After teaching architecture design and freehand drawing for ten years on the university level, Miguel Lasala began working with mural artist Robert Dafford in 2018. He has worked on a wide range of projects from restoring the Clarinet mural in New Orleans to most recently painting a 200’ long Rail Lines Map mural in Paducah KY.
Aside from seeking collaborations in visual art, Miguel also has produced several documentary films.
Who makes up your art circle?
The temptation is to start listing names, but it’s probably best to try and describe the different groups that have made an impact on me. Even before I understood what the word meant, creativity was the thing I found while skateboarding as a kid, when I roamed the streets at 12 years old with friends that I’m still close to today. We pushed each other, and we were always looking at the streets in a new way, and trying to be as creative as possible with our approach to new “spots” as we found them. This is definitely where my perspective began to grow, and I know the momentum and excitement I felt at this time built the foundation for everything creative that I would eventually become interested in.
Fred Simonson is one of many lifelong friends from this time. His interest in reading actually took me by surprise at first (all I wanted to do was skate back then), and I know his influence redefined my ideas about learning, and helped put me on a path of asking questions and digging into various subjects. Fred has gone on to become a high level photographer, often capturing some of the most impressive skateboarding taking place in South Louisiana right now. Go check him out @toastninja. Lane Wiley is another old and close friend I met while skateboarding as a kid. His approach to skateboarding is widely respected, as is his drawing and photography ability. In many ways he has encouraged me to try new things and take more chances.
Then I enrolled in Architecture School at ULL (along with my brother Ricardo) and I found myself in the trenches with another group that I would learn so much from. Robert LeJeune, Andrew Perrin, Tom Smith, Doug Long, Rocco Debrodt, Hok Hin Hew, Lauren Bombet, Sally Smith, and so many others. We bled, we pushed ourselves creatively as hard as possible, and we were always taking too many electives, because it was very hard to not take everything available. One semester I took way too many and I failed photography and made a “D” in Elemore Morgan’s drawing class. This ended up being a great thing in the end, because I would get to take it again, and the next time I would have the time to absorb a lot of his teaching methods, many I would later use as a professor.
To get to the point, I don’t really think I have any kind of strict circle of artist friends. I’m close too many, but I’m also close with screenwriters and filmmakers I’ve met at film festivals and online writing groups. I’m currently working with the muralist Robert Dafford and have learned not only a lot from him, but also from others that have worked for him, like Herb Roe and Bret Chigoy.
How do you expand your art circle?
After spending some time in both Mexico City and Oaxaca I met a lot of artists, writers, and filmmakers. One of which is a musician and artist Facundo Vargas from Tlahuitoltepec, who is actually in Lafayette right now to collaborate with me on a mural for the AcA and Asociacion Cultural Latino-Acadiana. My hope is that this winter I can return to Oaxaca and work on a mural with him in his home town. Aside from that, attending film festivals, figure drawing sessions, and writing workshops can lead to collaborative opportunities. I’ve always been interested in film, so my interest in visual art, photography, and writing has always been automatic.
What value do you see in having a creative community?
In 2016 I was part of a group that reignited an effort to get a skatepark built in Ruston, Louisiana. I was teaching at Louisiana Tech at the time, and together with Joey Slaughter, and many others, we made the case to the Mayor why a skatepark was the perfect way to deal with an old empty municipal swimming pool. I’m very glad to say that through continuous efforts over many years, Friends of Ruston Skatepark is very close to raising $250K and beginning construction. You can find them on FB.
Although I have not been directly involved in several years, it’s a great feeling to see this project coming so far.
For me having a creative community to work with equals pure strength.
How does your artistic approach contribute to your community?
When it comes to documentary work in particular, finding a story that is ready to be told is a very humbling experience. You quickly learn how to step out of the way, and let the story be told on its own terms. Somewhere in there you recognize that the story has actually been told many times before, and you realize your job is to give it a platform that can easily be shared by the community. There is obviously editing and some planning, but this is nothing more than fine tuning. The true weight of some stories have a presence way beyond the filmmaker’s vision. This is my belief anyway.
When Joe Loli and I decided to make a documentary about his late father George Loli, it was obvious that the community that he was a part of was right there where he had left them, and all we needed to do was bring those stories together and share them. George had done all the hard work of making so many shared experience with friends, colleagues, and students, and all we tried to do was give it a form.