants to build the world's tallest bronze equestrian statue — a stunning monument to the Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate that will pay tribute to the contributions Hispanic people made to building the American West. But as the project nears completion, troubles arise. Native Americans are outraged — they remember Oñate as the man who brought genocide to their land.
How can you talk to others in your community about your differences and make decisions about the art that's displayed in your community?
- Take a picture of public art in your town or region, upload it to Flickr and add it to the POV Public Art map.
- Create a walking-tour guide of the art on display in your community. Suggest projects that might fill in perspectives that are absent or underrepresented.
- Engage municipal or county representatives in a discussion of how decisions are made about spending public money. Focus on ways to ensure that the discussion process welcomes all voices and that all stakeholders are invited to provide input.
- Bring together different groups in your community for a series of history-sharing potlucks. Focus on telling the stories of specific neighborhoods, towns or events. If needed, have a facilitator present to help people actively listen and appreciate that different people may have experienced the same events differently. Consider inviting journalists to cover the series and report on the community history that emerges.
Get informed about the issues in the film and lead a discussion in your community.
Film club members, teachers and event planners may use these guides when viewing the film with a group. The discussion guide contains background information, sample discussion questions and a list of related resources.
This lesson plan is designed to be used with the film, The Last Conquistador, the story of a controversial public arts project that some view as a monument to culture and others as a glorification of genocide. Classrooms can use this lesson to role-play how city leaders might make a decision about spending tax dollars on art that is divisive. Students can also consider public art in their community and develop proposals for new art projects that would provide the perspectives of underrepresented communities.
This multimedia resource list, compiled by Shaun Briley of the San Diego Public Library, provides a range of perspectives on the issues raised by the P.O.V. documentary The Last Conquistador and recommended books and magazine articles about Juan De Oñate.