ASU staff member celebrates his Mexican heritage through art

Marco Albarran’s work is on display at two locations in the Valley

September 22, 2021

The materials and methods behind multimedia artist Marco Albarran’s work are as diverse as his own story. 

He creates linocut print pieces in black and white with Indigenous mask imagery. One of his sculptures was painstakingly constructed over several months. All of the pieces, however, are connected to the Arizona State University staff member’s personal experiences. Mixed media art piece "Mayahuel" by Marco Albarran on display at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum Marco Albarran poses with his mixed-media piece “Mayahuel,” which is on display at the Mesa Contemporary Arts (MCA) Museum. Photo courtesy of the MCA Museum at Mesa Arts Center Download Full Image

“I’m a binational, multicultural individual that has gone through a series of related experiences — some of those experiences eventually are transformed into art creations in some way or form,'' Albarran said. 

Some of Albarran’s creations are on display this fall at the Phoenix Airport Museum and the Mesa Arts Center. Albarran, who serves as exhibit developer with the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, uses art to honor his heritage. 

Born in Mexico, Albarran migrated with his family to a border town where he lived until moving to the United States in high school. Before moving to Phoenix, he helped his father farm fields after school. He later attended ASU, studying architecture, political science and construction and civil engineering.

The Phoenix Airport Museum “Myth, Legend and Lore” exhibition showcases prints Albarran made using linocut printmaking. Designs are carved into a sheet of linoleum, then inked and printed onto paper.

“The pieces that I’m creating right now are part of the ‘Alt-Face’ series and are specific to the beliefs and ways of celebrating the different regions in Mexico,” Albarran said. “The basic structure of the prints are loosely based on regional-traditional representations of pre-Columbian images or living representations of mixed customs, traditions and cultural ways that are still in use during the various celebrations, dances and ethnographic art done all around Mexico.”

Albarran’s mixed-media piece, “Mayahuel,” is on display at the Mesa Arts Center and is part of the "Divine Paradigm Contemporary Visionary Art" exhibition. It was specifically created for the entrance of the museum and will tie in as part of the Día de los Muertos Festival. Albarran said the piece is inspired by the pre-Columbian deity Mayahuel, who was celebrated around the maguey plant, also known as agave. 

Linocut printmaking artwork from Marco Albarran is on display at the Phoenix Airport Museum

Albarran’s pieces using linocut printmaking are on display at the Phoenix Airport Museum’s “Myth, Legend and Lore” exhibition through January. Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Airport Museum

He said the piece has many different historical and cultural layers and can be interpreted by the individual, but he wanted to highlight the ancient uses of the maguey plant before it became commercialized. Albarran said maguey was traditionally a sacred drink used for ceremonial purposes and healing properties. 

“Since I was a little kid I grew up doing very traditional family gatherings — and again when I say traditional, I’m talking about Indigenous ways of celebrating life itself,” Albarran said. “But at the same time, I also had the more contemporary, or mestizo, ways, which is that mix of European and Indigenous ways. So when I’m creating art pieces I’m kind of remembering those things as I work on each piece.”

As the exhibit developer in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at ASU, he works with faculty to display their research in the school’s Innovation Gallery, an exhibition space. 

Encouraging and nourishing art within the Chicano and Latino communities has been Albarran’s lifelong work. In the 1990s he worked for the Hispanic Research Center at ASU and also started his own cultural magazine called “Zopilote,” which gained international attention. 

The “Myth, Legend and Lore exhibition” at the Phoenix Airport Museum runs through January 2022 and is located in terminal 3 and terminal 4. The Mesa Arts Center’s exhibition, “Divine Paradigm Contemporary Visionary Art,” runs through Nov. 28. 

Communications specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


ASU transportation study supports expanded autonomous vehicle use

September 22, 2021

new study conducted by Arizona State University reveals public enthusiasm for greater use of autonomous vehicles, or AVs. Participants in a six-month experiment among older and disabled residents in the Phoenix metro area said they felt AV services were safe, convenient and even preferable to traditional taxis or ride-share options.

