Expressing her ideas through visual art is second nature for Flora Rees-Arredondo.
“I’ve done art since I was a kid,” said Rees-Arredondo, the Latinx artist from Burbank, California, who designed our new U.S. Bank Nuestra Herencia™ Visa® Debit Card.
Nuestra Herencia means “our heritage,” and that was the theme Rees-Arredondo captured in her work.
“I grew up in Davis,” she shared. “I’m mixed race – my dad immigrated from Mexico, and my mom, who is a professional artist, is from California.”
But her design for the debit card encompasses a story larger than her own. “I’m a huge nerd,” she said, “so I love studying history and exploring culture and mythology through my own artwork and short films.”
U.S. Bank intentionally develops debit card designs that allow our customers to share something about themselves – from their LGBTQ+ pride to their favorite sports teams. This card, launched in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month, is U.S. Bank’s first design for the Hispanic community.
Rees-Arredondo incorporated the broader story of Hispanic and Latino heritage into the card art. “The most exciting part about designing the card is that we were creating a dialogue,” she said. “We were showing at least one perspective about what it means to be Latine or Latinx, and we wanted to be inclusive of all Latinx perspectives. Everyone is different, but I think most people will connect to it in some way.”
The specific card design was inspired by Rees-Arredondo’s study of Aztec and Mayan mythology. “I was thinking, ‘How could I modernize this? The illustration came from a storyline I created in my head about Aztec civilization, but modernized.”
Working with a financial institution was a unique addition to her resume, which includes work with animation and video game studios, as well as her own short films. “I fell in love with live action film in high school,” Rees-Arredondo shared. “I enjoyed watching films like Silver Linings Playbook and Amélie. I was enchanted by the lighting and loved their storytelling devices.”
As she was developing her eye, Rees-Arredondo knew she wanted to use art for something bigger than herself. “Art is the perfect form of social activism because everyone looks at art whether they realize it or not,” she said. “We see graphic designed ads all the time. Art demonstrates where we are as a society and how we see ourselves in other people, and we can use art to shape how we see others in our society.”
Representation itself is a powerful form of activism. “If I'm a kid growing up and I don't see someone who looks like me, I'm going to feel left out,” Rees-Arredondo said. “I felt insecure in my own identity as mixed race. [Representation in media] doesn't have to be life-changing and in your face. It can be subtle, using different skin tones or including LGBTQ+ representation.”
Having representation on screen is just as important as having it behind the scenes – in the crew, animators, writers and artists who produce content. “It’s important to showcase who we are in reality – not in a bubble of what others think we are/should be. Animation, and entertainment in general, is going in a good direction in terms of having more diversity. I loved seeing people who looked like me working together on a show, hearing their perspectives and learning how they got into their career. When I work with people who have similar experiences as me, it shows me I'm heard, there are others who look like me and I have a community.”
That’s one reason why we chose Ana Lydia Monaco, an up-and-coming Latina director, to film a short documentary about Rees-Arredondo and her debit card design.
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