Grupo Soap del Corazón
Founded in 2000 by Xavier Tavera and Douglas Padilla, Grupo Soap del Corazón celebrates Latino artists and culture and the Latinization of Minnesota and the upper Midwest of the USA. Grupo Soap started its efforts with an inaugural exhibition at Gus Lucky’s Gallery on Lake Street in Minneapolis entitled “Soap del Corazón.” In that show each artist addressed, visually, the questions: “What is ‘soap of the heart'? What cleans the heart?”
A year later the group went on to create a major exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program (MAEP), “Frontera Lake Street,” which showcased the work of six local Latino artists. A highly attended exhibit, “Frontera Lake Street” generated both publicity and critical acclaim. It brought color and passion, politics and spirit to the Minnesota art world and Institute visitors from all over the world.
In 2002, Grupo Soap created a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) exhibition and celebration, “Un Dia con los Muertos en Lake Street." The exhibit focused on nine 8’x12’ murals on the very busy Lake Street side of an empty Minneapolis Sears building, an ofrenda for the dead nearby, performance/ritual by local Aztec dancers, and a party/celebration at alternative Latino cultural institution, ArTrujillo Gallery Studios.
For Dia de los Muertos 2003, Grupo Soap spotlighted the 370+ disappeared and murdered women of Juarez, Mexico with an exhibit and installation, “Ni Una Mas” (Not One More). It again added performance, music and food to the show, which took place at Mira Gallery/El Instituto de Cultura y Educación at El Colegio in south Minneapolis. El Colegio is a charter school that focuses on Spanish, Latino culture, and the arts.
In the 2004, the great tradition of Latin American political poster-making, artists of Grupo Soap del Corazón joined forces with Highpoint Center for Printmaking to create a workshop on silk-screening and an exhibition, “Gráfica Politica”, that exhibited both Minneapolis and Chicago artists. The prints made in “Gráfica Politica” were entered later that year in a Minnesota-wide presidential year group political poster show at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, entitled “The Art of Democracy”.
In 2005, Grupo Soap mounted two exhibitions in Valparaiso, Chile. The first show, “El Otro Americano” (The Other American), took place at El Instituto Chileno Norteamericano de Cultura and described the Latino–American experience. The second show, “Politica Ex-Carcel”, took place at Centro Cultural Ex-Carcel, a former prison under the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. In that exhibit, Grupo Soap del Corazón artists joined the long history of political artists by stenciling/photographing posters on the walls of neighborhoods and barrios in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota and Valparaiso, Chile.
In 2006 Grupo Soap del Corazón created “Artsourcing, An International Consortium of Outsourcing Artists” at The Soap Factory in Minneapolis. In that exhibit Grupo Soap, by publicly outsourcing the labor for all the individual projects, confronted issues of globalization and capitalism as they pertain to Latin America and the United States. By highlighting the work of those that actually do the manufacturing, Grupo Soap brought a measure of honor, recognition and profit to almost 100 participating workers, from Tijuana, Mexico to West Saint Paul, Minnesota. Finally, in the fall of the same year, Grupo Soap joined with ArtOrg, a Northfield, Minnesota based arts non-profit, to create “Northfield Dia de los Muertos,” a celebration joining together the resident Anglo community of a small Midwest college town and recent Mexican immigrant factory workers. The event evolved around a 104’ banner printed with a steamroller on 4’x8’ woodblock prints created with Day of the Dead themes by 14 local Latino artists. Additionally, paper prints were made of those woodblocks and exhibited in a show at ArtOrg’s Moving Walls Gallery. Later that year, Grupo Soap and ArtOrg brought those same 4’x8’ prints on paper to an exhibition, “Northfield Muertos,” at the California Gallery in Northeast Minneapolis.
In 2007 Grupo Soap del Corazón partnered with Art Jones Gallery to create “Nuestra Frida”, a response to the exhibition “Frida Kahlo” at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. For our “Frida” show, Grupo artists created a magnificent grouping of paintings, photography, installations, sculpture, drawings, and performance that was attended by well over 1000 people during the show run. It added a panel discussion on Frida with the “Frida Kahlo” Walker curator, Betsy Carpenter and exhibit artist Tina Tavera.
