- On May 31, 2023
Rooted in Villa Victoria, Nurtured by a Legacy of Belonging
Tori DelValle is a gifted creator and a pride of the Villa Victoria community. The echoes of her heritage resound through the neighborhood, where family ties run deep for this artist. In this blog, Tori shares her journey, tracing its origins back to IBA’s Youth Development Program.
Growing up in Villa Victoria
My ties to Villa Victoria are generational. My grandfather was a maintenance worker for the community. My dad grew up on Aguadilla Street, in the same apartment where he and my mom raised me and my siblings.
I mostly grew up within the boundaries of our community, playing in the dirt field behind my home and walking to school at Blackstone Elementary. The few blocks of the Villa Victoria were my whole world for many years, until I went to middle school.
In 7th grade, I tested into the exam school Boston Latin School. I felt fortunate to be part of this prestigious institution, but the culture shock was real. Going to school and then returning to the Villa felt like two different worlds that I struggled to connect.
It was around that time that I joined IBA’s Youth Development Program and their mentorship helped me navigate this difficult time of my life.
Creating Art that Connects with the Community
It was IBA’s mentors who first introduced me to Spoken Word Poetry. I remember the day that they took us to a poetry slam competition called “Louder Than a Bomb.” When we arrived, I spotted this young person whose face seemed familiar. I’d seen him around at IBA, and he was getting ready to go on stage.
His performance was a life-changing moment for me. It inspired me so much that I tried out for IBA’s slam team with a poem that I wrote about my grandmother. It was four pages long – all about her being stubborn, short, and very Puerto Rican.
When I read my poem to the IBA community at the old Villa Victoria Center for the Arts, I had no idea how much it would resonate with the audience. After my performance, people approached me to share how much my words resonated with them.
That’s when I discovered the power of connecting with the community’s shared experiences. And since then, my art has always been an organic reflection of my personal journey. I’m proud to say that the Villa Victoria community is at the root of my craft because it allows me to better understand myself, my people, and my history.
Taking the Villa to NYU
While I experimented with poetry at IBA, I also rediscovered my interest in the visual arts. I always loved drawing as a kid, but I never took any classes and I had no idea you could make a career out of art.
Up until then, I wanted to be an aerospace engineer. But in the back of my mind, there was always a curiosity for the creative fields. With the support of IBA mentors, I applied to the New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts and received a full tuition scholarship that allowed me to pursue my artistic interest.
When I got to college, I became more intentional about developing my visual art skills. Through my studies, I learned the official names of methods that I’d been doing on my own for years. I welcomed artistic collaborations and took on paid commission work. It expanded my whole mindset and made the most of the opportunity to develop as an artist.
During my four years at NYU, my projects were heavily narrative-based with strong links to my culture and my community. It all culminated with “How We See It Under Streetlights,” an interactive anaglyph illustration that depicts how older and younger generations perceive Villa Victoria. Creating it was my way to bring the Villa to NYU.
Crafting More Narrative Experiences
As an artist, I hope to inspire self-awareness through family histories and shared community experiences. That’s why I’m so proud to introduce my first solo exhibition, titled “Lost Grief.”
Being able to present this show with the sponsorship of IBA feels full circle. Especially because each piece of this collection was imagined and created through the lens of childhood, culture, identity, gender, community, history, and generational lineage.
It’s an honor to know that the program that anchored and connected me to my true identity as a teenager continues to believe in my art.
Other grassroots supporters for “Lost Grief” include Dorchester Art Project, Scope Apparel, Thrill, and Colours. Thanks to them and the gallery space at NOSA, I’m now able to share this project with my community.
One of Tori’s biggest dreams is to paint a mural in her own neighborhood!
In the meantime, IBA would like to invite the residents of Villa Victoria and the community to enjoy “Lost Grief” at the NOSA gallery space starting June 5th.
Visit the IBA Arts website to learn more on events that support Latino culture.