NALAC 20150122 MIami Regional 0052 EditAbove: Sonia Hendler, Armando Huipe, Alma Herrera-Pazmino, Adriana Gallego, John Jota Leaños, Casandra Hernandez and Jason Aragon at the NALAC Regional Arts Training Workshops in Miami, FL


Latinas in the Workforce


What would it mean to look at Latina participation in the workforce through the lens of equity? Perhaps the first thing we’d want to do is unfold our idea of equality to see what other important themes, topics, and aspects of our labor force it’s connected with. Most likely, these connectors will relate to a range of pretty distinct spheres of activity: from aesthetics to politics, from culture to ethnicity, and from classrooms to class status. The fact that our understanding of work or labor isn’t bound to any one particular experience within our lives is a big giveaway too, suggesting that whatever productivity may be or possibly mean is less of a fixed matter and more of a dynamic result.


So let’s start big. Is gender a property we possess –that is, a quality of our bodies- or is it instead a function that we perform? Is it something we are or something we do? These questions are frequently the result of our interchangeable use of the terms sex and gender, even though they each refer to very distinct things. On the one hand, standardized definitions state that sex refers to biological characteristics through the binary of male and female. On the other hand, oversimplified definitions of gender are a way to describe our behavior within a given society through the binary of feminine or masculine. In short, sex is about physiological appearance and gender is about social activity.


It doesn’t take much for us to see just how different these two concepts are from each other nor to catch the major generalizations they can account for by using an “either/or” method of description: female/male, masculine/feminine. Let us now also state the obvious by underscoring just how deeply flawed such an indication of sex and gender is. By reducing the expansive, thriving realities of sexed and gendered experiences to this archaic and draconian binary, we –all of us- are left with two limited categories that primarily serve to diminish, regulate, and exclude immeasurable areas of our human journey.


To be sure, describing things through the use of binaries (i.e. black/white, us/them) is a great way to reduce any complex matter down to only two camps, which, almost always, end up in an oppositional relationship with each other. And so for example mainstream discussions on sexual difference may revolve around the anatomical or medical features of our bodies and their purposes in reproduction. Conversations about gender, though, might be more varied. To cite merely one example in connection with our topic, the discussion might be about how women perform most of the childrearing and domestic work, which is aside from carrying pregnancies and birthing human beings or, as most people call it, going into “labor.” By the way, isn’t that a curious choice of words? Furthermore, the discussion could be about hard-won voting preferences or the miniscule percentage of female CEOs in the tech field. The point being that our understanding of femaleness or femininity isn’t biologically determined or solely connected to parental roles -as if it was possible to define an entire human group as the source of reproduction- and indeed has more to do with the (re)production of cultural norms and cultural behaviors. In other words, when dealing with any such categorizations, we must always look for the blind spots. After all, we are talking about over half the population.


One of the interesting things to notice anytime we begin to research a topic like workforce equity as it relates to women, for example, is how the vast majority of the material we find has to do with other nations and their corresponding cultures, particularly with cultures that are located in that famous postwar category of ‘third-world’ countries. This merits commenting because not framing specific topics or issues of social justice as immediately part of our American experience does a couple of things. First, it almost naturally sets up a spectrum of ideas and conditions we can automatically recognize as part of our national identity (or consciousness), which are usually curated along the lines of whether these are unresolved social conflicts or not. Any ongoing social tensions will tend to primarily exist elsewhere. Secondly, it also locates that particular theme out there which, again, would make it an uncommon occurrence within our established networks of institutions, communities, and overall live/work environments. The impact of this curious feature will become more evident as we continue on. At any rate, the many inequalities faced by women in ‘third-worlded’ countries are viewed as a form of social injustice by the dominant order, whereas in our country they tend to be deliberated through the lens of property (social identity) or labor (the workforce).


