A Finding Aid to the Mel Casas Papers, 1963-1998, in the Archives of American Art
Portions of this collection are digitized

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.casamel
Creators:
Casas, Mel, 1929-2014
Dates:
1963-1998
Languages:
English
.
Physical Description:
1 Linear foot
Repository:
The papers of San Antonio painter and educator Mel Casas measure 1 linear foot and date from 1963 to 1998. The collection is comprised of biographical material including files on the art collective Con Safo, correspondence regarding business and exhibitions, writings by Casas on Chicano art, printed materials documenting Casas's career and Con Safo events, and photographic materials, including photos and slides of Casas and others, his artwork, and an exhibition.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of San Antonio painter and educator Mel Casas measure 1 linear foot and date from 1963 to 1998. The collection is comprised of biographical material including files on the art collective Con Safo, correspondence regarding business and exhibitions, writings by Casas on Chicano art, printed materials documenting Casas's career and Con Safo events, and photographic materials, including photos and slides of Casas and others, his artwork, and an exhibition.
Of particular note are the files on Con Safo, including meeting minutes for two 1975 meetings, and copies of La Movida Con Safo numbers 1 and 2, which include records of the founding of the group and copies of defining documents of the Chicano art movement. Casas's writings, which express his ideas on Chicano art in diagrammatic form, are also of particular note.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as five series.
  • Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1975-1996 (Box 1; 4 folders)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1975-1993 (Box 1; 4 folders)
  • Series 3: Writings, 1973-1993 (Box 1; 0.9 folders)
  • Series 4: Printed Materials, 1963-1998 (Box 1-2, OVs 3-4; 0.7 linear feet)
  • Series 5: Photographic Materials, circa 1977 (Box 2; 2 folders)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Mel Casas (1929-2014) was a painter and educator in San Antonio, Texas.
Casas was born in El Paso in the historic El Segundo Barrio. After graduating from El Paso High School, he worked odd jobs before serving in the United States Army during the Korean War. Casas was wounded by a landmine in Korea and ultimately awarded the Purple Heart. After returning home he attended the University of Texas at El Paso and graduated in 1956. He subsequently earned a Master of Fine Art in 1958 from the University of the Americas in Mexico City.
Casas began his teaching career at Jefferson High School in El Paso where one of his students was artist Gaspar Enriquez. He went on to teach at San Antonio College and was chair of the art department there until his retirement in 1990.
Casas was a founder of the Chicano art movement and a key member of the art collective Con Safo with other founding members Felipe Reyes, Jose Esquivel, Rudy Treviño, and Roberto Ríos. Originally named El Grupo, the group's mission was to empower Chicano artists who were largely overlooked in the mainstream art world. In 1968 Casas penned the "Brown Paper Report," a manifesto explaining the meaning of Con Safo, Chicano, the "Brown Vision of America," and the group's use of the symbol "C/S." The report helped to define Con Safo as an organization and remains a fundamental document in the history of the Chicano art movement.
Casas is well-known for his series Humanscapes that includes 150 large-scale paintings produced between 1965 and 1989. This series, along with smaller works, has been exhibited throughout the United States and Mexico. Casas's work can be found in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and other collections worldwide.
Casas died in San Antonio, Texas, in 2014.

Administration
Processing Information
The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Sarah Mundy in 2018.
The collection was further processed for digitization and the finding aid updated by Stephanie Ashley in 2020.
Existence and Location of Copies
The collection was digitized in 2020 and is available on the Archives of American Art website.
A portion of the collection was microfilmed on reels 3316-3317 as part of the Archives of American Art's Texas project. The microfilm is only available for interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of material described in this finding aid does not reflect the order of the material on microfilm.
Author
Sarah Mundy and Stephanie Ashley
Sponsor
The processing and digitization of this collection received Federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center. Additional funding for the digitization of the papers was provided by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Mel Casas papers were donated by Mel Casas in 1981 and microfilmed as part of the Archives of American Art's Texas project. Additional papers were donated by Casas in 1999.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Mel Casas papers, 1963-1998. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Terms of Use
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.

Related Materials
Also at the Archives of American Art is an interview of Mel Casas conducted August 14-16, 1996 by Paul Karlstrom for the Archives of American Art.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Art teachers -- Texas -- San Antonio Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Latino and Latin American artists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mexican American art Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mexican American artists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters--Texas--San Antonio Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Chicano art movement Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Chicano artists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Con Safo (Group) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/