Cascarones Por La Vida Art Fund
Marta Sanchez creates and sells cascarones to help support the Cascarones Por La Vida Art Fund she established at The Philadelphia Foundation in 2003. Although these colorful confetti-filled eggs are meant to be broken over the head in fun, they serve an important cause: helping children infected with HIV/AIDS.
A Fun and Hopeful Tradition
The cascarones tradition was among the many aspects of Mexican-American culture that Sanchez brought with her when she moved from Texas to Philadelphia. Like rules and records, cascarones are meant to be broken. But they’re in an art class all by themselves.
What do you do with a cascarone? You hit someone over the head with it!
Decorated wildly and mildly with paint, glitter, sequins and colored paper, cascarones are sold by the hundreds on the streets during Fiesta. They are meant to be cracked over the heads of unsuspecting celebrants.
Tradition has it that as the eggshell breaks and the confetti spills over the alarmed recipient, they receive the grace of God. The confetti represents flowers or a spirit that will protect the person from harm. Recipients will find reminders of the fun times for months to come in their cars, pockets and shoes. Of course, many cascarones are so beautiful that people just want to save them.
From Playful To Purposeful
Sanchez used to make the eggs for friends, but a few years ago she decided to sell them to benefit organizations serving those affected by AIDS through the Cascarones Por La Vida Art Fund.
Sales of the cascarones have supported Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia since 1992, along with the Circle of Care (the AIDS network for area families). Episcopal Community Services’ S.T.A.R. program (Supportive Therapy for AIDS-Affected Relatives) and St. Mary’s Respite Center also have been recipients of her campaign. Over nearly 20 years, it has provided more than $30,000 to programs for children with AIDS.
Sanchez’s spring “eggs-travaganzas” have become annual Easter celebrations that spread the spirit of love, friendship and charitable acts to those most in need.
Artists, children, volunteers and friends drain and decorate the eggs. They create – and sell – over 2,000 cascarones a year, each lovingly made – and broken – by hand. (The yolks and whites are donated to area shelters for the homeless.)
The designs range from fairly simple to quite elaborate.
“Artists whose work sells for thousands of dollars take eggs home to brush tiny, unsigned paintings on them, knowing they will be sold for but $1 and then crushed to smithereens,” wrote Sandy Bauers of The Philadelphia Inquirer in a 2002 story about the initiative.
A Guiding Spirit
Born and raised in San Antonio, Sanchez earned a BFA in painting from the University of Texas at Austin. She came to Philadelphia where she earned an MFA in painting from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, and never left.
Today, the Mount Airy resident and painter teaches at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, St. Joseph’s University and the Springside School. She describes her art, available through artedemarta.com, as “an ongoing narrative recording the existence of my family and friends.”
“I strive to relate hope, prayers and humanity of the common man,” she says.
Perhaps none of her art, though, is as hopeful as the cascarones and the impact that they can have on children with HIV/AIDS.
“The thing that is so hard for me is to see children so young who can’t imagine themselves as having a future,” she says. “That’s what motivates me.”
Contributions to the Cascarones Por La Vida Art Fund are gifts to all those who understand that life is as fragile, and as beautiful, as an eggshell.
To support this fund or any fund at The Philadelphia Foundation, visit our give now page.