The Royal Chicano Air Force: Arte para la Raza

Humboldt State University's First Street Gallery presents a selection of prints and posters from the 1970s and 1980s by the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF). The RCAF is a Sacramento, Calif. based artist collective founded in 1970 by José Montoya and Esteban Villa. The art within this collection encapsulates the early, heady days of activism by the United Farm Workers movement in California.

In viewing the prints, the audience will come away with a nuanced appreciation for the cultural and political aspirations of the Chicano community during that period. The art featured in the exhibition will be on loan from the permanent collection of California State University, Sacramento, curated by Phil Hitchcock, director of the university’s Library Gallery.

The RCAF is best known for its mural paintings, poster art production, and individual artistic contributions. The artists of the RCAF have produced murals and exhibitions ranging from San Diego, California to Seattle, Washington. The RCAF is significant as a collective that has maintained a 45-year history of engaging communities to express Chicano culture, history and struggle for civil and labor rights. Many of the artists involved with the RCAF have also worked as educators in schools, community colleges and universities. Some members have taught in prisons, youth correctional facilities and neighborhood community centers.

Some of the work in the collection consists of posters that were created in order to promote community events such as dances, performances and other fundraisers that helped gain financial support for their activities as a collective. These community fundraising events were held at theaters and parks in Sacramento, and helped support farm workers struggling against the exploitative policies of large agricultural companies. These promotional posters are functional works of art. RCAF artists such as Louie “The Foot” Gonzalez, José Montoya and Rodolfo “Rudy” Cuellar, among others, created posters with a colorful and creative sense of design that also serve primarily as a method of spreading information to the community.

In addition to promotional posters, the collection also has political posters that bring attention to the issues surrounding Chicano and Latino culture both in the United States and abroad. Notable examples include a poster in support of The Salvadoran People’s Committee during the civil war in El Salvador from 1979 to 1992. Similarly, there are posters that support the socio-political advancement of Chicano culture. For example, RCAF artists created posters in support of community programs like bilingual education and creative Chicano Medicine at the University of California, Davis.

The exhibition will run from Jan. 27 through March 8. A public reception for the exhibition will be held during Eureka Main Street’s Arts Alive on Saturday, Feb. 7, from 6 to 9 p.m. First Street Gallery is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m.

The gallery is located at 422 First Street, Eureka, California. Admission is free. School groups are encouraged to call ahead for tours. For more information, please call (707) 443-6363. To learn more about HSU First Street Gallery, visit the website