But let’s start by looking at specific population percentages just within our own country. It’s also worth mentioning that our population tends to increase, on average, by just under 10% each decade. Now, according to our last 2010 Census, the population of our country was 308.7 million people and within that “…157.0 million were female (50.8 percent) while 151.8 million were male (49.2 percent).” At this point, and, although it might seem trivial, we might want to consider what purpose this kind of information or statistical breakdown serves for our government. Is the tracking of gender binaries meant for internal governmental use only or is it a public service provided for larger usage, including our vast private sector? The answer is both. Our system of governance utilizes data on gender along with age at multiple levels: 


“…to implement and evaluate programs, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Women’s Educational Equity Act, the Older Americans Act, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, and the Job Training Partnership Act. Age and sex data are used by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, among others, to aid in planning and development of services. Other equally important uses for census age and sex data are in planning adequate schools for the school age population and to determine funding distributions for schools and planning for numerous social services such as highways, hospitals, health services, and services for the older population. Census age data are also an important source of information on population aging, such as measurement of people eligible for Social Security and Medicare benefits. In addition to these public uses of census data, census data can also be used by private organizations. For example, census data can help researchers studying trends related to mortality and population aging or help small business owners in planning where to best locate their businesses to fit the needs of the community.”


In other words, gender data (along with age data in this case) serves to guide the more common or public operations that are endemic to our nation-state –the “for the people, by the people” portions- and they also help our government meet its responsibilities as functionary in aiding the development and stabilization of our private industries.


With this in mind, let’s consider such dynamics within the labor market, where 57% percent of our female population along with 69% of our male population participate in the labor force. And, again, these numbers may come across a bit tricky given that the vast majority of domestic work and childrearing, for example, are not considered part of our labor market. That is, women are not paid for raising and taking care of their children which makes this a form of labor that exists outside the market (although some women may have the choice and ability to “go into labor” and contribute to our ever-expanding labor force). But, within the official markets out there, this is the most current ratio of active workers out there. Nonetheless, 70% of women with children under 18 participate in the labor force. Of the most common occupations for employed women, secretaries and administrative assistants, elementary and middle school teachers, and registered nurses rank as the top three.


From the latest research in 2014, around 10.7 million Latinas formed part of our civilian labor force, making them 1 in 7 women in that labor force. Furthermore, according to the Department of Labor: “As a group, Hispanic women tend to have less favorable outcomes than Hispanic men and nonHispanics, outcomes that could be improved by raising the minimum wage, closing the wage gap, ensuring adequate working conditions and expanding opportunities for higher wage occupations.”


The data also shows that Latina’s share of the labor force has also pretty much doubled in the last twenty years (going from 7.9% in 1994 to 14.7% in 2014) and, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Latinas are projected to be 17.3 of the entire female labor force by 2022. Yet even within such a promising scenario, there are many questions that come to mind, many of them revolving around wage gaps, our participation in certain fields of work, and the role that education plays for our communities as well. Let’s go with education next.


Just recently, our E-Boletin highlighted Fulfilling America’s Future: Latinas in the U.S., a recent report by Patricia Gándara, Professor of Education at UCLA and Co-Director of The Civil Rights Project and The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. The 2015 report indicates how “One in five women in the U.S. is a Latina. One in four female students in public schools across the nation is a Latina. Projections are that by 2060, Latinas will form nearly a third of the female population of the nation. Thus, the future of the nation is very much tied to the future of these women and girls.” This premise alone is enough to garner our collective attention and support, yet there are some interesting conditions brought to light that fall outside of gender identity and speak to more systemic flaws. These include the fact that “One-fourth of Latinas live below the poverty line and more than half are living in near-poverty,” which means that academic goals (or consequent professional aspirations) are jeopardized by the direct effects of economic asymmetries. Another revealing aspect of Latina lived-experience is that their access to healthcare is lowest for any group of women –“In 2011, 37% of Latinas were uninsured compared to just 14% of white women …the situation is even more severe for immigrant women.”


If education is the modern world’s vehicle for sustained forms of economic and cultural impact, then its relation to the work women do is of key concern for us all when it comes to social justice. For example, the minimum requirement for entering our civil labor force is a high school diploma, which one in five Latinas between 25 and 29 years old does not have –for all other ethnic groups it’s one in twelve. To further comment on high school completion, a 2010 study by the National Conference on State Legislatures “found that 36 percent of Latinas who dropped out of high school claimed they did so as a result of a pregnancy… this was 6 percent higher than all other female dropouts.” One can’t help but wonder what the dropout ratio for soon-to-be fathers is? Graduate studies are another academic area where Latinas hold the lowest amount of degrees than women in other ethnic/racial groups, despite the statistical increase between 2002-13, which went from under 2% to 4%. Because graduate degrees are most widely understood as the key necessary requirement for entering into a professional practice –professions being credited as “positions that require specialized knowledge and long and extensive educational preparation” (i.e. business administration, medicine, law, teaching) - then making this terminal facet of education a realistic choice for Latinas rather than a distant dream is one way that we can move towards a more just society.


In the arts, of course, most individuals who pursue a graduate degree do so with the intention of teaching at a college or university level, even though the opportunities for obtaining a tenured position nowadays –in particular for artists of color- are less than dismal. Furthermore, it’s important for us not to blur a beneficial and rewarding creative career with being a teacher, as many artists enjoy highly successful careers altogether outside of academia. The point is, however, that there are many areas in the field of arts and culture that continue to have a direct connection to higher education, such as more intellectual-based jobs in museums, multi-performance arts venues, and cultural centers which continue to display a significant absence of people of color along with an abundance of men in directorial or leadership positions. For example, in a previous E-Boletin we touched upon the specific findings of an Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey from last year by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation which serve to underscore the present status of ethnicity and gender within our dominant museum network. The results of their research indicate how "Non-Hispanic White staff continue to dominate the job categories most closely associated with the intellectual and educational mission of museums, including those of curators, conservators, educators, and leadership. In that subset of positions, 84% is Non-Hispanic White, 6% Asian, 4% Black, 3% Hispanic White, and 3% Two or More Races.  With the exception of the Asian demographic category, which makes up 5% of the United States population today, these proportions do not come close to representing the diversity of the American population." Indeed, at the time of this survey’s release, many of us out in the field found ourselves doing a very simple thought-experiment that consisted of merely asking each other how many Latinas in museum leadership or directorial positions we knew about? Talk about a shortlist.


This survey is a tremendous source for encouraging or prompting the kinds of equitable progress we’d like our institutions to embody, and it’s worth including a further excerpt:


“First, progress is likely to be swifter and easier on gender equality than on minority representation.  As museum staff has become 60% female over the past decade or so, there is now also a preponderance of women in the curatorial, conservation, and educational roles that constitute the pipeline for leadership positions such as museum director, chief curator, and head of conservation or education.  With close attention to equitable promotion and hiring practices for senior positions, art museums should be able to achieve greater gender equality in their leadership cohorts within the foreseeable future.”


A few months later, the Directors Guild of America released an inaugural Feature Film Diversity Report analyzing the gender and ethnicity of feature film directors. The study is based on films released between 2013 -14 and includes some notable findings, key among them is how “women account for only 6.4% of film directors –dropping to just 3% for major box office titles.” The majority of film directors “Caucasian males” at 82.4%, followed in steep decline by “Minority Males” at 11.2%, with “Caucasian females” at 5.1%, and “Minority females” at 1.3%. One is naturally tempted to make connections between these findings that albeit come from a more commercially privatized industry and the findings of a (now less and less) public industry that inevitably lead us to wonder if there isn’t some larger cultural cohesion at work within these two partly distinct enterprises.


And it’s important to keep in mind the kinds of economic blurring taking place between traditionally private and public institutions (or institutions meant for the public good) through means of transitional trends that, in the end, mainly provide our common or shared public sphere with fiscally hybrid organizations. To put it differently, we must ask ourselves: what are the limits of social justice? Or, although the origins of equality are found in our diminishing public sector, does its future as core social value lie in privatization?