For 2008, Grupo Soap took to the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul with “Grafica Politica #2”. For this art intervention, artists from around the world sent political poster art to the Twin Cities to be displayed on telephone poles and buildings and fences around town during the Republican National Convention. Thus, an artist team in New Zealand, an artist from New York city, and an artist from St. Paul—among others—had the opportunity to express themselves to the community during an intense week of civic participation in the American civic public arena.
For 2009, Grupo Soap once again partnered with ArtOrg from to create 4’x8’ steam roller prints in celebration of Dia de los Muertos. This time the printing was sponsored by and took place at the Plains Museum in Fargo, North Dakota. It was followed by a group exhibition of the work and opening celebration at the Museum entitled “Plains Museum Dia de los Muertos Steamroller Prints”.
In 2010, Grupo Soap participated in a number of exhibitions, including shows of the Northfield and Fargo steamroller prints at “St. Olaf Grupo Soap del Corazón /ArtOrg Steamroller Prints for the Mid-America Print Conference” and Ridgewood Community colleges. Grupo Soap del Corazón also participated in the Minneapolis Monarch Festival, assisting ArtOrg in doing baby steamroller printing for almost 300 kids at Lake Nokomis in South Minneapolis.
In 2011, Grupo Soap created a visual arts exhibition, “El Milagro" (The Miracle), at Intermedia Arts in south Minneapolis. The exhibition featured the work of over 30 well-known local, national, and international artists and addressed the religious, mystical, cultural, political, psychological and historical nature of miracles and the miraculous, especially amongst Latin Americans.
In 2012, “Los Quatro Ases” showcased the work of four Latino artists at Franconia in the Cities, a Minneapolis offshoot of the internationally-known Franconia Sculpture park in Schafer, Minnesota. Sculpture was featured in this show, as well as photography and painting.
2013 found Grupo Soap del Corazón at Columbia Heights, Minnesota High School for “Latinofest,” for a community celebration of Latino arts and culture. Six Grupo Soap artists brought their work to a format that pushed their work out to a public not usually addressed at art galleries and museums.
For 2014, the group addressed the notion of “Espiritus, are there “spirits” in this world?” at 801 Gallery in Minneapolis. Is there another plane of existence beyond this one? “Espiritus” was an exhibition of 4 visual artists with photography, painting drawing and ceramics pondering these and similar notions. Started in October and ran, appropriately, through Halloween, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and into the new year.
And for its 15th anniversary celebration in 2015, Grupo Soap del Corazón decided to change directions and publish a drawing “zine,” “Fabulista #1”. A “fabulista” is a composer of fables, a teller of tales, or someone who invents elaborate, dishonest stories. At a publishing party at Mojo Coffee Gallery in northeast Minneapolis, Grupo Soap and friends/patrons celebrated the 60+ page magazine and toasted joyously to the continuing growth of the organization.
In the fall of 2016 Grupo Soap exhibited "16/16 - Casa Magica" at Franconia in the City Gallery in the Northeast Arts District, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 16 artists joined together in Grupo's 16th year to show paintings, video, sculpture, sound art, paintings, and drawings addressing the notion that art can be a "house of magic", a time and space where marvelous worlds arise.
In 2017, Grupo Soap del Corazón created the Pepin Portrait Project, large scale photographic portraits of people living and working in western Wisconsin's rural Pepin county. Photographed by Xavier Tavera, this show juxtaposes Latino immigrant farm workers with the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of western European immigrants, challenging viewers to look closely at their own perceptions and biases. The show is slated to tour indefinitely across the Midwest, from churches to schools to village halls and coffee shops.
In 2018, Grupo Soap del Corazón will be publishing the second edition of its zine, “Fabulista #2, Resist Evil, Embody Light, Create Endlessly”. Finally, Grupo Soap will be exhibiting at Projek Traum in Friedrichshafen, Germany, and at Metro State University, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Details for these two events are still in the works.
Throughout its life, Grupo Soap del Corazón has stayed true to it’s purpose: to encourage and exhibit “Soap del Corazón”, art that cleans the heart. It has showcased the work of 90+ artists – and well over 100,000 people have seen its art. It has worked hard to pull the people of Minneapolis – St. Paul and Minnesota (and the world) into deeper community. With both joyous anticipation and deliberate intention, Grupo Soap del Corazón looks forward to the future.
--Xavier Tavera and Dougie Padilla
Grupo Soap del Corazón’s art, as a group, is in the collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Fredrick R. Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Plains Museum, Fargo, North Dakota. The work of its individual artists are in galleries and museums worldwide.