Betsy Z. Casañas: Call & Response

ON View: April 5, 2024 - May 25, 2024

Betsy Z. Casañas, a native of Philadelphia and the Fairhill neighborhood is a multifaceted force whose works bridge activism, education, urban agriculture, painting, and murals. With a career spanning across the globe, Casañas has left her indelible mark with over 70 murals, stretching from the streets of Paraguay to the shores of the Caribbean, from the verdant landscapes of Ireland to the bustling cityscape of Dubai, and everywhere in between.

This exhibition has two parts: one focusing on her murals around Taller and another on her current work in the Lorenzo Homar Gallery. Her work in the gallery explores themes of familial and personal relationships, trauma, violence, anxiety, isolation, and the stages of healing.  It is part of a series of abstract and figurative pieces she has worked on for the last decade in mixed media. She says it is where the studio processes took her into a meditative state; consistency and repetition of painting and making was like a prayer that quieted the mind to create moments of clarity. This process informs Casañas’ approach to working with communities plagued with violence. Casañas describes this work as part of a larger personal investigation that she has been working on to “reclaim anonymity and personal space while building a community of healthy relationships.” 

Her murals, in contrast, are her collaborations with the community she is in. We will schedule tours of her murals for the show’s duration. In 2007, Casañas painted Cruzando el Charco, a vital mural of the Puerto Rican community that spans N 5th St between Dauphin and York Street. It tells the story of Puerto Rican migration to Philadelphia and honors their achievements. These people, and their children and grandchildren, still live in the neighborhood; for the artist, it’s personal—her family is part of that story. We will also examine her 2021 mural, “Semilla de Patria” on the 2100 block of N Howard Sreet.  The mural presents a positive image of fatherhood in the neighborhood that was predominantly Black and Brown. For her 2019 mural, Sanctuary City, Sanctuary Neighborhood on Huntingdon and N 5th Street, Casañas turns her attention to the plight of undocumented immigrants to create empathy and solidarity within the local Puerto Rican community. Casañas’ practice mirrors Taller’s mission to strengthen the Puerto Rican, Latin American, and Latinx communities through the power of creative self-expression.  

About Betsy Z. Casañas

Betsy Z Casañas (b. 1974 in Philadelphia, PA), based in Philadelphia and Puerto Rico, is a Visual and Public Artist, an educator, a community activist, and an organizer. She is the director of A Seed on Diamond Gallery (closed in 2020) and founder of Semilla Arts LLC, a grassroots organization that uses art for social change. Casañas has 29 years of experience in the arts and has created over 70 murals worldwide. In 2018, Casañas was featured in the Robb Report as one of the “5 Women Changing the Face of Street Art Around the Globe”. Her work is known for its use of pattern and color and the dignity and humanity of her depictions of people in marginalized communities. 

Creating safe spaces has been a vital part of her work. As a Latina artist working in communities of color worldwide, she understands the importance of the people living in these communities seeing themselves reflected in the artwork and the leadership of their places. She believes that artists must reflect on the times they are living in and highlight the people’s stories to change the narrative that has been created for us. By normalizing and humanizing our collective stories, we create more tolerant communities.

funding for this exhibition and its programs was provided by PNC Arts Alive

Related Programs

Opening Reception

FRIDAY, APRIL 12, 2024 | 6:00 - 9:00PM

May 18 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm