VOLUME 9 NO. 1 SPRING 2010
A MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR vision: The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) envisions a cultural landscape that fully values and integrates the essential contributions of an expanding Latino arts field and its dynamic workforce.
As we celebrate NALAC’s 20th Anniversary National Conference in San Jose, we reflect on twenty years of incredible creativity and innovation by a field of Latino artists and organizations who have challenged and redefined the culture of this country. During these two decades, the Latino arts sector has seen some dreams and visions realized, but still must overcome many challenges to achieve cultural equity. There exist new possibilities for Latino arts and culture that require that we, as a field, determine, define, and shape our future.
mission: NALAC is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to the promotion, advancement, development, and cultivation of the Latino arts field. In this capacity, NALAC stimulates, facilitates intergenerational dialogue among disciplines, languages, and traditional and contemporary expressions.
This conference, Latino Creativity in the 21st Century: Beyond the Tipping Point convenes in San Jose, a city with a long history of innovative artistic practice rooted in strong cultural values. At a time of demographic shifts, this conference brings together the diverse Latino arts sector to address key issues, consider the scope and excellence of Latino creative production, build collaborations across generations, disciplines and cultures and highlight our contributions.
value: NALAC is led by a dedicated group of individuals who share a core set of values. advocacy - providing a strong voice for arts and culture in all its forms and manifestations for Latinos regardless of ethnicity, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation and physical abilities. empowerment- improving the severe under capitalization of the artistic communities of color in general, and the Latino arts community in particular.
NALAC’s other programs were developed from the ideas and dialogue that emerged from the national gatherings. The NALAC Leadership Institute will convene for the tenth year this summer to develop leadership and transmit knowledge and skills to a new generation of artists and organization leaders. In
equality - voicing our repudiation to all forms of discrimination, including but not limited to: racism, sexism, ageism and discrimination against gay, lesbian, transgender, physically challenged and undocumented populations.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Letter from the Executive Director By Maria Lopez De Leon
Pregones Theater: Casa Propia
By Arnaldo J. Lopez
ByTey Marianna Nunn
On the Cover: Photo by San Jose photographer Dennis Gaxiola, from the exhibition “Lowrider Bicycles: Art and Identity among Mexican American Youth,” MACLA 1997. Detail of Bicycle owned and modified by Jared Cozzolino, San Jose, CA.
2009, the first Advocacy Leadership Institute brought together Leadership Institute alumni in Washington, DC for two days of hands on arts advocacy training. NALAC’s two grant programs, the NALAC Fund for the Arts and the newly launched Transnational Cultural Remittances program have supported 197 projects with over $731,000 in awards. The next step is to establish an endowment for the grant programs to assure a mechanism for continued support. The NALAC Regional Arts Training Workshops where we provide focused technical assistance and collect information from the field will continue to be a key component of connecting with the national Latino arts community. A series of three National Conversations, titled “The Next 20 Years: Building Latino Leadership, Cultural Equity and Creative Innovation,” were convened in San Antonio, New York and Philadelphia to examine innovations in the Latino arts field and assess strategies for sustainability. Latino artists and leaders of cultural organizations from rural and urban communities throughout the U.S. participated in the conversations to help identify solutions to economic challenges, next generation leadership development and capacity building. The outcomes of the conversations will be published in three papers that will be presented and discussed for the first time at this national conference. The National Conversations will continue in various communities across the country.
NALAC will continue advocating on behalf of Latino arts and culture and we recognize that at this critical point in time, we are beyond the tipping point, and must be diligent and define our rightful place in the nation’s art and culture arena. We thank Dr. Maribel Alvarez for continuing to serve as Editor of El Aviso and to Adriana M. Garcia for a superb graphic design. This issue is packed with powerful content that both of these dedicated and talented women culled, edited, and laid out. Gracias!
Maria Lopez De Leon Executive Director
10 Más Allá de las Palabras /Beyond Words” EXHIBITION REVIEW:
Works by Valerie Aranda and Alejandro García-Lemos
By Sylvia Trujillo
By Charles Rice-Gonzalez
HONOR & CULTURA:
Reflecting on 40 Years of Chicano History in San José By Carlos Velázquez Acuña
WHERE WE STAND:
NALAC 20th Anniversary’s National Conversations & “Brown” Papers By Maribel Alvarez
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In memoriam of visual artist Bosco Meneses (1957-2010)
service to latino
photo by Erika Rojas
at l as
Pregones Theater:^Casa Propia By Arnaldo J. Lopez
We waited a long time. The pace of our work never eased; on the contrary, it increased, expanded, diversified ---all those things that healthy nonprofit art organizations ought to do. We took pride on the fact that our energies were directed at the true and only prize that, in the end, really matters: the art we make. And still, we waited. New plays were produced; younger artists bloomed; collaborations flourished. The years passed, and then, early in 2001 the artists of Pregones Theater set their hearts and minds on acquiring a disused warehouse building behind the traffic-heavy intersection of 149th Street and Grand Concourse. To anyone else it was just another boarded up real estate listing in the Boogie Down South Bronx. To Rosalba, Alvan, and Jorge —my colleagues— it was the perfect location. The street block was motley enough: half a dozen multiple-family brownstones; an old Irish bar; an auto repair shop; and a Spanish-American food counter frequented by students, workers, and visitors of neighboring Lincoln Hospital and Hostos College. The subway and bus were both nearby, and the ever-exploding Latino enclaves of East Harlem and Upper Manhattan were right across the 149th Street Bridge. el AVISO Spring 2010 | 4
The property was smack center of the communities Pregones Theater served and helped develop for over two decades, first through touring and then as a Bronx-resident company. It was here that the ensemble crafted its distinct visual and rhythmic style, that it built a repertory of original plays and musicals, and that it grew a bilingual audience where others thought there was none. It was here that the ensemble evolved a methodology for lifelong arts learning,
from youth to old age, and that it committed to presenting other artists of merit. It was here that it also gathered ideas and energy to keep on touring. A lot of the early work was done on the road, traveling up and down the eastern states, and then during a nine-year tenure at St. Ann’s Church of Morrisania, a South Bronx landmark, where Pregones repurposed the parish hall into a fully functional theater. Later, Pregones operated a modern 50-seat studio on the Grand Concourse, where I first experienced quintessential and forever popular productions like El bolero fue mi ruina and El Apagón. Both these venues were reluctantly relinquished in the grab-and-pull of New York City leasehold real estate. By the time the artistic directors laid eyes on 575 Walton Avenue, the company was ready to invest in the construction of its own theater.
Manos a la Obra
The plan was ambitious. The new theater would enhance Pregones Theater’s local impact and citywide appeal; cement its role as a leader in the ongoing Bronx cultural renaissance; and position the Pregones brand at the recognition level of a Bronx Museum or Wave Hill, the famous Bronx gardens along the Hudson River. Furthermore, a new physical space would also recalibrate the organization’s relationship to neighboring magnet attractions like Yankee Stadium. “It would allow us, as artists, to
photo by Erika Rojas
Alvan Colón Lespier
photo by Erika Rojas
dream up new, more challenging, and exciting projects and collaborations, and to deepen and broaden the range of our aesthetic choices,” says Rosalba Rolón, co-founder and Artistic Director. “It’s about growing roots and wings,” she adds, “and about making room for our Board, staff, and community to ready Pregones’ legacy for the next 20 years.” But not everyone was on page. While wealthy speculators had been gobbling chunks of South Bronx real estate for years —often without clear plans for development or public use— the idea that a homegrown theater wanted to own its
Pregones Associate Artistic Director And that’s what we did. We went through several drafts of a business plan, always talking up the points about creative expression, cultural heritage, access, quality of life, civic participation, equity, arts as an engine for economic development. We met with elected officials, the staff of foundations and corporations, representatives from the community, and the administrators of the federally funded Bronx Empowerment Zone. We reached out to everyone and anyone who would listen or advise. We did the math, drafted a budget, answered many, many questions, asked for leads and endorsements, and began collecting seed funding. Two years later, in 2003, Pregones Theater unveiled a $2.7 million capital campaign welcoming donations of all sizes.
“While wealthy speculators had been gobbling chunks of South Bronx real estate for years —often without clear plans for development or public use— the idea that a homegrown theater wanted to own its own place was strange ”
(continued on page 6)
Rules of Thumb
for CAPITAL PROJECTS
1. HAVE A PURPOSE
Be clear and sure of what you want. You are going to spend a lot of time, energy, and resources to bring the project to completion and you don’t want to end up with a space that does not work or comply. A good friend once told me “a multi-purpose room is a no purpose room.”
2. MIND YOUR DESIGN Get an architect that understands your work, understands how theaters work, and that knows how to listen. A good architect is not necessarily a good theater architect.
3. SAFETY FIRST
Comply, comply! Your city and state have Building Department and Fire Department codes that must be adhered to. Don’t cut corners — you are dealing with people’s health and safety. (continued on page 6)
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The 9,000 sq ft warehouse would be transformed into a fittingly intimate 130-seat theater. Architect Mitchell Kurtz, a veteran of the New own place was strange to some. “Loan York theater scene who had also collabobrokers, in particular,” says Alvan Colón rated with Pregones at St. Ann’s, took on Lespier, one of two Associate Artistic Dithe design. He proposed an adaptive use rectors, “nursed the suspicion that arts project to minimize environmental impact. organizations were bad investment. And The ground floor interior would be entirely that was before the recession.” Insufficient gutted, then fitted with sprung floors, lightunderstanding of the arts funding field and ing rig, seating risers, and related equipthe ways in which nonprofit theaters earn ment. revenues was partly to blame. From a fundraiser’s perspective, I would add that The basement would harbor male/female we had to be willing to go beyond due dili- dressing rooms, scenic and costume gence to educate lenders and funders on shops, and general storage. The lobby would double as gallery space. In the how our theater business was run.
A LV A N ’ S
(continued from page 5)
4. REACH OUT
Talk to your community board, to elected officials, to the staff of public agencies, to your neighbors. The trust of people who can help bring your capital project to fruition —and who will benefit from it— is worth earning.
photos by Erika Rojas
draughtsman’s visualization, the building’s restored glass façade, wrapped in a warm glow, gives passersby a tantalizing peek into the wonders inside.
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art organizations undertake capital projects –was to live within the means, and at a scale, that Pregones could truly undertake and sustain. Even though the effect of waiting for a long time for a “room [or house] Grassroots support was immediate and of one’s own” can sometimes be, colossal. We landed a significant match in return, an impulse to dream big, grant for individual donations and in the end it is the dose of realism learned how to keep lists in order, and that an organization is willing to selfsend timely thank you notes and pledge prescribe that guarantees success. reminders. The capital campaign message was clear, printed materials We have since completed five full were attractive, not extravagant. seasons in the new space. The We worked round the clock to facility keeps growing, and the broadcast the goals of the project capital effort continues to yield and keep construction on schedule. in spades. Recent creative and We honored each dollar that came institutional achievements add up in by avoiding unnecessary delays to a long list, including partnership and disappointments. As soon as the with local residents to renovate an essential features and permits were in adjacent lot into a public use garden; place, the theater launch was a go. development of an international project that links Pregones to community-based theater makers La Luz al Final del Tunel in Peru, Chile, Holland, Belgium, On November 2005 the new Pregones Slovakia, Iraq, and South Africa; and Theater on Walton Avenue opened our current 30th Anniversary season, its doors. The inaugural production, including the sold-out world premiere The Red Rose featuring the renowned of Aloha Boricua, about the historic Puerto Rican singer/songwriter Danny Puerto Rican migration to Hawaii. Rivera, capped the company’s 25th Anniversary celebration. In the lobby, In the end, my colleagues and I agree a dazzling glass mosaic by Bronx that it’s all about the art. “Having casa native artist Manny Vega was unveiled propia,” says Jorge B. Merced, also to commemorate the date and share an Associate Artistic Director, “means credit with our many supporters. It is we keep on testing and retooling the difficult now, in retrospect, to describe fabric of our work, adding new plays the feelings we had when we saw at to the repertory, and raising the bar last the fruit of so many endless days as artists. It also means sustained and nights of labor. The journey of a dialogue with our audience and other capital campaign, however, was as artists — turning the place into a fundamental a part of our growth and home, together, in the communion of maturity as an organization as anything art. After 30 years, I don’t see a better we had done before. way to move forward.” el AVISO One crucial lesson we learned through this experience –perhaps the easiest of all “lessons” to miss when in the heat of the moment of excitement nonprofit
Arnaldo J. Lopez, Ph.D. is the Development Director at Pregones Theater
5. PLAN AHEAD
Planning is essential and though it will not eliminate obstacles, it will surely diminish them. Plan with your staff, plan with your contractors.
6. GET A LAWYER
You’ll need good counsel to read the fine print, insert language that protects your organization, and negotiate.
7. IT TAKES MORE
Remember it will take longer than you planned to complete and it will cost more than you expected. Add reasonable contingencies to your calendar and your budget. Do likewise with your patience and sense of humor.
The mission of Pregones Theater, a Bronx-based ensemble, is (1) to create and perform original musical theater and plays rooted in Puerto Rican/Latino cultures, and (2) to present other performing artists who share our twin commitment to the arts and civic enrichment.
¿Un MuseoNacional? by Tey Marianna Nunn
[This article first ran in the May/June 2007 issue of Museum magazine. It is reprinted here with permission from the American Association of Museums.]
I don’t know why, but when it comes to museums, I like to think in acronyms. Whenever I hear or read about a museum, my mind goes directly to the catchy acronym and logo: MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), V&A (Victoria and Albert), MOIFA (Museum of International Folk Art), etc. So four or so years ago, when I first heard that the long-held dream of having a national museum devoted to Latino art, culture and history was working its way through our national legislative system, my heart skipped a beat. I held my breath as I read the proposed working title: the Museum of the American Latino. Then my heart fell as the acronym immediately flashed in my head: MAL (Museum of the American Latino) or NMAL (National Museum of the American Latino). You see, mal is Spanish for “bad.” I envisioned t-shirts in the future gift shop emblazoned with “MUY MAL,” or “very bad.” Okay, I know it is just a working title. However, I must be honest and declare that while I am personally excited by and supportive of a national Latino museum, as a Latina scholar, director, curator, and participant in the issues surrounding Latinos and museums, I will also admit to some deep concerns.
Yes, a national museum on the Mall or elsewhere in Washington, D.C., would be a political and cultural statement that could not be denied. Symbolism, inclusion and presence are integral to acknowledging Latino contributions. Let’s face it: alarmingly, we Latinos still rarely find ourselves reflected in U.S. museums. Our contributions remain largely unaddressed and removed from the “American” story line. Why are our mainstream institutions still dramatically behind the times with regard to Latino-related exhibitions and developing Latino museum professionals? Why, in the 21st century, when Latinos have been pronounced the “minority majority,” are people still afraid to address identity? Is it because to really tell our stories, institutions will have to confront complexity, prejudice and stereotypes?
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Is a national Latino museum the solution to this willful neglect and cultural oversight? Can one museum take a vast and complex group like Latinos and successfully interpret our multi-layered individual histories? How can we start a new National Latino Museum when, with few exceptions, our existing Latino-specific museums and cultural centers lack political support and funding? (continued on page 8)
by Tey Marianna Nunn (continued from page 7)
I know the MAL/NMAL is still a long way off, but in the meantime I would be encouraged to see progress being made on interpreting the art, culture and history of the vast Latino experience within the doors of this country’s mainstream museum temples (and I don’t mean Aztec, Mayan or Inca). I know what you are thinking as you read this, but exhibitions highlighting Spanish, Latin American and Mexican art and artists only represent a fraction of the Latino experience. While spectacular and inspirational, they don’t address the nuances of Latino culture in this country. The same approaches to exhibitions proliferate today as they did during the 1930s and 1940s era of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Good Neighbor Policy, when hemispheric unity, border issues, immigration and guest worker programs were also heated topics confronted by U.S. policy makers and cultural institutions. During that time, with few documented exceptions, rarely was the arts and history of U.S.born or recently immigrated Latinos showcased in museums. Then and now, most mainstream institutions have played it safe and exhibited Mexican paintings and Peruvian archaeological finds rather than art and artifacts inspired by issues of cultural relations, identity politics, and racial tensions within the U.S. Latino population.
Carolina. Some of us have dual citizenship. While many of us speak Spanish, not all of us learned it as a first language. Although we share a “mother tongue,” the same word can have multiple meanings. Think, for example, of bilingual museum labels: you probably would not want to use idioms from Puerto Rico to describe the work of a Tejano artist. How does one convey these dimensions in museum exhibitions? Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives approved funding to set up a 23-member commission to explore the possibility of a national Latino museum. If the bill is passed by the Senate, the commission will have a difficult road ahead. It will have to decide the feasibility of such a venture, including governance, mission, scope of collections, funding and location.1
simultaneous people. People don’t get that we have institutions like the Museo Alameda [a Smithsonianaffiliated Latino museum in San Antonio, Tex., that opened April 13, 2007], but that doesn’t mean we don’t want a national museum or to be in mainstream museums as well. We are simultaneously Latinos and Americans.” The politics of place and space also play a significant and complex role in Latino representation in museums.
Mainstream institutions and established museums are often perceived as unapproachable and unattainable places. In contrast, many centros (centers) and community spaces located in predominantly Latino Neighborhoods like La Galeria de la Raza in San Francisco, El Museo
If a national Latino museum is to succeed, organizers and policy makers must tap into and connect the resources and infrastructure already in place.
Today, mainstream institutions continue to face difficulties in attracting a U.S. Latino audience because in many cases they fail to acknowledge the dynamic multiplicity of this group. It is not just a el AVISO Spring 2010 | 8
simple, singular community; Latinos are layered and complex. We are constantly negotiating our identities. Latinos in the United States make up lower, middle and upper classes. We have roots in Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. We live in California, Illinois, and North
I am concerned that because of political pressure from multiple entities, a national Latino museum might commodify and ghettoize (or should I say barrio-ize?) the Latino experience into a vibrant, colorful, worry-free “fiesta” in order to begin to teach a general museum visitor about Latino culture. Simplifying Latinidad (Latinoness) will do more harm than good.
Cultural in Santa Fe, and El Museo del Barrio in New York City serve an integral purpose because they are affirming, comfortable, and inclusive. Yet even these forums are not immune to difficulties such as political infighting, lack of compromise, and scarce resources. Large and small, institutions addressing the Latino diaspora are often contested spaces where internal and external dialogue takes place.
The fact is that Latinos live and experience Ethnicity is emotional. and divergent voices often multiple worlds and are Multiple lead to hurt feelings and exclusion comfortable negotiating if not harnessed and channeled in a multiple identities. This constructive manner. topic came up in a recent discussion with Dr. Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, the acclaimed scholar active in museum issues, frequent author on Latino and Chicano art and culture and former director of creativity and culture at the Rockefeller Foundation. Ybarra-Frausto noted, “We are a
If a national Latino museum is to succeed, organizers and policy makers must tap into and connect the resources and infrastructure already in place. Cultural institutions such as the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) in Chicago
and my own institution, the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC) in Albuquerque, highlight demographic commonalities and differences. They reflect the people they serve and the communities in which they are located. Professional support organizations such as the American Association of Museum’s Latino Network Professional Interest Committee (AAM/LNPIC) and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) play an integral role in networking, mentoring, and developing Latino museum and arts leaders. Both of these vibrant and active organizations evolved out of an intense need to find representation and inclusion. To ignore
such organizations and institutions that have helped to blaze the trail is to again ignore Latinos’ contributions to art, culture and history. These organizations grew out of this very same struggle and need for place.
I have researched, written about, and experienced enough Latino museums and cultural institutions to know about a common perception: once the buildings are up and the place and space claimed, founding organizers, politicians, business interests, and funders get complacent and believe it is the end of the struggle. On the contrary, the dedication of a building and the festivities that accompany it are only the beginning. Along with a significant collection, research facility, education department, marketing budget, endowment, etc., a national Latino museum must have a well-thought-out and comprehensive master plan for the future, not just a building with “Latino Museum” on it. Many existing Latino museums and centros have had to put so much effort into opening the doors that the nextstep and long-term planning is left for the next phase. That can’t happen with a national Latino museum.
by federal funding. All Smithsonian museums in Washington are free to the public, and no admission fees means no revenue. Perhaps the most important issue in the planning of any future national Latino museum is the same issue that all previous Hispano, Tejano, Chicano, Mexican American, Mexican, Latino, Cuban, and Puerto Rican cultural centers have faced.
Having a place of our own, a space to find our stories and experiences, indicates that we have arrived—a place at the mesa (table) implies we have a voice. Everyone wants to be heard because in the past few of us have had a voice. But consequently, more often than not, so many individuals want to be heard that nothing moves forward and the process gets paralyzed. Everyone who has an agenda will need to check their envidia (envy or jealousy) at the door. So the question remains: Can Latinos be represented in our own spaces and institutions, as well as mainstream institutions? I emphasize this must happen in
order for our multiple experiences to be fully interpreted and conveyed. Museums have done a poor job addressing this complexity. We can and must do better. Because of the politics of representation and the lack of Latino curators and museum administrators, our mainstream museums continue, in large part, to neglect Latino experiences. Attempting to fit a national Latino institution into European museum constructs needs to be rethought. To truly succeed, we may need to create a different museum model. That model will need to use community or first-person curatorial practice and balance this approach with national politics, regional nuances, community activism, and cultural awareness. This is no small task. Maybe what we really need is a nation of museums with Latinos before we open a National Latino Museum. Now, that’s no tan mal (not too bad). el AVISO
Tey Marianna Nunn is the director and chief curator of visual arts at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She serves as vice-chair of AAM’s Latino Network Professional Interest Committee.
Since this essay was first published, new developments in the planning for a national Latino museum have taken place. A bi-partisan 23-member Congressional Commission to study the potential for NMAL was signed into law by President Bush in 2008 and held its first meeting in 2009 under President Obama. A report outlining a plan for the museumm is being developed. For more information and to share your ideas with the Commission go to http://www.americanlatinomuseum.gov
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There must also be substantial funding in the beginning for ambitious programs, especially if this is a national museum supported
“E” Alejandro Garcia-Lemos Migrations Letters in Spanglish 2009, mixed media
“Más Allá de las Palabras / Beyond Words” Works by Valerie Aranda and Alejandro García-Lemos By Sylvia Trujillo
have had an impact within their community. The sum of these portraits is less about their individuality, wealth, or status than about their concern and advocacy for their community. García-Lemos’ work was rooted in a simple alphabet originally designed to be a children’s book about immigration, but the 26-piece installation became more of a global narrative about social policy and prejudice. The irony of the juxtaposed narratives of Aranda & García-Lemos is that we see our own selves in the faces, images and words portrayed.
In the spring of 2008 the National Association of Latino Art & Culture (NALAC) held its first southern regional conference, “Creative Responders,” in Athens, Georgia. This was good news for the arts in the South and attracted Latino, Chicano, and Hispanic artists, community leaders, college professors and students. Georgia-based artists Valerie Aranda and Alejandro García-Lemos began their dialogue there. Using the genre of portraiture, Aranda’s five Recently, at Georgia College and State University, Aranda and GarcíaLemos installed an art exhibit entitled “Más allá de las palabras - beyond words.” The exhibition consists of a series of Aranda’s large-scale oil paintings on canvas depicting portraits of Georgia Latino community leaders and Garcia-Lemos’ triangular prisms that are suspended from the ceiling. On the floor, dividing the room, is a black line depicting the border between Mexico and the United States.
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The power of the exhibit lies in the visual dialogue between the two artists. While the artists did not collaborate in the creation or development of the work, they share a visual language and a creative response to the issue of human rights. A press release accompanying the show reveals that Aranda was inspired to paint the portraits of individuals who
“Alexis Ruiz” Valerie Aranda Students for Latino Empowerment, President UGA, Athens Marcha por la Dignidad del Inmigrante 2009, Acrylic on Canvas 60”x48”
oil paintings frame the gallery space. Each image is grounded in rich earth tones of iron, ochre and burnt sienna and is somewhat reminiscent of the Georgia landscape. The effect of these colors against the figures is buoyant. The portraits themselves are realistic and non-pretentious. At approximately six-by-four feet, “Alexis Ruiz” is the most prominent painting and depicts a vibrantly rendered young woman in her early twenties. The painted gestures suggest power. The eyes of Ruiz gaze directly into the eyes of the viewer; her head is raised; her shoulders are up; and her body leans directly into the foreground of the painting. These gestural effects accentuate the proximity between the figure and the viewer. In the middle ground of the painting there is a long line of her peers marching forward in a protest, which smartly defines a natural horizon line and a subtext for the work. The context for the painting was a march for immigrant rights in Atlanta (Marcha por la Dignidad del Inmigrante), and this work serves to document the event’s place and
time. The narratives and style of Aranda’s portraits recall the power and impact of present and past social realist muralists such as Judy Baca and José Clemente Orozco. Like her predecessors, Aranda’s portraits reflect her community in a meaningful way, using art and politics to create a visual dialogue. García-Lemos’ work juxtaposes Aranda’s portraits mainly with landscapes and words. His installation, “Migration Letters in Spanglish” use the device of reflection on a multisided object. Two of the horizontal sides of the object are painted and the third is covered in mirror glass and lettering. The use of mirrors is paired to reflect not only his own paintings, but also its environment. Like the folded-plate construction of the Mayan Codices or Enrique Chagoya’s accordion style visual narratives, García-Lemos’ triangular prisms allow for multiple and simultaneous readings. The lexicon for this work adds another layer to the cultural context, being both potentially descriptive and potentially slanderous with terms such as coyote, citizen, raider, or rafter. As the objects twist, the imagery and language change allowing for multiple interpretations of the work. Nothing in the room escapes from this language - even the audience is confronted with being falsely described when his/her image is reflected. The visual experience of duplicate reflections creates the illusion of great distance. In this way the play and interaction is vaguely reminiscent of the device of the mirror in Velasquez’ infamous “Las Meninas” where the images in the mirror separate the subject from their environment. The dialogue between Aranda and García-Lemos is nothing short of powerfully engaging. The simultaneous narratives invite the viewer to have a closer look at their own misperceptions and present the audience with an important and timely discussion of community, social justice and human rights. el AVISO Sandra Trujillo is an Assistant Professor of Art from the San Francisco Bay Area who lives and teaches at Georgia College State University in Milledgeville, GA
In memoriam of visual artist
Bosco Meneses (1957-2010) By Charles Rice-Gonzalez
I met the visual artist and force of nature called Bosco when we copresented at NALAC’s regional conference in Athens, Georgia in 2008. He was invited to participate by Valerie Aranda, one of NALAC’s board members who was coordinating the event. To say he was energetic would be an understatement. With his brightness and drive he made an indelible mark on those of us who had to great opportunity to know him. I met up with him again in San Antonio later that year when he attended NALAC’s Leadership Institute. Although we only saw one another those two times, we stayed in touch by e-mail. He was a man with a big heart who was instrumental in the success of Arts Space International (ASI), an artist community inside a 22,000 square foot space located in Atlanta. Bosco was born in Recife, Brazil, was raised in Sao Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro. He earned a MBA from the University of Miami, Coral Gables and attended the Atlanta College of Art on scholarship. He exhibited in solo and group shows, in galleries and museums in the United States, and in Brazil, including the American University Art Museum, in Washington, D.C., at the Latino Art Museum, in Los Angeles, and in galleries in Atlanta, and Miami. His latest work, a series of abstract landscapes, was recently up at ASI and his blog said that in November 2010, he was to participate in a collective of Latin American artists at North Georgia College and State University’s Bob Owens Gallery.
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I was heart-broken when I heard the news that he’d lost his battle with cancer and passed on March 1, 2010. He had sent me an e-mail about attending the NALAC national conference and I was looking forward to seeing him. I remembered how we bonded on the car ride from Atlanta to Athens. When I drove him back after the regional was over he asked me to wait a moment. He came back with one of his small paintings which I had admired when I visited his studio when I first arrived in Atlanta. He said, “I want you to have it because it should live with someone who wants it.” So, a piece of Bosco lives with me always.
