Oxford artist Frank Estrada talks about his artistic background and new opportunities he’s discovered this year.
Written by Emily Welly | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Artwork has been part of Frank Estrada’s life since childhood. Now, at age 32, he is the visual resources specialist and gallery curator in the University of Mississippi’s Department of Art and Art History; has a solo exhibit on display through July at The MAX in Meridian; and was recently named a South Arts’ Emerging Leader of Color for 2022.
Q: When did you realize art could translate into a career for you?
A: I have made art my whole life; I still have artwork from when I was in kindergarten. Once I switched my major to art in college, I knew I could make it into a career. I participated in a few art festivals and did well while in college. Now, I create digital illustrations more than prints. It is easier to travel with a tablet than all the tools needed for prints.
Q: Is printmaking your primary medium? And how did you get into it as an art form?
A: Printmaking is my primary medium, specializing in the relief technique. I carve into wood or linoleum mostly. I had no idea what printmaking was before being introduced to it during my sophomore year of college. I enjoy the detailed handmade aspect of it; I find carving very therapeutic. Recently, I've been experimenting with AR (Augmented Reality) and digital 3D.
Q: What influences your artwork, and are there common themes in your pieces?
A: Most of my work is composed of imagery from my Mexican heritage and Southern upbringing. I studied the linework of traditional Mexican printmakers at the beginning of my career. Now, with social media, I am inspired by printmakers from all around the world. It’s easier to keep up with each other and stay connected. Whenever I have a question about a certain method, I can reach out to anyone within the printmaking community for help. My solo exhibition called “Family Legacy” will be up this month; a tribute to my father. Stop by The MAX in Meridian from March 29-July 10. It will be a combination of both my printmaking and digital skill set.
Q: You were recently named one of South Arts’ Emerging Leaders of Color for 2022. Can you tell us a little about this program? What does it mean to you to be selected?
A: I have learned so much, even though this year’s program took place via Zoom; there wasn’t enough time to go over everything in one week. Speaking with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) in the arts field, I learned about the foundation of the arts in the U.S., art and policy data, leadership practice, strategic foresight, cultural equity and more. Being selected has given me the drive to further engage with the art community. Through this opportunity, I can seek guidance and support from my fellow participants, WESTAF and South Arts in the future to better help shape the arts for BIPOC in my community and Mississippi.
Q: What opportunities have opened to you since your selection to the South Arts program?
A: A lot! John T. Edge (the director of Mississippi Lab, the founding director of Southern Foodways Alliance, and Writer in Residence in Writing and Rhetoric at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture) and I had a conversation about his Mississippi Lab project on campus and South Arts. I have a meeting scheduled with Sarah Story, the executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission. Both serve on the board of South Arts. Wayne Andrews reached out to me to participate in YAC’s 50th-anniversary video. Nikki Estes, director at South Arts, asked me to serve on a grant panel. Gallery manager Hannah Hester reached out for gallery representation at Oxford Treehouse Gallery. And of course, this interview.
Q: As a past featured Double Decker Arts Festival artist, how important do you think community arts festivals like this are?
A: Community art festivals are great. I recommend to any artist to participate in at least one arts festival. It helps in the exposure of your artwork, you gain a chance to interact with the community and others from around the area. Don’t be afraid to showcase the talents you have. A few years have passed, but I might return to participate in Double Decker in the future.
Q: Spring is about to begin in Oxford. When you are not creating prints or illustrations, what do you like to do this time of year?
A: It’s that time of year where I’ll be mowing the lawn every other weekend, ha! My wife and I like to spend time outside with our cats and dogs.