Race and Community Art on the US-Mexico Border: A Collaborative Mapping Project aims to shed light onto a range of artistic endeavors addressing a nuanced variety of issues around the border that are either created by or implemented in a communitarian setting. These artworks span a wide range of approaches to medium and authorship, and we seek to understand the ways that artistic production is affected by demographic data, geographic features, and (when available) the security apparatus along the border. The long-term goal of this project is to create a useful and live tool to continue discussing the many ways in which communities around the border engage with their transnational reality.

Some of the key elements that we will be integrating into our map are a wide range of community border art produced in Mexico and the United States from the 21st century (both in English and Spanish), demographics from the sites where these pieces were created or set, geographical data that can also provide more insight into the zone, and a bibliography for researchers, academics, and the general public to provide crucial context for the linked material. This project will also facilitate the integration of new artworks in an ongoing, collaborative effort.

Art along the U.S.-Mexico border has been punctuated by a series of high-profile spectacles meant to engage a broad international audience, yet the vast majority of the work being done in the region takes place in local communities, often by collectives or more loosely-organized groups. To date, there is no comprehensive location-specific database that illustrates the enormous creativity and coordination that comes from such grassroots efforts. This gap in knowledge and access means that the field is relatively understudied given its political and social prominence. This start-up project seeks to initiate a longer-term collaboration that will result in a web-based map platform that collects and catalogues art and visual activism of the border region, with a strong focus on interrogations of race, ethnicity, and migration. This platform will contribute to a broader understanding of how community-based art responds to the specifics of racial and ethnic identity, using the highly charged site of the border as an overall framework and discursive apparatus.


This project seeks to build community between different border regions, as well as draw connections across time. It also aims to become a repository for current and future scholars seeking to do work in this area, as well as artists proposing site-specific interventions. In its final form, the site should also be fully bilingual, providing materials in English and Spanish to facilitate cross-border collaborations. To this end, one goal of the platform is to have a (moderated) crowdsourced component, enabling users to upload their own summary and documentation.

Next Steps

After identifying faculty and student partners at Washington University with expertise in Latinx studies, visual art, GIS, and other related skills/knowledge bases, goals of the start-up include:

  • Consult and engage with Digital Humanities Workshop and the Data Services group at Olin Library for training and possible funding.
  • Identify and contact community partners in the border region as well as in the St. Louis area and grow the network organically.
  • Publicize the initiative through public presentations (in conferences for the Latin American Studies Association, Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present, or the College Art Association, for example) and invite collaboration from faculty at other institutions.
  • Develop a preliminary version of the digital interface and launch the site.


This project is supported by the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Equity (CRE2), the Humanities Digital Workshop (HDW), and the Mark S. Weil and Joan Hall-Weil Fund for Art History at Washington University in St. Louis.