The positive results are part of a report authored by transportation experts from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at ASU. The work was sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration and conducted for the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority of Greater Phoenix, in partnership with the Waymo autonomous-driving technology company. A small stage surrounded by Waymo autonomous cars and Valley Metro light rail train carriages The Federal Transit Administration has released a report about a unique mobility-on-demand service demonstration conducted by Valley Metro and Waymo. The results, authored by researchers in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, highlight significant passenger enthusiasm for autonomous vehicles. Photo courtesy of Valley Metro Download Full Image

“This pilot study is unique in that it was the first one to deploy a true AV-based mobility-on-demand service for members of the public to use for their regular daily trips,” said Ram Pendyala, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Fulton Schools and director of the Center for Teaching Old Models New Tricks, or TOMNET, a multi-university research consortium sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation. “Participants could summon rides with a smartphone app, just like they would for Uber or Lyft, and take Waymo AV rides to work, shopping, dining and more.”

The experiment operated between September 2019 and March 2020 in a 100-square-mile area encompassing parts of Chandler, Mesa and Tempe, Arizona. Participating passengers were registered users of Valley Metro’s RideChoice program, a subsidized taxi or ride-hailing service for paratransit-certified people under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, and for people age 65 and over living in the Phoenix area.

In addition to using AV transport for more than 1,100 journeys that averaged about 5 miles and 10 minutes, passengers completed surveys to offer their perceptions of safety, convenience, comfort and other factors in three stages: prior to the introduction of the AV service, during the operation of the service and after the experiment was completed.

The project goal was to better understand whether autonomous vehicles can fit within a community transit and mobility program, and the results indicate the answer is a resounding yes. Data show a majority of participants used the AV service to engage in more activities outside the home than they typically would using conventional ride services. Three-quarters of passengers also said they would be comfortable riding alone in an AV, meaning without one of the human safety drivers who were stationed in the Waymo cars during the experiment.

“It is exciting to see how well autonomous vehicles were accepted as a viable travel solution for seniors and persons with disabilities,” said Jon Edwards, Valley Metro board chair and Peoria councilmember. “With a growing demand for affordable transportation, we are on the brink of a new era.”

Nicole Gavel, head of business development and strategic partnerships for Waymo, added, “The insights gained through this first-of-its-kind partnership support developing a product and service that holds the promise of enabling mobility for all, offering a new kind of freedom for individuals to go where they want, when they want.”

Luke Tate, the managing director of ASU’s Office of Applied Innovation and the person who initiated the research support for the experiment, agrees that such positive results point to opportunities for greater social equity.

“As the operational cost curve of autonomous vehicles bends downward and their usage becomes more widespread, municipal subsidy of AV use may be key to unlocking point-to-point mobility for low-income and mobility-limited citizens, opening a world of new educational, economic and other opportunities,” Tate said. “Sometimes getting a ride when you need it may make the difference between losing your job or not, getting to a long-sought medical appointment or not, or other serious consequences that never occur to folks with reliable transportation.”

Thad Miller, who served as an associate professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society until the fall of 2020, conducted focus groups with study participants as well as with transportation planners and policymakers in the region. The focus group conversations consistently revealed that passengers would like to see AVs deployed on a wider scale, and that transportation professionals are eager for more studies.

Consequently, Pendyala says he hopes the results will inspire more AV-based experiments — locally, nationally and even globally.

“AV technology is evolving rapidly, and different types of technologies and use cases are being developed,” said Pendyala, who also directs the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the seven Fulton Schools. “From Waymo-type AV ride services to AV buses and shuttles to AV-based freight and trucking technology, there are many possible avenues for AVs to potentially find their way into our mobility landscape.”

In addition to Pendyala, who was the study’s principal investigator, the report’s authors include Miller, Research Professor Peter Stopher, Postdoctoral Research Associate Devon McAslan, Graduate Research Associate Tassio Magassy and Graduate Research Associate Farah Arevalo.

Full details about “An Evaluation of the Valley Metro-Waymo Automated Vehicle RideChoice Mobility-on-Demand Demonstration” are available from the Federal Transit Administration.

Gary Werner

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering