President’s Medal recipient Xico Gonzalez uses his art to campaign for social justice
April 13, 2023
Francisco “Xico” Gonzalez uses his art as a tool to educate, inspire, and empower.
In galleries; at protests, marches, and vigils; and in classrooms, his work conveys dramatic messages of social justice for women, people of color, migrants, and others who have felt marginalized by their communities and political systems.
His art has graced local and national venues and is archived at Sacramento State, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and other private and public collections.
Today, Gonzalez shares his passion for social justice with students at the Met Sacramento High School, where he teaches Spanish and art and promotes cultural awareness and community engagement.
“Most of all, through the arts, I express who I am as a person: an individual that believes and works for justice and equality.” -- Francisco “Xico” Gonzalez, President’s Medal for Distinguished Service recipient
For his efforts to make the world more inclusive, Gonzalez, who earned two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree from Sac State, will receive the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service at Commencement in May.
Sac State awards honorary degrees and President’s Medals each year to people who have made extraordinary contributions to improve the lives of others. Gonzalez and three other honorees will be recognized at a ceremony on April 14.
Manuel Barajas, a Sac State Sociology professor who nominated Gonzalez for the medal, said the former Sac State professor embodies the objectives and ideals of the University and the CSU by using his art, poetry, and teaching to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“Xico Gonzalez’s community involvement is unparalleled and very distinguished,” Barajas wrote in his nomination letter, noting that the artist and teacher has worked closely with many community organizations and conducted workshops at schools and colleges around the region. “Few can match the scope and breadth of his community work.”
“He embodies all of the qualities that we expect of our most gifted, talented, and dedicated teachers and mentors.”
Diana Rangel was in middle school when Gonzalez was an adjunct faculty member at Sac State and leading the Barrio Art Program for middle school students. She credits him with helping her to pursue her dreams and earn her Ethnic Studies degree from the University.
“He showed my classmates and I more than just art,” Rangel said. “He showed us the beauty of being Chicanos.”
Gonzalez’s work at Sac State inspired “kids from underrepresented communities to witness people who look like them in higher education,” Rangel said. “One of those kids was me.”
Gonzalez said he creates art to provide a voice for issues and people marginalized by society.
“In addition, art is how I express my inner thoughts, the ideologies that I have embraced, the solidarity that I have with communities around the world,” he said. “Most of all, through the arts, I express who I am as a person: an individual that believes and works for justice and equality.”
Gonzalez added he appreciates Sac State’s recognition of his work.
“I adhere to the philosophy of Chicanismo that states that we must go back to our community to be agents of change for all marginalized people,” he said. “I may be the one receiving the award, which is overwhelmingly humbling, but I belong to a movement that began long before me, and will continue after me.”
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