It’s one thing to imagine our roles and functions within previous historic eras, let’s say even back when most of us survived as small groupings of nomadic bands, and quite another thing to imagine coexistence in the 21st century where we are all participants of a much vaster social project as members of a diverse populace. In our contemporary situation, the subject of gender asks “what kind of communities are we trying to build?” The answer to that question depends on whether we are building communities of equality.


Because it’s more than just people that get gendered. We have the capacity to gender language, objects, and even processes. For example, do we hashtag Latino/a, Latin@, or Latinx? The key lies in understanding the effect of attributing ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ properties onto ourselves, each other, and what we do. As cultural and artistic practitioners, the ethics or justness of such an effect proves incredibly significant when we are tasked with imagining not only what is in our midst, but what is to come. Curiously, although gender begins at home, the process of gendering (or sexing) travels and operates throughout a much broader bandwidth that deciphers and names cultural facets around the globe. 





The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is a legacy organization investing in the Latino heritage of this nation. For over 25 years, NALAC has built a strong foundation for the promotion of Latino arts and culture and its advocacy efforts have advanced issues of cultural equity and raised the visibility and understanding of Latino artistic and cultural expression. The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (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 and facilitates intergenerational dialogues among disciplines, languages, and traditional and contemporary expressions. NALAC serves thousands of Latino artists and hundreds of organizations representing a national and international community of multiple Latinidades; a network that crosses many cultures across the Latino Diaspora. 

For more information visit our website at or like us on Facebook at

For Immediate Release: February 1, 2016
Contact: Claudio Dicochea, cdicochea@nalac.org210.432.3982

