AMES, Iowa — Binational artist, designer and craftsperson Tanya Aguiñiga, winner of a 2021 Heinz Award for the Arts, will share her work addressing issues of migration, gender and identity when she speaks at Iowa State University in April.

Aguiñiga will present “Why Craft at the Border?” at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 6, in 0114 Student Innovation Center. Part of the 2021-2022 College of Design Lecture Series, her talk will be livestreamed on the college’s YouTube channel.

“Craft-centered interventions — performance, site-specific installation, community-based collaborations and straight-up object making have helped me voice the emotions felt at the edge of two cultures,” Aguiñiga said.

“In the face of injustice, fiber, glass, metal and clay have been my companions in creating works of healing and empowerment.”

In this lecture, Aguiñiga will discuss design thinking and successes and failures of past projects at the United States–Mexico border, including her current ceramics studio project at an LGBTQ asylum shelter in Mexico. She will also provide a guide to best practices for community engagement.

About the speaker

Aguiñiga was born in  San Diego and raised in Tijuana, Mexico. Drawing on her upbringing as a binational citizen of the United States and Mexico who daily crossed the border from Tijuana to San Diego for school, Aguiñiga’s work speaks of her experience of her divided identity. With it, she aspires to tell the larger and often invisible stories of the transnational community.

Aguiñiga began her career by creating collaborative installations with the Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Frontizero, an artist collective that addressed political and human rights issues at the U.S.-Mexico border. She co-built and ran a community center in Tijuana aimed at bringing attention through arts initiatives to the injustices faced by the local community. In 2016, in response to the deep polarization about the border, she created AMBOS (Art Made Between Opposite Sides), an ongoing series of projects that provides a platform for binational artists.

Often incorporating cotton, wool and other textiles, Aguiñiga blends traditional Indigenous weaving practices and materials and contemporary designs into colorful wall-hung artworks, immersive performance installations and hybrid works incorporating film. She collaborates frequently with other artists, activists and community members and exhibits her work extensively, including in major solo shows at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, and Museum of Arts and Design in New York in 2018.

Aguiñiga holds a BA from San Diego State University and MFA in furniture design from the Rhode Island School of Design. She is a United States Artists Target Fellow in crafts and traditional arts, a National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures awardee, a Creative Capital grantee and a recipient of an Americans for the Arts Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities.


Olivia Valentine, Design Lectures and Exhibitions Committee, ovalen@iastate.edu
Saylor Upah, Design Events, upahsay@iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, 515-294-9289, hsauer@iastate.edu