PVA exhibit highlights civil and voting rights movements

Curator Maria Gitin discusses a series of photographs included in Pajaro Valley Arts’ new exhibit, “Vote! Your Vote is Your Voice/¡Vote! Su Voto es Su Voz!" (Johanna Miller/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE—In 1988, the case of Dolores Cruz Gomez v. City of Watsonville made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court case resulted in the city splitting into seven distinct voting districts, allowing residents to choose their own representatives. The system remains to this day.

“There are plenty of people still in Watsonville who were involved in that case,” said Maria Gitin, civil rights veteran and speaker. “It had a huge impact on this area.”

Gitin is the curator of Pajaro Valley Arts’ newest exhibit: “Vote! Your Vote is Your Voice/¡Vote! Su Voto es Su Voz!" The exhibit opened today at Pajaro Valley Arts and was dedicated in memory of photographer Bob Fitch.

Fitch is best known for his iconic images of major figures in various civil rights, peace and social justice movements in American history. Fitch captured moments in the lives of people such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez and Dorothy Day.

But Fitch also focused on the everyday people involved in these movements—a fact that Gitin said was vital in the creation of “Vote! Your Vote is Your Voice.”

“It is so important to remember that ordinary people were the true movers and shakers of these movements,” Gitin said. “It’s not just about the famous names—it’s about the lesser-known, even nameless people who really made a difference.”

“Vote! Your Vote is Your Voice” includes pieces by local and national artists as well as archival photographs by Fitch and Gitin. Pieces were chosen for the open-call show by three jurors, who were on the lookout for work that represented and celebrated the nonpartisan democratic process.

“There is such a diverse amount of work here,” said Judy Stabile, exhibit designer and member of the gallery’s board of directors. “It’s an incredibly expressive, beautiful collection.”

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ABOVE: "We the People" by Peggy Snider is one of many pieces now on display at Pajaro Valley Arts as part of its new exhibit.

PV Arts also collaborated with the City of Watsonville and Watsonville Film Festival (WFF) for a series of free events that will take place during the exhibit’s two-month run.

The first of these events will be held tomorrow at 7 p.m.; a screening of two films about voting rights put on by WFF at the Watsonville Civic Center, 275 Main St. Next Thursday the documentary film “Councilwoman” will be screened at the same time and location.

Two panels about the Gomez v. City of Watsonville case will also be held. The first, focusing on the local Latina leaders whose community organizing led to the case, will be held on April 18. Gitin’s husband Samuel Torres Jr., one of the show’s Cultural and Exhibit Advisors, will moderate another panel about the case on May 18.

“We really wanted to give this community a better understanding of this history,” Gitin said. “But we also want to inspire them. We hope people will be touched by the amazing leadership done by people of color.”

Stabile explained just how much work it took to put on this exhibit in particular—and how much impact it has already had.

“So much research and passion went into this show,” she said. “I’ve already seen people close to tears walking after walking through. It’s just that powerful.”

“Vote! Your Vote is Your Voice” will be on display at Pajaro Valley Arts until May 26. An opening reception will be held Sunday at 2 p.m.

For a complete list of events planned and more information visit pvarts.org.


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