Finding La Yarda: A digital storytelling art installation

Lawrence Arts Center
  • Marlo Angell, Project Director/ Filmmaker, Lawrence Arts Center
  • Peter Jasso, Filmmaker, Incomplete Films
  • Ben Ahlvers, Exhibitions Director, Lawrence Arts Center
  • Blanca Herrada, Exhibitions Coordinator, Lawrence Arts Center
  • Johnathan Christensen Caballero, Artist, Lawrence Arts Center
  • Ann Dean, Photographer, Lawrence Arts Center

Project Description

Finding La Yarda is an immersive multimedia art experience recreating a room from La Yarda, the housing unit built for Mexican American railroad workers in Lawrence, Kansas from 1920-51. Using film, sound, art and digital storytelling practices, Finding La Yarda brings oral history to life by taking audiences on a cultural journey through time and place.

A creative team of artists will work in close collaboration with former La Yarda residents and their descendants to manifest this project. The installation will use experiential tools to create an artistically rendered living space from the La Yarda apartments. From brick facades to a recreated garden and interior kitchen, tactile set pieces will add physical dimension to the housing unit that until now has only been visible through photographs and paintings. 

LED screens mounted in window sills and table tops will reveal fleeting moments and memories through the medium of experimental film. Building off of filmmakers Marlo Angell and Peter Jasso’s work with public art and community engagement, the narrative arc of the films will be created from new story circles with La Yarda families. Former residents will be key creative stakeholders, not just oral history providers, in the visualization of these narratives. 

Through these films, attendees will experience the domestic atmosphere, emotional connections, cultural celebrations and environmental struggles that took place both within and outside of the walls of La Yarda. Audio soundscapes will add to the immersive sensory experience. The Lawrence Arts Center Exhibitions team of Exhibitions Director Ben Ahlvers, Exhibitions Coordinator Blanca Herrada, and Exhibitions Assistant Jeremy Rockwell, will provide artistic guidance and execution in the areas of artist recruitment and communication, installation, material oversight and maintaining a timeline for the build. 

Ceramics Artist-in-Residence Jonathan Christensen Caballero, whose upcoming exhibition at the Arts Center has thematic ties to Lawrence’s Latino community, will be a key artist on the aesthetic design of this project. From ceramic sculptures in the garden to isolated hands fashioning dresses from flour sacks, his work will provide isolated moments for participants to reflect on. 

To take the impact of this project outside of the Arts Center walls, photographic portraits of the living residents of La Yarda will be taken by photographer Ann Dean and displayed in various locations throughout the city. These large scale images will highlight the contributions of the Mexican American community in Lawrence and reach people outside of traditional gallery spaces. 

Project News

2-year project will work with Mexican-American community to create art installation about La Yarda. (2022, May 18). LJWorld.

Reimagining La Yarda: Digital art installation to re-create a room from the Lawrence neighborhood. (2022, May 18). The Lawrence Times.

Valverde, R. (2021, September 30). ‘A story worth telling’: Local filmmakers document early Mexican American community in East Lawrence. LJWorld.

Image Credits

(1) Water color sketch of La Yarda by artist Frank Chavez. (2) Former La Yarda residents Pedro “Peter” Romero, Alberta Romero Gutierrez, Valentina Romero Guerrero and Teresa Romero Martinez.

Partner Details

  • Marlo Angell

    Project Director/ Filmmaker, Lawrence Arts Center


    Marlo Angell has a degree in Cinematic Arts from the University of Southern California. She is the founding director of the Free State Festival, co-founder of the female filmmaking collective, Women of Lawrence Film (WOLF), and the Curator of Film and Media at the Lawrence Arts Center. Marlo is a member of the Film Festival Alliance, the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission and a community tourism ambassador for Explore Lawrence. Her short films have been screened in festivals across the country and she has short plays produced in the Kansas City area. Marlo has worked as a story analyst, freelance journalist, documentarian, film/writing instructor, and television producer and her recent work centers around film as public art.

  • Peter Jasso

    Filmmaker, Incomplete Films


    Peter Jasso graduated from USC’s School of Cinema-Television with a degree in Film/ Video Production. He taught at the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles office and worked in development at American Zoetrope and Esparza-Katz. He is an alumnus of Film Independent’s Project Involve Mentorship program.  He directed the documentaries, Mariachi Estrella, and was a recipient of the Mana de Topeka award in 2011. He currently works as the Director of the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission.

  • Ben Ahlvers

    Exhibitions Director, Lawrence Arts Center


    Ben Ahlvers began his role as Gallery Director at the Lawrence Arts Center in the fall of 2009. Prior to that Ben served as Associate Education Director at the Arts Center. Ben has curated exhibitions and coordinated symposiums that have been featured in international publications. He also is an active artist in his own right, exhibiting regularly around the country. Ben received his M.F.A. from Ohio University, in 2004, preceded by a B.F.A. from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

  • Blanca Herrada

    Exhibitions Coordinator, Lawrence Arts Center


    Blanca is a visual artist born and raised in Kansas. For two years during her early teens, Blanca lived overseas where her passion for the arts blossomed. Blanca went on to earn her BFA in Painting with a minor in Art History from Emporia State University. She has shown her work locally and regionally. Blanca has been involved in several public art projects and she consults for the Tonantzin Society in Topeka. She loves teaching classes and workshops. For 3 years, she mentored at Sunset Hill Elementary and enjoys working with children and adults. Blanca is invested in bringing art into communities and making art spaces more inclusive and accessible.

  • Johnathan Christensen Caballero

    Artist, Lawrence Arts Center


    Jonathan Christensen Caballero is a multidisciplinary artist born and raised in Utah. He received his A.S. in art from Snow College, B.F.A in ceramics and sculpture from Utah State University and M.F.A. in ceramics from Indiana University. He has exhibited nationally and internationally in venues such as the Clay Center of New Orleans in Louisiana, Standard Ceramic Supply in Pennsylvania, Carbondale Clay Center in Colorado, and Tsukuba Museum of Art in Japan. Christensen Caballero recently moved to Lawrence and became the Interdisciplinary Ceramic Research Center Artist in Residence at University of Kansas. His work has been featured on the cover of Ceramics Monthly’s September 2020 issue and is a recipient of the ISC Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. Christensen Caballero’s work focuses on the human figure and advocates for the Latin American labor community.

  • Ann Dean

    Photographer, Lawrence Arts Center


    After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English at the University of Kansas and taking photography classes at the Lawrence Arts Center, Ann Dean went on to pursue a graduate certificate from the New York Institute of Photography and has worked and studied with several different photographers in the Lawrence area. She has been an instructor at the Lawrence Arts Center for 8 years teaching darkroom and digital photography classes for all ages and also offers private photography lessons. Ann also works as a freelance photographer shooting weddings & portraits and doing corporate work and has taught classes for the Spencer Museum of Art “It Starts With Art” program. Her main area of fine artwork lies in travel photography. “I appreciate visiting new places and experiencing different cultures around the world. I want to promote education and understanding among people through my photographs.” She has participated in several shows in the Lawrence & Kansas City areas over the years and enjoys passing on her knowledge through teaching.