The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC)
Awards $328,000 in Grants to 50 Artists and Organizations
San Antonio, TX - This year, the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is awarding $328,000 in grants to 50 artists and organizations through three different grant programs: NALAC Fund for the Arts (NFA), Transnational Cultural Remittances Program (TCR) and Diverse Art Spaces (DAS). This marks the largest single distribution of program awards in our 26-year history.
"NALAC is committed to supporting artists and organizations in all creative disciplines throughout our country and internationally," says María López De León, NALAC Executive Director, "Each awardee represents a tremendous impact on our communities, placing Latina/o artistic and cultural expression on a path towards a more just, more equitable, and more unifying world today."
After a competitive and rigorous process, NALAC awards grants in the US, Mexico and Central America: 20 US based Latino artists and ensembles and 11 Latino arts organizations in multiple disciplines, as well as 12 cultural exchanges in 24 communities between the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala and Panama. Seven organizations received Diverse Art Spaces awards to present or commission work by Latino artists.
NALAC Grants are designed to spur the arts field and the economy by providing financial support to Latino arts and cultural organizations and exemplary work by Latino artists. In the past ten years, NALAC has distributed more than $2 Million to the Latino arts field via 420 grants.
NALAC Fund for the Arts (NFA), established as a two-year pilot with support from Ford Foundation, continues to be the only national fund that provides a variety of grants to support U.S. based Latino artists and arts organizations in the development, creation, presentation and sustainability of artistic excellence, as well as the opportunity to participate in activities that contribute to professional and organizational growth. The 2015 NFA cycle was funded by the Ford Foundation, The Surdna Foundation, Southwest Airlines, and the City of San Antonio Department for Culture and Creative Development.
Transnational Cultural Remittances (TCR) funding, launched in 2008, supports exemplary cultural exchanges that promote grassroots artistic collaboration and strengthen social networks between the United States, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. Since its inception, TCR has provided $456,761 dollars to 59 grantees, reaching over 100 communities. The 2015 TCR cycle was funded by the Ford Foundation and Southwest Airlines.
Diverse Art Spaces is a funding initiative open to Ford Foundation Diverse Arts Spaces organizations and to LINC Space for Change Planning and Pre-Development grantees for the presentation or commissioning of work by Latino artists and ensembles in dance, music, performance, theater or visual arts. The 2015 DAS cycle was funded by the Ford Foundation. 
The awardees of the NALAC Fund for the Arts Master Artist Grant are:
Judith Baca, Visual Arts | Venice, CA
     Mentee: Carlos Rogel
Jesús Manuel Cepeda Brenes, Music | San Juan, PR
     Mentee: Denise Solis
John Jota Leaños, Media Arts | San Francisco, CA
     Mentee: Crystal Gonzalez
The awardees of the NALAC Fund for the Arts Artist/Ensemble Grant are:
Tanya Aguiñiga, Crafts | Los Angeles, CA
Cecilia Aldarondo, Media Arts | Brooklyn, NY
Suzan Beraza, Media Arts | Telluride, CO
Alberto Borea, Visual Arts | Brooklyn, NY
Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas, Theatre | New York, NY
Paul S. Flores, Theatre | San Francisco, CA
Alixa Garcia, Visual Arts | Brooklyn, NY
Xandra Ibarra, Multidisciplinary | Oakland, CA
Cristina Molina, Visual Arts | New Orleans, LA
Felipe Salles Group, Music | Florence, MA
Rada Film Group (Michèle Stephenson), Media Arts | Brooklyn, NY
Alexey Taran / Bistoury Inc., Dance | Miami, FL
The awardees of the NALAC Fund for the Arts San Antonio Artist Grant are:
Federico Chávez-Blanco, Music | San Antonio, TX
Anna De Luna, Theatre | San Antonio, TX 
Jenelle Esparza, Visual Arts | San Antonio, TX
Anel I. Flores, Literature | San Antonio, TX
Adriana Maria Garcia, Visual Arts | San Antonio, TX
The awardees of the NALAC Fund for the Arts Organization Grant are:
Antiheroes Project, Inc., Theatre | Miami, FL
Arca Images, Inc., Theatre | Miami, FL
Centro Cultural de Mexico, Multidisciplinary | Santa Ana, CA
Cinema Tropical, Media Arts | New York, NY
Conjunto Heritage Taller, Arts Education | San Antonio, TX
Creative Kids, Arts Education | El Paso, TX
GALA Hispanic Theatre, Arts Education | Washington, DC
Intake Organization, Inc., Arts Education | Stamford, CT
Pregones Theater + Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, Theatre | Bronx, NY
San Anto Cultural Arts, Arts Education | San Antonio, TX
Self Help Graphics & Art, Visual Arts | Los Angeles, CA
The awardees of the NALAC Transnational Cultural Remittances Grant are:
El Ballet Folklorico Estudiantil, Folk/Traditional Arts | Flint, MI
     Partner: Ixtac Chichimeca Pam, San Juan del Río, Querétaro, MX
ElevArte Community Studio, Visual Arts | Chicago, IL
     Partner: Martanoemi Noriega | Ciudad de Panamá, Panamá
Habitajes Centro de Estudios y Acciones Sobre el Espacio Público | Mexico DF
     Partner: Michelle Angela Ortiz | Philadelphia, PA
International Sonoran Desert Alliance, Multidisciplinary | Ajo, AZ
     Partner: Medio Ambiente y Comunidad CEDO, AC - Intercultural Center
     for the Study of Deserts and Oceans | Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, MX
Justice for My Sister Collective (Program of Community Partners), 
Media Arts | Pasadena, CA
    Partner: Colectivo Justicia para mi Hermana (EducArte) | Guatemala
La Pocha Nostra, Multidisciplinary | San Francisco, CA
     Partner: La Rendija | Mérida, Yucatán, MX
Latino Theater Company, Theatre | Los Angeles, CA
     Partner: Rosino Serrano | México, DF
Nameless Sound, Music | Houston, TX 
     Partner: Centro de Experimentación y Producción de Música  
     Contemporánea (CEPROMUSIC) | México, DF
Self Help Graphics & Art, Folk/Traditional Arts | Los Angeles, CA
     Partner: Mexicali Rose Media/Arts Center | Mexicali, Baja California, MX
Southwest Folklife Alliance, Folk/Traditional Arts | Tucson, AZ
     Partner: Vicam Yaqui Pueblo |  Rio Yaqui, Sonora, MX
The Bisbee Radio Project, Inc. (KBRP), Media Arts | Bisbee, AZ
     Partner: Radio Cultural Naco Sonora | Naco, Sonora, MX
Workers Interfaith Network, Visual Arts | Memphis, TN
     Partner: Antonio Leal Bejarano | Ciudad de Chihuahua, Chihuahua, MX
The awardees of the NALAC Diverse Arts Spaces Grant are:
Arab American National Museum, Music | Dearborn, MI
     Partner: Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet
Ballet Hispanico, Dance | New York, NY
     Partner: Stephanie Martinez
Columbia Film Society (d.b.a. The Nickelodeon), Visual Arts | Columbia, SC
     Partner: Favianna Rodriguez
Hi-ARTS, Music and Visual Arts | New York, NY
     Partner: Izzy Sanabria
MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, Theatre | San
Jose, CA 
     Partner: Ricardo Salinas
Miami Light Project, Inc., Multidisciplinary | Miami, FL
     Partner: Carla Forte, Natalia Lassalle Morillo, Charo Oquet and Sandra    
Pregones Theater + Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, Music and Theatre | Bronx, NY
     Partner: Producciones En Equipo
Click here to learn more about each of the projects. 
The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is the nation's only multidisciplinary Latino arts service organization. For 26 years, NALAC has delivered programs that stabilize and revitalize the US Latino arts and cultural sector by providing critical advocacy, funding, networking opportunities, leadership development and professional training for Latino artists and arts organizations in every region of the country. The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion, advancement, development, and cultivation of the Latino arts field. For more info, visit
NALAC 2015 Pods AZ 0014Above: Casandra Hernandez and Gabriela Muñoz present at the inagural NALAC Pod gathering in Phoenix, AZ


