Student Exhibit Recounts Civil Rights Icons

feat chavez
Third-grader Armando from Columbia Heights Elementary School prepared this drawing of Cesar E. Chavez
© Armando D.

Elementary School Students Teach a Lesson in Civil Rights

Columbia Heights teams with ITC for MLK show, Cesar Chavez exhibit

SAN ANTONIO – This spring, Columbia Heights Elementary School students will pass along the lessons they have learned about civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta through two special projects at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures.

"A Digital Exhibition of Martin Luther King, Jr." uses the ITC’s 26-screen Dome Theater to show student drawings and paintings interpreting the civil rights leader’s work. The dome show begins Feb. 15 and continues through the end of March.

"The Life and Legacy of César E. Chávez, Dolores Huerta, and Farm Workers," an art exhibit interpreting the struggles of Chavez, Huerta and others in the battle for labor rights, runs March 11 to June 5.

"In speaking with the students as they worked on their art, I heard them express connections between the struggle for civil rights and economic equality," said Alex Antram, educator at the Institute of Texan Cultures. "While drawing, Columbia Heights students were recognizing and depicting the injustices Chavez, Huerta, and King faced and the work they did for all Americans."

The museum coordinated with Columbia Heights art teacher, Noe G. Garza, who oversaw the project, which has been a part of the curriculum for 13 years. While the exercise helps the students understand civil rights and social inequalities, in some cases it hits very close to home, as some students or staff members have had family members involved in farming and migrant work.

"We became more sensitive and aware of the issues farm workers face and learned to appreciate their extremely hard labor in the sweltering heat," said Garza. "Our students then expressed themselves by creating graphite drawings about Cesar E. Chavez, Dolores Huerta and the farm workers. Our student art is important as it is an extension of their thoughts and feelings. Even more meaningful and relevant is that many Columbia Heights children had family members who actually worked in the fields as farm workers."

The Institute of Texan Cultures mounts two student exhibits per year. Topics have ranged from documenting a community through photographs and oral histories, to Fiesta medal designs, to 4-H student quilting projects from around the state. Participating students have ranged from elementary school through college-level.

The Institute of Texan Cultures is located on the UTSA Hemisfair Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday.  Admission is $8 for adults (ages 12-64); $7 for seniors (ages 65+); $6 for children (ages 3-11); free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit



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