Meet Thelma Uranga

Thelma Uranga is a Chicago‐based artist and self-described Juana of all trades. Thelma is the Communications/Development Coordinator at ElevArte Community Studio in Pilsen where she is also a teaching artist for a youth program called Sew Stitchy. In her program, teens learn about handmade and DIY culture through knitting, crocheting and various sewing projects. She is also the owner of Rowdy Corazón, an online Etsy shop that sells unique handmade gifts and accessories with a cultural twist. Thelma has a BA in Studio Art/Photography from Illinois State University. Her past photography work has explored themes of cultural identity, feminism, contemporary American society and portraiture. Other blissful obsessions include thrift store shopping, baking pies, and her dog Tula.


What is your favorite place to travel to? 

Locally I love to travel to Milwaukee, WI. It’s a city with a small town feel and the perfect weekend getaway. Visits always include good art, vintage shopping and delicious beer. 

Outside of the US, I have only traveled to Mexico and only want to explore it more. I have visited Mexico City, Taxco, Guadalajara, Reynosa (my mom’s hometown) and Punta Perula (an amazing small-town beach) and there is still so much more to see. The people, the vibrant colors, food and culture are the most refreshing breath of life. I especially love visiting each city’s tianguis (open air markets) where one can find tons of knick-knacks, handmade crafts, antiques and records. Another perk is that you can always land in a big city and take a bus to a nearby city for super cheap.

What do you think about when you are alone? 

When I do have some quiet time I daydream quite a bit, so I think about all the great finds that await at my favorite secret thrift stores. You can’t send me anywhere without mapping out all the thrift stores within a 25-mile radius. I wear your grandma’s clothes.

Who do you admire? 

My mom. In my eyes she is the original Seriously Badass Woman. She and my dad immigrated to the US when my oldest sister was only 40 days old. She has always made the most of the opportunities given to her and is a chingona (badass) in the kitchen. She has always supported my craziest ideas and outfits.

If we came over for dinner what would you prepare for us? 

I love hosting dinner parties, Sunday brunch, or impromptu potlucks. When you come over I’m going to make a spicy guisado de puerco en salsa verde (pork stewed in green salsa) with Mexican rice and black beans. My fiancé taught me how to make this dish and it is my ultimate comfort food all-year-round. I would also make a chocoflan. I recently learned how to make this dessert, which is part chocolate cake and part flan, doused in caramel. Nuff said.

If you had to change careers what would you want to do? 

First, I love that for someone who majored in photography I was able to find a community of artists in Pilsen and an organization like Elevarte Community Studio where I can flourish as an artist. That in itself is a privilege I don’t take for granted, because I know it’s tough out there for artists. That being said my dream is to open an adorable vintage/papel picado/bake shop in Pilsen; all my favorite things under one roof. I mean who doesn’t want a slice of pie and a cup of coffee while they dig for vintage goodies? So far I have one backer—my mom.

Want more? Connect with Thelma on twitter @Telmusia