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Q&A with Israel Carranza: Bridging Cultures in Nebraska

By Elizabeth Snell

Male presenting individual with long dark hair smiles for a portrait with a white background and painterly red and green background surrounding that. Text states Israel Carranza.

Meet Israel Carranza, a 2024 National Leaders of Color Fellow.

He is a Mexican-American artist who has been creating abstract expressionist paintings inspired by his Indigenous Mexican heritage. He has been instrumental in bringing traditional music, dance, and food to his local community in Lincoln, Nebraska, promoting cross-cultural understanding and appreciation with youth and the public.

We’re thrilled to introduce you to Israel as part of our Q&A series with our region’s National Leaders of Color Fellows. Alongside a total of 48 fellows from diverse communities nationwide, Israel will engage in an eight-month online leadership development experience curated by WESTAF in collaboration with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations. This initiative reflects Israel’s commitment to engaging contemporary dialogue with celebration and awareness of Mexican heritage and traditions.

What projects are you working on these days? 

Israel: I’m hosting First Friday Art Walk events at Proyecto Cultural, starting a community screen printing studio, starting a screen printing art collective, co-hosting community markets with my Y~Not Market collaborators, and curating cultural and art markets.

Currently my role as Art and Culture Director is honing in on how Proyecto’s cultural arts programs can have a greater impact on our youth and community. As an art advocate, I try to create events that bring young people to the arts in the Lincoln’s Clinton neighborhood. 

What is your earliest memory of being involved with art and creative work?

Israel: Drawing in pencil on looseleaf paper in elementary school, I kept a folder with my pencil drawings. I also really enjoyed all my art classes in school. 

What are your hopes and visions for your community and our region as a whole?

Israel: To help start a creative district on Y Street for the Clinton neighborhood in Lincoln, Nebraska, and to bring more art to young people or take more young people to art.

When I was new to Lincoln, I found my space and community in the Clinton neighborhood. It reminds me of my home town of Zion, Illinois. I envision a safe creative place to witness some cool events, see some cool art and listen to some cool local music. 

What keeps you moving forward?

Israel: Community and a desire to grow it. 

Is there someone that you have admired (mentor, teacher, friend, or artist) that impacted your path in a positive way that you’d like to share?

Israel: My parents for teaching me work ethic and character. Mrs. Leden, my senior year English teacher. She taught us about different artists including Jean Michel Basquiat, which led me to go to art school at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. I also admire Sergio Gomez of 33 Contemporary Gallery and cofounder of ArtNXT Level for showing me how to install gallery exhibitions at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. Furthermore, my wife Katia, for showing me how to work more inclusively with communities. 

Who else should we get to know in our region?

Israel: Proyecto Cultural’s Sangre Azteca dancers, The Lux Center for the Arts, Lincoln Calling, Zhou B Art Center Kansas City, Lincoln Arts Council, Pepes Bistro, Turbine Flats, Resonator Gallery, Sheldon Art Museum, International Quilt Museum, KZUM Radio, Nebraska Commission on Latino-Americans, Civic Nebraska, Nebraska Appleseed, Neighborworks, Omaha Mobile Stage, and Omaha Fashion Week.  

I’ve worked with, volunteered, visited or collaborated with these groups and organizations. They all create community and contribute to people and the arts. 


More about Israel:

Israel Carranza is a Mexican-American artist who has been creating abstract expressionist paintings inspired by his Indigenous Mexican heritage for many years. He was born and raised in Illinois and recently moved to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Carranza’s art is a reflection of his deep connection to his cultural roots and his passion for exploring the intersection of Indigenous Mexican traditions and contemporary art. His paintings are characterized by bold, vibrant colors and abstract forms that evoke the natural landscapes, myths, and symbols of Mexico’s Indigenous communities.

In addition to his art, Carranza is also active in organizing cultural events in Lincoln that celebrate and showcase the rich heritage of Mexico and its people. 

Carranza’s work has been exhibited in galleries throughout the United States, and he has received recognition for his contributions to the arts, community and culture. He continues to create and share his art with the world, inspiring others to connect with their own cultural heritage and explore the power of art as a means of expression, connection and a creative future.

To learn more about the 2023–2024 fellows, visit artslead.org/leaders/2023nationalfellows/. We will present additional Q&A sessions with each fellow throughout the spring.

The National Leaders of Color Fellowship is supported by the six United States Regional Arts Organizations (US RAOs) Arts Midwest, Mid-America Arts Alliance, Mid Atlantic Arts, New England Foundation for the Arts, South Arts, and program convener WESTAF


About the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations

​​The U.S. Regional Arts Organizations strengthen and support arts, culture, and creativity in their individual regions as well as across the nation. They serve the nation’s artists, arts and culture organizations, and creative communities with programs that reflect and celebrate the diversity of the field in which they work. They partner with the National Endowment for the Arts, state arts agencies, individuals, and other public and private funders to develop and deliver programs, services, and products that advance arts and creativity. Learn more at www.usregionalarts.org.