CMA Stories

“It is the responsibility of our arts institutions to move past these histories and provide the seed of encouragement and possibility for our youth” — 5 Minutes with Artist Nicole Mouriño

On Saturday, December 12, Club CMA Para Familias celebrates the art of Nicole Mouriño, a Cuban-American artist whose work focuses on the ways in which Latinidad is represented in public spaces throughout NYC, specifically through bodega, botanica, and peluqueria windows. During the upcoming workshop, participants will create an abstract drawing of these windows to show their support for small businesses during this holiday season. Read below to learn more about Nicole and click here to sign up for this special Spanish-language workshop.

Sammies, Blues, and Fried Things, 2018

Can you tell us about your art practice and how working with children inspires you?

I make drawings and paintings that reference the windows and public spaces designed by Latinx and immigrant communities in NYC. I think of these spaces as an aesthetic achievement, and document them regularly. I don’t work with children enough, but kids have a sense of wonder and excitement that always reminds me that art is a mode of communication. We do what we do to connect and understand each other more closely and clearly.

Your recent paintings are compelling representations of Latin American dishes such as frito mixto and Cuban sandwiches. In your words, how does food communicate identity?

Food reminds us of land and family — it carries tradition, olfactory memories of home, memories of sharing knowledge passed down for generations. Within bodegas, dishes are often depicted in a way that appeals to our sense of memory and comfort. For example, It’s not uncommon to see an image of tostones paired with a landscape of the beach.

Frito Mixto and Milka, 2018

What foods hold the strongest memories for you?

Oh,  you are getting me started! Most Latino foods I grew up with, but especially anything prepared by my abuela and bisabuela — that includes croquetas de bacalao, sopa de pollo, arroz con leche, flan, buñuelos de anís con miel — the list could go on. I also get emotional at the site of a perfectly ripe avocado, mango, or papaya — things I grew up with falling off trees that I rarely see in NYC.

What advice would you give to young artists who wish to pursue an art practice?

Do you boo, and don’t stop! You are the most precious thing we could hope for. Make beautiful things and create for a society beyond where we are. Being an artist and having an arts practice is more than making a drawing or painting, it’s a way of life. Propel our society with creative ideas and solutions to uncreative problems.

Why is it important to make art accessible to all children and families?

Let’s get heavy! Art history is plagued by a canon that suffers through a white supremacist and machista agenda. It is the responsibility of our arts institutions to move past these histories and provide the seed of encouragement and possibility for our youth. In a city like NYC, that means we need to incentivize immigrant families (with code-switching bilingual / trilingual children) to engage with the arts. This can be done by providing more free educational programming outside of weekday / work hours and bilingual labels / reading materials for all programs. There’s a reason why animated films often cater to two generations of humor and sensibility. The adult is the conduit who buys the tickets, changes the TV channel, and plans the trip to the museum.

Bodega with Shmagel, Tortas, and Jamaican Patties, 2017

Do you have a favorite memory of making art as a child?

My abuelo would occasionally let me tag along to an artist group that would meet on the weekends to sketch still lives. I remember being in a dingy room with a group of old men pushing around charcoal on big sheets of kraft paper. It was extremely liberating to make big marks, and be given space in that room. The feeling of making large charcoal marks on paper or canvas still excites me.

Can you share a work or artist that inspires you to make art?

Chris Ofili. His use of color and composition is unstoppable and also inspired by his surroundings and community. I am perfectly haunted by his 2014 solo show Night and Day at the New Museum.

Top Image: Nicole Mouriño, Bodega, Sirena / Habibi With Dinner Options, 2017

View more of Nicole’s work at

More in Interviews

Sign up to get updates and special invitations