Candida Gonzalez; Experimenter, Traveler, Adventurer

Candida Gonzalez is unafraid. They are not only a lifelong adventurer but a jewelry maker, an arts administrator, a teacher, and a visual artist. Committed to racial justice, Candida collaborates with the arts community of Minneapolis to create pieces that empowers BIPOC people; in addition, they help artists build their public-art practice in the newly virtual workshop series “Making It Public.” Candida brings all this experience to Springboard for the Arts as an Artist Career Consultant, a role in which they assist artists with career development, grant writing, and more. Learn more about Candida below and follow their work by visiting the Las Ranas Jewelry Instagram page.

Share a little about your creative practice.
It has definitely evolved over my career. I was really lucky to attend the first arts-integration elementary school in Minneapolis from fourth through eighth grade, so I grew up very steeped in the arts. We played string instruments, we did a lot of mural making, and we did a lot of work with Heart of the Beast making puppets, so I think art just really became a part of my life. My dad also was very into music and dancing, and he was always around me.

After that, I went to Evergreen State College and ended up getting a B.A. focusing on Latin American history, literature, and art. Then I came back to Minneapolis and ended up going to get my Master of Education at the University of Minnesota. I taught high school afterwards for five years at an arts high school, which was El Colegio on 42nd and Bloomington. Then I realized that I really love arts administration, so I left teaching and went into creative arts and creative program administration. I worked in Minneapolis public schools organizing a lot of arts enrichment activities for kids. Then I went over to Roosevelt High School and, for five years, was their arts coordinator, and I helped them to build up their artistic programming.

All this is to say, for a very long time, my creative practice was more in the program management and arts administration field. And then I left Roosevelt and went on to found the public arts company Good Space Murals with another local artist; I did that for two years and managed community-engaged art projects around the country, and then I left in 2018 due to some creative differences and started doing arts consulting. At that time I also picked up the practice of jewelry-making, which is something that I’ve been doing since I was a kid off-and-on, and that’s been a really big part of my creativity over the last two years. I make jewelry under the name Las Ranas Jewelry. I was doing big, public-engaged art works and then kind of took all that and brought it into this smaller art form; I really think of my jewelry as mini-sculptures. That’s kind of where I am right now in my creativity.

[Las Ranas] is not a traditional jewelry line; that’s not exactly what I’m going for. I’m not looking to develop a brand. I like the freedom of just being able to create unique pieces based on whatever I’m feeling, or based on what the astrological season is, so I rarely repeat pieces. It’s also been a blessing to have started this project and have it during the pandemic because I’ve been able to work on it from home. Literally from my bedroom! It’s given me the freedom and flexibility to work around my kids’ needs and my kids’ school schedule because I’m a single mom.

In 2019, I took over this workshop called “Making It Public” that Forecast Public Art puts on, and I was traveling around the country working with artists, teaching them how to start a public-art practice or grow their public-art practice. When the pandemic started, the travel stopped, and it was hard for me at the beginning of the pandemic to figure out how to continue doing that over Zoom and keep traditional hours when I was home with my kids with no assistance. So we kind of stopped that, but we’ve started that back up again. I’ve figured out how to balance all the things in my life, so now I’m teaching that workshop as a five-week online-hybrid-recorded-live-session workshop, and I just completed my first series in Louisville, Kentucky and then did another one in Memphis, Tennessee, and those are going great, so I’m really excited to have been able to pick that back up again.

How did you start working with Springboard for the Arts?
I think I had participated in activities with Springboard. I had taken a couple workshops with Springboard, and I believe it was in 2019 that Caroline Taiwo approached me and said that they were expanding the consultant roster and asked if I wanted to be a part of it. I didn’t totally know what it was but I jumped right into it, and it’s been incredibly rewarding on my end, just being able to talk to so many different artists and help them puzzle through whatever issue or problem or thing that they’re trying to work through at the moment. I’ve really enjoyed doing it over the pandemic as well because I think a lot of artists have hit this point where they’re like, “Wait a second, what do I do now?” Especially community-engaged artists, which is one of my specialties, community-engaged art. Like, how do you work with community when you’re in a pandemic? So I’ve really enjoyed working with artists and puzzling through projects or puzzling through changing their career path to meet what’s going on with the pandemic right now.

I keep telling myself that when the pandemic is over, when we’re able to gather in-person a little more freely again, there are some things that I don’t want to lose. Like, obviously it’s really easy to live-stream an event, and the disability justice community has been asking the arts community to do that for years, as long as we’ve had this technology. And we can do it, obviously we can do it, so I don’t want to drop that. Same with ASL interpretation, closed captioning. We can do all these things. We’ve proven to ourselves that we can do them, so we can’t lose them once we’re able to gather in-person again.