HONOR & CULTURA: Reflecting on
Years of Chican o History in San J
By Carlos Velázquez Acuña
itself when its true treasure -- its human, cultural, and ecological diversity-- has been here all along. In San José, despite the abundance of gadgets designed to facilitate information-sharing, one often gets the feeling that there’s little room to reflect and celebrate the individual events and people of its past. Cesar Chavez at San Jose State University in 1974; photo by Jesus M. Garza.
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Recounting the history of San José is a difficult task for anyone, let alone for Chicanos and Latinos living in this town. This lush valley, on whose green hills the indigenous Ohlone had flourished for over 6,000 years and whose plentiful orchards gave it the moniker “Valley of the Heart’s Delight,” has been overtaken by the digital and relentlessly artificial brand of “Silicon Valley”. This tech-centric identity represents an entrepreneurial mindset for a city that is always seeking to reinvent
It is widely known that César Chávez organized important elements of the farmworker’s struggle here; even nonLatinos are familiar with the intersection of King & Story, a legendary cruising hotspot from which the iconic Lowrider Magazine was launched; and increasingly larger numbers of Bay area residents are becoming aware of la pulga, the huge flea market that doubles as a social hub for all Mexicanos on Sundays after misa. I am proud of the work done by our community, which is a strong, family-oriented, and rasquachi group con puro corazón.
osé Over 200,000 marchers traveled from East Side San Jose to City Hall on May 1,2006 in one of the country’s largest showings for immigrant rights. Photo by Rosario Vital
But who were the people that established the framework of our activism? How could we bridge the legacy of past generations with those currently doing movimiento work? In July of 2009, Adriana Cabrera-García (sanjo poet, organizer, mentor, bailadora and legend in her own right) and I researched and consulted with our veteranos to produce a series of discussions honoring community, students, mujeres, and the labor sector that heavily contributed to the civil rights struggles of 40 years ago and the work of today. Here is a little of what we have learned:
San José has a long history of providing leadership to the Chicano movement.
Mexican Heritage Plaza. The spot is also where he ended his 36 day fast to protest pesticide use. César’s family still resides here, and their presence is always an affair at local gatherings.
Ernestina García passed away in 2005, but her memory lives on in many ways, including the countless archives she kept César Chávez first cut his teeth in and that her daughter was kind organizing working side by side with enough to share with us. Adriana Fred Ross and the Community Service has always credited Sofia’s Organization (CSO) here in San José mentorship as a catalyst for her in 1952. While he sharpened the skills own work and the two of us were that would lead him to raise the most thrilled to have her as part of our important civil rights movement for first speaker event. Seeing her Latinos in the United States, Cesar eyes glow with hope as her voice worked in the apricot orchards near grew stronger with each young Jackson and Alum Rock Avenue, only Chicanito she saw in the crowd a few blocks away from the current was truly inspirational.
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In the late 1960’s, mujeres like Sofía Mendoza and Ernestina García transformed themselves from housewives to leaders of civil rights organizations like United People Arriba (UPA) and Confederación de la Raza Unida, organizations advocating for civil rights, fighting racism in
schools, and police brutality against Latinos. “San José gave leadership to Chicano movements in other parts of the Southwest” Sofia once said. “I helped organize the L.A. walkouts by telephone. I was getting calls on how to do this and how did you resolve that problem and what did you do here, you know, give me some ideas and I felt good that I was able to do that.”
Mujeres have been the backbone of San José’s Chicano Movement Shirley Treviño, the first Latina to graduate from Santa Clara University, was the founder of Mujeres de Aztlan, one of the first Chicana organizations challenging the masculine rhetoric of the Chicano movement while fundraising for scholarships for Latinas. Today, organizations like Cihuatl Tlatocan and MAIZ are carrying the torch, expressing the voice of not only la mujer but of the youth and our fellow queer raza. Elisa Marina Alvarado, a social worker who helped integrate indigenous healing methods into San José’s mental health programs, helped found Teatro Huipil in 1984, a theater collective formed as part of the Women In Teatro (W.I.P) network that provided a space for mujeres to talk about issues impacting them, in their own voice. Teatro Huipil became Teatro Visión, now 26 years strong with Alvarado as Artistic Director. It is one of the pioneering main stage theater companies in the country focusing on presenting work by and for Latinos. Many people know that Luis Valdéz of El Teatro Campesino began his teatro career at San José State University in the 1960’s; what is not widely known is that San José-based groups like El Teatro Urbano and Teatro de la Gente, led by cultural workers such as Adrian Vargás, Daniel Valdéz and Edgar “Zancudo” Sánchez were some of the first teatros
Artists from the Centro Cultural de la Gente, which thrived in San Jose in the 1970’s; photo by Jesus M. Garza.
tackling issues affecting the urban Chicano, speaking out against the Vietnam War, in favor of equal education opportunities and justice in immigration policies. Teatro Familias Unidas, a theater troupe made up of immigrant, East side-based madres, now carries on their legacy.
