By Katherine Brennand
We are all special. I realize that. However, being memorable is possibly more significant. Juan Sandoval was, is, and will be memorable for a long time to come. He will be remembered for many qualities…..for his intelligence and his sensitivity, for his “eye” for art, and for the spark and mischievous twinkle in that same eye when he smiled. He will be remembered for his gentleness and his kindness. In today’s world, kindness holds a top priority, and the loss of Juan means kindness took a real hit. He combined so many things…he was somewhat a loner, but could be quite gregarious; he always thought things through carefully, but would travel at the drop of a hat. Atop it all, he had a deep and intuitive sense of what good art was all about.
My fondest memory of Juan was a time, “back in the day,” as is said, when Mago Orona Gandara invited Juan and me to lunch at her home in El Paso. I knew Juan, but not well, at the time, and I know our unspoken thought was, “why did Mago invite just the two of us?” What will we discuss? I did not even know that Juan was a collector. Mago must have had a sixth sense about the three of us “bonding,” if you will, over the meal that continued for seven hours! Juan and I both had known Mago for a long time, and by the end of this experience, I felt as if I had known Juan all my life. The discussion was stimulating, intense, and so much fun…. all about art, of course, from Juan’s latest purchase to Mago’s experimental techniques with mosaic glass. We spoke of Tribal Art, Renaissance Art, Pointillism, Cubism, Siglo de Oro Drama and the Zarzuela (where, at least, I could chime in), as well as, two or three hours’ worth of conversation about current Chicano artists. I must admit that politics reared its head in the discussion as well. Quite unlike Mago and me, Juan once again exhibited his kindness.
When Juan reluctantly decided to gift his unique and valuable art collection to Austin, I was saddened. Everyone in the art community here felt the same. Hopefully, there is truth in the fact that it will be very much appreciated there.
In his quiet way, Juan was a genuine arts advocate, and this community will suffer the loss of his passion. He realized the value of art and how it changes lives and touches souls. But, most importantly, he was a friend, and I hope the timbre and resonance of his voice give that angel choir a glorious new sound. Goodbye, Juan. You will always fill our hearts.
Katherine Brennand is a life-long El Pasoan and advocate for the arts. She was a founding member of three theaters and two art galleries. She formerly sat on the Texas Association of Museum Boards, Creede Repertory Theatre in Colorado, the Museums and Cultural Affairs Board for the City, and chaired the El Paso Public Arts Committee. She currently sits on the UT Fine Arts Dept. Advisory Board and the El Paso Museum of Art Foundation Advisory Board, and the XII Travelers Advisory Board. She founded the $20 million ArtSpace project in downtown El Paso and was been instrumental in producing the first Zarzuela Festival, and the unique International Siglo de Oro Drama Festival for the Chamizal National Memorial, which will celebrate its 46th birthday in 2021! Why did someone who taught Finance, Economics, Investments and Statistics, and who cannot draw a recognizable picture of a stick horse, wind up doing all these “arts” activities? She can tell you why…… the arts unite us. No matter our socio-economic background, our ethnicity, our language, our education level, the arts provide us with an even playing field. When we share our arts, culture and history, ALL of us come from an unsurpassed depth and breadth of creativity, excellence and passion. The arts are the soul of the universe. Katherine is also a Mother of four, (all in Colorado) grandmother to more, Katherine and husband, Chris Cummings, (who has become quite a Public Art sculptor) spending time in Creede, Colorado and Bent, New Mexico.
Readers are welcomed to send us their remembrances of the late Juan Sandoval II, so we can publish them in El Paso News. Please send your remembrances/stories/essays/poetry/photographs/drawings, etc. to: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will do some light editing, if needed. You can send a photograph to accompany your article, but it is not necessary. Please title your remembrance and provide a brief biography of yourself, if possible. Thank you.