What are projects that you have going right now or an idea in the making? What’s a project you’d like to see happen?
I love when people ask me this because I’m like, “Okay, I’m probably doing a million things. Now what are all the things that I’m doing?” I’m doing my jewelry, I’m doing the workshops with Forecast, I’m doing work with Springboard. I’m part of a pilot group at this gallery that is located in the Graves Foundation offices, which is in Midtown Global Market on Chicago and Lake; we started this project before the pandemic but it’s mostly been running during the pandemic. We got together a group of four artists who are serving as mentors for young artists of color from South Minneapolis to have their first gallery show, and my mentee Kayla Saucedo has their project installed right now. They do installations of altars, which is also something that I do. I had the great opportunity back in 2015 to travel to Mexico City during Dia de Los Muertos and experience all of the altars there, the ofrendas. So that’s been a really fun project that I’ve been working on. I’m also on the Mayday Council, which is a group that was brought together by Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater back in 2019, and, again, we ran most of this through the pandemic, reimagining what the Mayday Parade and Festival will look like for the future. We took a break over the winter, and we’re just starting to get back together again to look at what might happen in 2021 and also thinking forward to the structure of Mayday in 2022. [By then] we hope there’ll be more freedom to gather in-person again.

I’m also part of an organization called CEPA, which is based out of Puerto Rico, and we wrote a manual called “Decolonizing for Organizers” that was published in late 2019. In December, we started this experimental project that got together study pods of BIPOC people in seven different areas – Minneapolis, Detroit, New York City, two in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the Bay Area. We are doing this decolonizing study over six months. We meet in our local pods, and then we also get together for all-pod meetings, [one of] which we just had last Saturday. It’s bizarre, getting together these people from all these different places across all these different time zones over Zoom. Also, a big part of it is that we’re practicing language justice, so we’re doing it bilingually, in English and Spanish. It’s been wild doing that during this pandemic. It’s something that we’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I’m really happy with how this pilot project is going. We’re in month five right now. Previous to the pandemic, I traveled to Puerto Rico a lot and did a lot of work with CEPA, so I’m glad we’re able to continue that work over the Internet.

A project that I did this fall and finished in January: I was working with the City of Minneapolis. They put out some funds to artists who have worked with them in the past, and I did a project with an artist from Creatives After Curfew, which is a group of artists that came together during the uprising to create murals and public art around Minneapolis. We did this project called “Art for Nervous Systems,” and it was an idea that I had in my mind for a long time, the idea of taking a page from the origins of Mexican muralism, the use of murals to disseminate information. We create these murals that express the idea that herbal knowledge is indigenous knowledge, that we as people of color hold the rights to our indigenous knowledge. This knowledge is ours, it’s not to be sold to us. It’s not something that should have any sort of monetary barrier for us. It’s also something that we’ve kind of forgotten as the healing journey has been capitalized and monetized, and that’s something that we’re frequently shut out of. So we created a series of four murals that talk about different plant allies that can be used to regulate nervous systems, and they’re gorgeous; they’re up on people’s garage doors in South Minneapolis. That was really important to me – I didn’t want it to go on a business because, again, I want us to remind ourselves that this is not commercial knowledge. This is people’s knowledge. It was a great project, and it’s something that I would love to expand on in the future: this idea, first of all, that, as BIPOC bodies, our nervous systems are basically shot from day one due to our generational trauma, due to everything that is thrown at us from the second that we’re born. Especially the summer after the uprising, I know I got to a point where I was laying on the floor because I couldn’t even move, my nervous system was so shot. As a BIPOC community, we really need to elevate this conversation about how we can regulate our nervous systems and elevate that into more herb-sharing, more skill-sharing. And there are a lot of great people and organizations that are doing this in South Minneapolis. I wanna be a part of elevating that conversation and elevating those services and reminding ourselves that we need to pay attention to our nervous systems.

What’s something you wish others knew about you?
That’s a difficult question! I’ve done a lot of things in my life. I left home when I was fifteen and squatted in houses around Minneapolis, and I hitchhiked around the country when I was sixteen. Kind of a rebel. I love dabbling in all sorts of creative mediums. I think right now people know me as the jewelry maker. People come up to me and say, “Oh, you’re Las Ranas!” But I don’t know that I’ll be making jewelry forever because I like to play around in all sorts of different things. I feel like at some point I might go back and really dedicate myself to more public sculpture and installation. I enjoy making collages; that was something I did a lot through my twenties. I read tarot. I love learning new skills, so I can’t wait to get out again after the pandemic and take some classes and learn some new artistic skills and play around with new things. I’m an experimenter, a traveler, an adventurer. That’s who I am.

Springboard Resources
Artist Career Consultants, available for virtual consultations:
Workshops & Events Calendar:
Work of Art and Handbook for Artists Working in Community books: