In celebration of our two year anniversary, learn more about the Unfiltered San Antonio Co-founders, Casie Lomeli and Deliasofia Zacarias.
Casie Lomeli: What first intrigued you about art and working in the arts?
Deliasofia Zacarias: There was no particular moment or instant that really inspired me to be involved in the arts. I was always naturally inclined to be creative. It wasn’t until undergrad that I started taking my art practice more seriously and through various internships and mentors along the way, that’s when I figured out this is a community I want to be part of. This is a community that’s going to feed my creativity and I want to be involved in it however possible. Shout out to everyone who has influenced me along the way. When did you know you wanted to work in the arts?
CL: I actually did have an ah-ha moment even though I didn’t know what it meant at the time. What I mean by that is I didn’t know what it meant to work in the art industry or the extent of the possibilities that are there. For those of you that don’t know, Delia and I both overlapped during our time at Trinity University. During my freshman year, I enrolled in an art history 101 class because I was able to take an art history class in high school and I really enjoyed it so I thought I’d explore it more since I knew it was something I did like. I had Dr. Brine for that class and we went on a trip to the museum and I was blown away by the fact that we were there to talk about art and that was our class and I was so intrigued and so baffled by that. That experience for me solidified that I wanted to study art. My family didn’t really go to museums together or anything like that so it was quite a new experience for me.
DZ: It’s interesting to explore this creative sector when none of your family is directly involved in any kind of artistic practice. It’s been interesting navigating that on your own.
CL: You have quite a few experiences under your belt at this point. You have an amazing CV and amazing institutions you’ve got to experience. How do you think that those experiences have shaped where you are now?
DZ: I’ve been fortunate to work with incredible organizations, businesses, and mentors along the way. I feel like it all boils down to my first internship during my sophomore year at college at Do210. It was my first introduction to the arts and culture in San Antonio and it has paved the way to me exploring the San Antonio art culture and appreciating it and, ultimately, finding a family within it.
The fact that the art community is so interconnected and supported is what shaped a lot of my work and understanding. I’ve been mentored by incredible women and women of color and it broadened my understanding of how resilient we are as a community. It’s amazing to see how much representation we’re gaining. It has opened my eyes to this network. I recently joined the board of the Art Administrators of Color and it’s been amazing to be around people discussing equity in the arts.
CL: I’ve also had the opportunity to be mentored by many amazing women myself. That makes what I want to do that much more real.
DZ: Exactly. I know I come from a place of privilege and my mentors not only uplift me but challenge me and ensure that I continue fighting for representation and for equity.
DZ: My next question for you is, why do you think art matters?
CL: What matters to me and I think this is a big part of why it matters, in general, is that it can be such a common ground for people and in a way that is often emotionally tied to really important issues. Even if it’s not some super packed piece of work, as far as the concept, or a lighter emotion that it’s evoking I think it comes in ways that are still very visceral and connecting. There are so many things that go into a piece of art, like color psychology or the representation of things and how we interpret that. There are so many ways of doing that and yet you can find people that feel a similar way about a certain piece of work. I think of it also as a way of escaping reality like you would use a book to get out of your head.
DZ: It’s a simple question with a complex answer.
CL: Exactly. You are an artist as well as an administrator. Can you tell us a little about your practice and what it looks like now?
DZ: My work has to do mostly with my own personal journey through life as it pertains through female self-identification and my culture, where I come from, where I’m going. The use of talavera design is common in my work. I like to incorporate bright colors and mirrors to represent my personal narrative. It started off in my undergrad art show in which I made a sculpture out of mirrors and painted them different colors of skin tones. I really enjoyed the confrontation the viewer has with the mirror and their reflection. I incorporated mirrors for a lot of my work in 2018/2019. As of lately, I’m working a lot with embroidery.
DZ: You’ve worked on a variety of projects. You’re a graphic designer, a curator, so many hats. Which project has been your favorite one?
CL: I think it’s a tie. One of them is obviously Unfiltered because it’s something that we started totally on our own and figured out. Just the fact that there isn’t anything exactly like Unfiltered in San Antonio and as consistent. I am so proud of us for still doing it today even though it’s hard for us as two very busy people. That’s been really fun and challenging and a really big learning experience. The other project is when I co-curated an exhibition with Ethel Shipton, partly because Ethel is such an amazing human. It was so fun because Ethel is so hands-on, she’s so fast-paced and doing different projects and always moving. She taught me so much. On top of that, she was so kind and so giving with her time and resources. I felt so grateful to be in a position where I was learning and being in a position that I enjoyed.
CL: Speaking of people that do a lot of things. You are also one of those people. Can you tell us about your experience about being an artist and arts administrator and does one influence the other?
DZ: It’s hard to find the balance between creating, promoting, and digesting art. You work your 9-5 in art organizations and then most likely you’re going to an evening event and by the time you’re home all you want to do is eat and sleep. So, it takes a certain discipline to find the energy to continue an art practice after everything. As hard as it is, it is extremely fulfilling. For me arts admin does push my artistic side in the sense that through day-to-day conversations I get to really engage in how people are responding to certain artworks and how they’re presented and translated to art audiences. Also, you get to meet, uplift and collaborate with so many incredible artists that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.
DZ: Is there an artist or curator you would like to collaborate with?
CL: The first person that comes to mind is Alana Coates. She’s our old boss but even though we worked together for many years and in a sense have curated shows we haven’t really and not in a space that makes it our own show. She’s such a go-getter and makes things happen and is so intelligent. I would be really interested to curate a show with her and see how her mind works and how she curates and since she is a mentor and a friend that makes it more special.
CL: My question for you is what is your favorite part about being in the art industry?
DZ: My favorite part is getting to meet the artists and getting to collaborate with them, especially artists of color. I feel like through Unfiltered SA that’s what we are trying to do and that’s my favorite part. What is your favorite part?
CL: It’s probably along the same lines as what you’re saying. Interviewing and writing about artists was something you wanted to do and I’m glad you did because I love talking to artists and meeting them and I love studio visits. Artists think so differently and I like interacting with people that think differently than I do. Also meeting people that I consider mentors and friendships that are important to me.
DZ: We’ve discussed what we love, but what is something that you would change in the arts?
CL: The thing that always pisses me off when I think of the art industry too much is the inequity and the way that class and money influence what people can do. I think we all know that life is harder if you don’t have the same connections and monetary resources, etc. as others. It’s so frustrating when I see people that are such hard workers get lost in the system due to nepotism, racism, capitalism. I think it’s so important that we stay in the arts if we can to infiltrate the system. I have inherent privileges and utilizing that privilege to fight for what we all know we need.
CL: Kind of the same question, what is your least favorite part about being in the art industry?
DZ: Inequity is definitely one of my least favorite things. I find it personally challenging to get over imposter syndrome. I think it is all about relying on your support system. It’s important to know that you are where you’re at because you deserve to be there. I could go on about all the challenges that come with being a POC in the arts but I won’t right now.
The conversation was condensed and edited for clarity.