Dougie Padilla

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Dougie Padilla
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BornJuly 28, 1948
CitizenshipUnited States of America
  • Poet
  • Multimedia visual artist
  • Activist

Dougie Padilla (born July 28, 1948)[1] is a self-taught[2] Chicano poet, multimedia visual artist, and activist. He is of Norwegian, cowboy, and Mexican lineage[3] and works between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Pepin, Wisconsin.[4] Padilla is considered an autodidact in visual art. He is well known for his work with the traveling art collective Grupo Soap del Corazón and as a founder of Art-A-Whirl[5], America’s largest open studio tour.[6]

Early life

Padilla was born in Iowa in 1948 and grew up in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. His mother taught him music, rendering him proficient at the piano and French horn.[7]

Padilla's father came from a strong Mexican and cowboy lineage, with which Padilla profoundly identifies. Before college, he spent time hitchhiking across the country. Much of his two years at Lake Forest College were devoted to marching, picketing, and protesting. Hitchhiking across the United States was a greater passion. In Colorado, he briefly encountered Chicano poet, activist, and political organizer Rodolfo Gonzales and other Chicano activists. Padilla also trained with Chicano activist Reies Tijerina’s Alianza Federal de Mercedes in New Mexico in the late 1960s.[6]

In 1968, Padilla moved to California, immersing himself in the counterculture movement. He spent time in both San Francisco and Berkeley, learning from spiritual leaders visiting at the time, such as Ram Dass[8], Swami Muktananda, and Suzuki Roshi. At age 20 Padilla experienced his first heart failure[9], causing his eyes to open further to spirituality.[7]

In the late 1970s, Padilla worked with poet and activist Robert Bly, who became a significant teacher and mentor. He helped Bly found the Mythopoetic men's movement.[7]

Artistic inspiration and style

Padilla is interested in politica from a lifetime of activism; protesting the war in Vietnam, sitting on his neighborhood board, and working within the Chicanx/Latinx community. Mexican influence is incorporated into all of his art.[8] Over his lifetime, Padilla’s work has seen multiple phases. He began with music and poetry as a youth, moved to mask making and drawing, and then transitioned to painting, ceramics, and printmaking.[10]

As of 1992, he moved to ritual artwork.[2] Padilla was influenced by the Mexican tradition of Día de Los Muertos[11] (Day of the Dead) and the making of Ofrenda.[12] The Day of the Dead resonates with him due to his past ritual practice with Native American and African medicine men. After the passing of his father in 1992, Padilla felt a way to stay in touch with him was through this ritualistic work. His current visual artworks contain many images of Mexican-style calaveras, or skulls, as he appreciates the traditional Mexican relationship with death. His representation of skulls signals joy, believing they create a connection between this world and the spirit world.[7]

Major works

Grupo Soap del Corazón

Founded in 2000 by Padilla and Xavier Tavera, Grupo Soap del Corazón is a community art group that “celebrates Latino artists/culture and the Latinization of Minnesota and the upper Midwest of the USA.”[13] In an attempt to further the “Latinization of Minnesota and the upper Midwest of the USA,” Padilla co-created Grupo Soap del Corazón with a mix of artists from different ethnic backgrounds and origins: Latinx, Native American, African, and Euro-American. Today they represent almost 90 local, national, and international artists.[13] The collective is mobile and focuses on artwork that is easily transported and translated into different community contexts.

In 2006 the group showcased two exhibitions in Valparaiso, Chile, including “El otro Americano (The Other American)” at El Instituto Chileno Norteamericano de Cultura.[13] This exhibition fostered connections across identities and cultures, supporting relationships among North and South Americans. More locally, the group has worked on the “Pepin Portrait Project,”[14] photographing residents of rural Pepin, Wisconsin.[6] In 2021, Grupo Soap del Corazón published a zine, “Fabulista 2,” featuring political cartoons and poetry by Padilla along with the work of other artists in the collective. This zine attempts to encapsulate the struggles endured by Chicanxs/Latinxs and focuses on the political uprising of the summer of 2020.[15]


Padilla returned to poetry in 2019, publishing River Town[16] and Pepin Diaries[17] with Luna Brava Press.

Contemporary life

Padilla lives in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District that he co-created, commuting to his studio Dougieland Pepin located in Pepin, Wisconsin.[18]


  1. "Dougie Padilla". ProjekTraum FN.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Harper, Nick. "Solo Exhibition for Art Legend – Northeast Minneapolis Arts District". Art District News.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. "Dougie Padilla". Clay Squared to Infinity.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. "Doug Padilla's Art Studio". Atlas Obscura.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. "Dougie Padilla". Star Tribune. 2013-01-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Dougie Padilla". Latino Art Midwest. Retrieved 2021-04-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Dougie Padilla". Twin Cities PBS. 2013-06-01. Retrieved 2021-08-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Kronsberg, Matthew (2019-08-09). "A Road Trip With Retro Charm—and a Car to Match". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660.
  9. "About Dougie Padilla". Artwork Archive.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. "320: Dougie Padilla." WEDU Arts Plus, Season 3, Episode 20, PBS NC, 2014-07-03.
  11. Nelson, Rick (2013-10-31). "Restaurant news: Chef Shack and more". Star Tribune.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. Tundel, Nikki (2012-01-17). "Artist Dougie Padilla creates loud pieces through meditation". MPR News.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "ArtOrg : Grupo Soap Del Corazón". ArtOrg. Retrieved 2021-04-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. Olson, Mark (2018-05-29). "New exhibit at Sower Gallery". SWNewsMedia.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. Grupo Soap del Corazón (2021). "Fabulista Final".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. Padilla, Dougie (2020). River Town. Wisconsin: Luna Brava Press.
  17. Padilla, Dougie (2019). Pepin Diaries. Wisconsin: Luna Brava Press.
  18. "Dougieland Studios". TravelWisconsin. Retrieved 2021-04-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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