In San José, la cultura cura Music was always part of the organizing efforts of Latinos in San Jose and throughout. Local legends like Rudy Madrid and the Cruisers could always be found playing at UPA and community events, often playing for free. Nowadays, groups like the Blank Manuscript, Mextape and Kalizay are the ones performing at fundraiser benefits. Unlike the Fiesta de la Rosas –an event that glorified the Spanish colonization and that San José Chicanos protested vigorously in 1969—various danza Azteca groups in San José honor our indigenous history and play a huge role in opening the minds of young Chicanitos. Today, you can find at least one group dancing every night of the week at some community center nearby. Dance group Calpulli Tonalehqueh hosts the largest Mexica New Year celebration in the nation, bringing together each year over 50 dance groups from around the country. Poets such as Lorna Dee Cervantes, Alurista, Roberto Duran (and Juan Felipe Herrera and Margarita Robles for a while) have called San Jose home and have captured in powerful and beautiful palabras the stories and contradictions of its Latino and multicultural communities. The great and multifaceted scholar Ernesto Galarza conducted in San Jose some of the first sociological studies ever conducted about
Raul Lerma’s wedding in East Side San Jose, 1978; photo courtesy of Marcos Gaitan
Chicanos by a Chicano. In addition, seminal studies like the ethnography of Patricia Zavella of women cannery workers have put San Jose in the map of Chicano/Latino studies. Visual artists like Amalia Mesa Bains who began her career at San Jose State University and scores of accomplished and emerging artists too numerous to mention have, since 1989, found a dynamic space of exhibition and interpretation at MACLA (Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana). MACLA has also help nurture the next generation of writers such as Marc Pinate, Yosimar Reyes, Melissa Lozano and Adriana Cabrera-Garcia. Radio was and continues to be the source to organize San José’s Mexican immigrant community, a vital part of San José’s movimiento. Whether it was José Alvarado helping recruit members for the CSO in the 1950’s, radio show host Celina Rodriguez rallying her listeners to be some of the 200,000 that marched for immigrant rights on May 1, 2006, or El Tigre Sanchez allowing homesick inmigrantes give shout outs to their queridos ranchos, the rhythm of San José’s Chicano movement has always been found on the radio. These events have been an amazing ride in witnessing, both physically and spiritually. The connections between generations; the personal stories, both young and old, of those committed to social justice in San José have shaped who we are as a community and individually. Both Adriana and I hope the next generations of sanjo youth are not only aware of computer chips and startups but also of Spanishtown and Sal Si Puedes, and for the larger Chicano and Latino community to recognize what this city nestled between the rolling green hills of the Ohlone has accomplished.
After our first event, moderator Maribel Martínez poignantly closed the platica with words from Corky Gonzalez’s epic poem that perfectly represented our vision:
“I am Joaquín. I must fight and win this struggle for my sons, and they must know from me who I am.” c/s Carlos Velazquez Acuna is Marketing Manager for Teatro Vision in San Jose, CA
Sources: Sofia Mendoza, “Oral History Project, San José State University Chicano Library Resource Center” 21 Joe Rodriguez, “Obituary: San Jose’s Rudy Madrid, singing and cruising” San Jose Mercury News 31 January, 2010
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Corky Gonzalez visits San Jose in 1973; photo by Jesus M. Garza
WHERE WE STAND: th
NALAC 20 Anniversary’s National Conversations & “Brown” Papers By Maribel Alvarez Above: The de la Torre brothers of Ensenada/San Diego explore intra-ethnic aesthetics in this piece combining Mexican pozole and Vietname pho. “Phozole,” part of the exhibition La Reconquista: New Works by Jamex and Einar de la Torre, at MACLA in San Jose, September 2009.
Not long ago, during a conversation at his office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I heard Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez, Director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center, quote a compelling phrase from the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano’s The Book of Embraces (Norton, 1992): “Identity is no museum piece sitting stock still in a display case; but rather, the endlessly astonishing synthesis of the contradictions of everyday life.” Although the words were written by a Latin American intellectual at a distance from the context of our everyday lives as people of LatinAmerican descent in the United States, Dr. Rael-Gálvez and I agreed that they poignantly capture the types of negotiations, contradictions, and fluidity, that have become so common –and sometimes so hard to explain to others— among Latinos in the U.S.
Three conversations were staged in January 2010 in San Antonio, Philadelphia, and New York City. Three critical issues in the Latino arts and culture project post-Civil Rights era were selected for discussion: Leadership, Aesthetics, and Organizational Strength. The conversations were convened and organized by NALAC’s Board President Charles Rice-Gonzalez (Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, NYC) and facilitated by expert thinkers in each area: Dr. Tomas YbarraFrausto (retired Rockefeller Program Officer) led the convening on Aesthetics; Rosalba Rolon (Pregones Theater) spearheaded the meeting on organizations, and I had the privilege of moderating the plática on matters of leadership transition. Each meeting brought together approximately a dozen leaders in their fields –a combination of artists, curators, administrators, funders, and scholars.
No llegamos ayer
It was precisely this sense of fusion and improvisation that served as impetus for NALAC’s planning of a series of national conversations on the occasion of the organization’s 20th anniversary. If the complexity of which we speak is true in terms of key sociological indicators, our divergent takes on life and its everyday expressions is even more dramatic in the artistic and creative realms.
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A series of common questions guided each discussion and provided a framework for followup and analysis. Whose practices are exemplary? What are the relevant puntos de partida (points of departure) to narrate the evolution of the Latino arts project? What does the new generation know that others don’t? What does the new generation tend to forget or ignore? Who is being excluded from the conversation now? Who needs to be enticed and seduced by our Latino artistic project? What will the next 100 years of our presence in the United States bring about artistically? None of the conversations sought to seal and deliver discrete and tightly-packed answers to these questions. On the contrary, participants
“Art Collectors” by Josefina Aguilar (Mexico), on exhibit at Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin, Texas, from the Collection of Ed Jordan.
expressed a great sense of relief as well as satisfaction in being invited to a table that felt very much still “under construction.” Present in everyone’s mind during the deliberations was the notion that Latino arts and culture are mutable categories that can only be properly grasped along a historical continuum marked by ebbs and flows of our diverse experiences –when we crossed the line, when the line crossed us, when we claimed the U.S. as home, when we were made to feel unwelcomed, etc.. Each moment and each historical crossroads in the evolving project of U.S.-based arte y cultura have produced their own artistic forms, slogans, ideologies, expressions embedded in everyday life, aspirations, leaders, and models for action. How we make sense of this rich inventory offered up in slices of nationalities and aesthetic choices, is not always so clear; but what we know for sure is that the more we seek to explore the intersections of our stories --from Miami to San Antonio to Des Moines to Los Angeles and Portland-- the more powerful that the story as a whole becomes. The present is no less of a “historical” moment than any one that preceded it. As Dr. YbarraFrausto stated during the planning of this project, “the entanglement of local and global economic
An investigative article that Elizabeth wrote on domestic violence in the hip hop industry won her an ASCAP award for music reporting.
