When it became clear that masks would remain a must-have accessory for the foreseeable future, the Office for Global Engagement began exploring options for a “Global U” branded mask to outfit its staff and campus partners. The search led to a unique international partnership with Peruvian artist Ricardo Inga Arizola, a friendship rekindled by the pandemic, and a one-of-a-kind tribute to the Beehive State.
We talked with Inga and Claudia Diaz, Office for Global Engagement graphic designer and communication specialist about how these beautiful masks came to be.
Can you tell me how this collaboration started?
Claudia: Ricardo and I became friends back in art school in Peru–I think it was 1993. When I relocated to the U.S. I lost contact with many people from that chapter of my life. Then, with the pandemic, we all started connecting again through WhatsApp. I’ve followed Ricardo and his art and when I saw the masks he was making, I loved them. I shared them with the OGE Marketing team and asked Ricardo if he’d be interested in taking on a custom project. It evolved from there.
Ricardo, how long have you been working as an artist?
Since I was a little kid I’ve been doing this. My dad has an art restoration workshop, so I grew up in the environment. I went to school for graphic design and marketing. After spending a lot of years in marketing, I decided to switch gears to follow my passion for art.
As an artist who usually honors Peruvian culture through your work, what was it like to create imagery that celebrates Utah?
Ricardo: I am very accustomed to the Peruvian culture, so it was a challenge to design something unique for the U.S. In the process of learning about Utah, I found some geological similarities with another city in Peru–Arequipa. It was interesting for me and suddenly I could relate to Utah through this city. I could see the condors flying in Arequipa and related them [visually] to the red tail hawk. Both places have lots of unique flora and fauna–the mountains, too, have similarities. As an artist, you can go across borders and find similarities in the world.
Actually, it’s funny because I had always wanted to create a condor version of the mask to honor Peru and creating the Utah mask helped me see how to do it.
Ricardo, you were working on plans to create large public murals when the pandemic derailed that project. Can you tell me more?
The pandemic changed everything. I didn’t have access to space [to paint large murals] after the pandemic came. But I thought, “I’m a creative person, I can fly a different way” so I decided to do the masks. The mask became my canvas.
Tell me more about the process of creating the “Global U” face coverings.
After we had the meeting with Claudia and OGE, I captured that idea and started pencil sketches. Once I had all the parts in my mind, I could see it like a photograph. Then, I [make the design digital] using Procreate.
Each mask is a silkscreen print and created one-by-one. They are handcrafted, artisan-created, by sewists at a small workshop in Lima.
I chose Peruvian cotton—it’s well-known in the world because it is very high quality, soft and not scratchy against the skin. It’s 100% cotton–not mixed. I take care to make sure that every piece I do represents Peru well and that the quality is the best. This is a demonstration of my love for both the art and my country.
What do you love most about Peru?
Ricardo: I love everything! The food. The music. The folklore. Everywhere I go, I can find inspiration for my art. My roots help me create and become better.
Claudia: The food! There’s nothing that compares.
How do you hope your work could have an impact on the world?
Ricardo: I think my goal, and I feel like this goal is for every artist is to transcend borders. I hope that other people will see my work, when I’m here or gone, and they can learn from my art about my culture, my roots. Each piece has a history and sparks conversations. One of my commitments is to help the world learn about Peru and I try to do that in every piece I create.
Claudia, what does it mean to you to be able to connect your work at OGE with your Peruvian roots through this project?
It brings me tremendous joy and pride to be able to share part of the riches of my beloved Peru with my Utah community. Through art, one can travel to my Peruvian roots and learn more about the culture–even during a time when physical travel is hard to do. This has been a very special collaboration and I’m grateful to Ricardo for his work.
Paraphrased translation from Spanish to English facilitated by Claudia Diaz.
Interested in visiting Peru while at the U? Consider these programs.