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Phinney couple’s art exhibit benefits poor region of Mexico

Susan Ford and Scott Powell of Phinney Ridge love the southern region of Oaxaca so much, they’ve created a print exhibition at Cornish College of the Arts to raise money for grants and scholarships to help the people in the region’s poor rural villages.
Ford is an artist and graphic designer; her husband is an environmental analyst. They visited Oaxaca (“Wah-háwk-ah”) during a Dia de los Muertos celebration two years ago. This spring they returned to Oaxaca and connected with a University of Oaxaca program targeting rural youth, as well as two non-profit groups working to provide direct services to rural communities.
“We’ve both traveled to Mexico off and on for 30 years and have been attracted to the southern part of Mexico, the Oaxaca area,” Powell said. He added that while both love the culture, Susan, as a graphic artist, is especially attracted to the art and architecture of the region.
They decided to create a charitable project to benefit villagers in the mountains surrounding Oaxaca’s central valley. They call it Seattle Oaxaca Connection. Powell said the couple hasn’t been too involved in charities before, but threw themselves into Seattle Oaxaca Connection. “We’re finding it very exciting,” he said.
The “Legacies in Print” exhibit opened at Cornish College of the Arts Gallery, 1000 Lenora St., last weekend, and runs through Dec. 10. Renowned Oaxacan artist and educator Shinzaburo Takeda has donated prints from his private collection from master Oaxacan printmakers. All proceeds from sales of the prints go to Seattle Oaxaca Connection.

Susan Ford (second from left) celebrates the donation of fine art prints from artist and professor ShinzaburoTakeda (left).
Powell said he and Ford want people here in Seattle to understand “how dire the poverty is. The Oaxaca state, and the Chiapas right next door, are the poorest in Mexico,” he said. “And you get these poor villages where all the men leave (for work) and all these women and children are left.”
Powell and Ford hope Seattle Oaxaca Connection can provide money for educational student exchanges, and for small grants to help villagers market their own skills.

Scott Powell learns about hand-dyed wool weaving in Teotitlan, Oaxaca.
“Maybe one group wants a display booth to take around to fairs and festivals to market their communities, another group is buying industrial sewing machines and ovens and other small tools like that to try to make more money,” Powell said. “In our wildest dreams we’d have the capacity to help all of them, but we’re starting small.”