In the effort to maximize the impact of the gatherings, NALAC commissioned NYC-based journalist Elizabeth Mendez Berry to write essays following each conversation (her articles were amusingly re-named by participants “brown papers”). It has long been a dream of NALAC to engage professional journalists and writers in documenting the work of our field. Elizabeth was a natural first choice. Of mixed Colombian and Anglo-Saxon background, this graduate with a masters degree in journalism from Columbia University has had her work appear in the Washington Post, Vibe, the Village Voice, Smithsonian, Latina, and Time, among many others. She has written about topics from music to immigration to Mexican wrestling. As a young Latina who was raised in Toronto and now lives in Queens, NY, I sensed that Elizabeth brought to the gatherings more than simply a professional’s
y no nos vamos mañana (Maestro Tomás Ybarra-Frausto)
ear, but also a deep personal understanding of the multiple styles, movements, and values that organize Latino artistic expression across the U.S. The three essays she produced based on the NALAC National Conversations can be downloaded at NALAC’s webpage (www.nalac. org). The papers are open for circulation and feedback until August 2010 by anyone who wishes to add their voice to the conversations. NALAC will publish the final papers and additional materials generated or inspired by the dialogue.
Write to email@example.com to share your comments and ideas on the Brown Papers and help NALAC expand the dialogue.
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systems, movements of people and ideas across borders, the preponderance of electronic media and the rise of new social movements are creating new aesthetic, leadership, and organizational models and categories for U.S. Latino art; each one of those brings their own set of challenges and opportunities.” The points of convergence, explained Dr. Ybarra-Frausto, are powerful but can at times seem elusive; they rest on concepts that Latinos know more by intuition than by intellect, more as acts of faith than as affirmations –Conocimiento, Confianza, and Convivencia.
THANK YOU The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture extends its sincere gratitude to the members of the San Jose Conference Host Committee for their dedication and support over the past year to assure the success of the 20th Anniversary NALAC National Conference. We extend our appreciation to the conference funders for their generous support and commitment to the Latino arts community. Gracias! San Jose Conference Host Committee Carmen Castellano
President Castellano Family Foundation
Director of Multicultural Leadership 1st Act
Anjee Helstrup-Alvarez Executive Director MACLA
Executive Director Teatro Vision
President and CEO Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley
Eve Castellanos Executive Analyst City of San Jose
Executive Director Inst. For Diversity in the Arts Stanford University
Mary Jane Solis
Community & Public Relations Office of Human Relations
Senior Director The Tech Museum of Innovation
Chris Esparza Impresario Left Coast Live
Programming Coordinator La Pe単a Cultural Center
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Robert Parra Filco Events
Marketing Director Kooltura Creative Studio
California Latino Legislative Caucus Hewlett Foundation
A P U B L I C AT I O N O F N A L A C
Volume 9 Number 1 Spring 2010
The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture
1208 Buena Vista, San Antonio, Texas 78207 Telephone: 210.432.3982 - Fax: 210.432.3934 - E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
BOARD OF DIRECTORS Chairperson
Christine Ortega Southwest Airlines MultiCultural & Community Affairs San Antonio, TX
Rosalba Rolon Pregones Theater Bronx, NY
Charles Rice-Gonzalez B.A.D.D. Bronx, NY Maribel Alvarez, Ph.D. Public Folklorist, The Southwest Center University of Arizona Tucson, AZ Secretary
Immediate Past Chair Abel Lopez GALA Hispanic Theatre Washington, DC
Manuel Castillo San Anto Cultural Arts San Antonio, TX 78207
Josie S. Talamantez California Arts Council Sacramento, CA Ernest Bromley Bromley Communications San Antonio, TX Executive Director
Maria De Leon NALAC San Antonio, TX
Carmen Castellano Castellano Family Foundation San Jose, CA Evonne Gallardo Self Help Graphics & Art Los Angeles, CA Richard Lou Artist/Chair Art Department University of Memphis Memphis, TN Jennifer Mendez Mattie Rhodes Arts Center Kansas City, MO
STAFF Maria Lopez De Leon Executive Director Victor Payan Development Coordinator Veronica Perez Picasso Membership Coordinator Roland Mazuca TCR Grant Manager Diana Rocha Administrative Assistant Romelia Escamilla Program Consultant Maribel Alvarez el Aviso Editor Adriana Maria Garcia el AVISO Publication Design please visit us online at www.nalac.org
SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR FUNDERS
Ford Foundation Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
The Tobin Foundation
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Additional funding and support provided by: Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation; Acci贸n Texas; Arizona Commission on the Arts; Chicano Studies, the University of Texas at El Paso; City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department; Community Foundation for Southern Arizona; El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau; El Paso Museum of Art; Entravision Communication Corporation; Univision U26, El Paso; Georgia College and State University; Pima County; Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores Consulado General de Mexico en El Paso, Texas; The Southwest Center, University of Arizona; The Southwest Institute for Research on Women, University of Arizona; The Tucson Museum of Art; The University of Georgia Fanning Institute; University of Georgia Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute; UTEP and individual donors, volunteers and NALAC members.
A PUBLICATION OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LATINO ARTS AND CULTURE
NALAC 1208 Buena Vista San Antonio, TX 78207 Phone: 210-432-3982 Fax: 210-432-3934 E-mail: email@example.com www.NALAC.org
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