Art provides communities the opportunity to come together and appreciate a new viewpoint and, hopefully, gain a new perspective.
– Jonathan Williams & Kisla Jimenez, Tesoros Trading Company


Tesoros Trading Company is one of Austin’s cultural treasures not only for the amazing arts and crafts they bring to Austin from twenty different countries, but also for their deep commitment to supporting our community.

Tesoros is a sponsor and partner for this summer’s Brasil! series. Not only are they supporting our artists, but they have also donated twelve gorgeous and evocative prints by iconic Brazilian printmaker Jose Francisco Borges that will be available in the lobby of our shows as a benefit for ACG Education.

I spoke with Jonathan Williams and Kisla Jimenez about their relationship to Brazil, to Austin Classical Guitar, and the importance of international arts in our community.

Matthew Hinsley: What is your relationship with Brazil, what do you love the most?

Jonathan Williams:  I was given a grant to study Portuguese at UT in the early 1980’s. Brazil in general is fascinating mix of European-Portuguese, African, and Indigenous traditions that has shaped its visual arts and music. The Folk Art traditions also reflect this unique blend. And of course the music is among the most beautiful in the world. We appreciate it all: from forro, to choro, to samba.

MH: You have generously donated prints by J. Borges for us to display and sell as a benefit at our summer series. Tell me about his work, and your relationship with the artist?

JW:  On my first trip to Brazil I was most interested in meeting Jose Francisco Borges. The curator of the San Antonio Museum of Art- Latin American collection had introduced me to his work, and I went specifically to visit him in his small town, Bezerros, about two hours outside of Recife.

Jose Francisco Borges represents a centuries-old tradition of chapbook writing, illustrating, and performance.  Since medieval times in the Iberian Peninsula writers have created short folk stories that were self published in small pamphlet size booklets called “Literartura de Cordel” or “Stories on a String.” The stories were hung on small cords in the weekly markets, and sold by their authors. They are normally written as poetry using the regional dialect of the author. Frequently they were sung out loud in the market place by the author to attract attention and sales of his latest creations. The topics could be humorous political satire, children’s folk tales, or even risqué dreams of the writers. J. Borges regards himself primarily as a poet/author.

However, he became internationally know for his self-taught talent of creating woodcuts to illustrate the covers of these small stories. Originally the size of his woodcuts were very small, about 3 by 5 inches, the size of the stories on a string.  He is credited with being the first artist to expand the size beyond this small limit.  His international fame came from his large woodblock prints that illustrate many folk traditions, animals, and legends of Northeast Brazil. He has created thousands of different woodcut images over the last 60 years.

Tesoros has sponsored several trips for him to visit Austin and Santa Fe. Approaching 80 years of age now, he is considered a national treasure in Brazil, and is the nation’s most well known folk artist.

MH: You are long time supporters of Austin Classical Guitar, you’ve even hosted us in your home for a Salon Concert. What do you wish everyone knew about ACG?

Jonathan & Kisla: The one thing that impresses us the most about ACG is the fact that thousands of kids have been impacted by the guitar lessons offered by ACG throughout the Austin public school system. We know first hand as parents that learning music benefits children in so many ways: improved self esteem, increased academic success, genuine appreciation for the arts, just to name a few.

Offering guitar lessons to kids from all walks of life undoubtedly opens doors to kids who may have not have the opportunity otherwise. Learning an instrument like the guitar, considering it’s popularity in all types of music, hopefully provides a gateway to pursuing other instruments or other art forms. We love the professional performances that ACG organizes but more importantly, we think the educational component is extraordinary.

MH: You have traveled extensively, worked with artists, and heard music form around the world. From your perspective, what is the importance of art in our communities?

J&K: For us, art is vital in helping all of us understand and interpret our own daily struggles and joys. Looking at beautiful colors in an art piece or listening to the melodic notes of an engaging musical score provides a balance to this fast-paced, information-overloaded world we live in.

Art provides communities the opportunity to come together and appreciate a new viewpoint and, hopefully, gain a new perspective.