Moving Forward: an experiment in self-organizing


At a most immediate level, organizations –like individuals- are able to perceive and survey changing conditions in their environment through the passage of time. Given that NALAC is now in its 26th year, it is a natural phase of development and self-awareness to reflect critically on the kinds of growth we’ve experienced as well as the learning that has taken place during such time in order to plan effective ways of moving forward into our next 26 years. It’s therefore not difficult to see how participating in EmcArt’s  Innovation Lab for Arts Development Agencies –which is part of their continued work with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation- would yield a tremendously beneficial opportunity to reexamine our core values alongside any underlying assumptions so we can then continuously adapt our practices in ways that indeed achieve our goals: to better serve our community of Latin@ artists and arts organizations, and further cultivate the Latin@ artistic and cultural field. The correlation was there, especially when considering the Innovation Lab “was created to assist nonprofit organizations in designing and prototyping new ideas and to launch real-life projects that address complex challenges facing their organizations and the arts and culture field at large.”


So how can NALAC continue to explore and improve our efforts to better serve, reach, and engage a growing Latin@ arts field as we move into the future? Questions of this nature guided our work throughout EmcArt’s Innovation Lab. And these can be deceptively simple questions for reasons we will come back to further ahead. Going into this exploratory process though, NALAC was able to do so inclusively, with the involvement of truly dedicated individuals and generous members of different organizations from around the country. So, in that same spirit of inclusion, we’d like to share parts of this journey and some of the things we’ve found along the way that help us continue to serve our constituency in our best capacity.



Transformation and Future Challenges



Let's start by first recognizing that we are always in the midst of change(s) and that, a lot of times, these changes themselves can help us outline both the emerging challenge(s) alongside its solution(s). Furthermore, all organizations face challenges. We could even say that an organization is, essentially, a responsive relation to a certain challenge or set of challenges. But what happens when –inevitably- changes begin to occur in that scenario? And this could be changes in the organization itself, changes in the nature of the challenge(s) or, more frequently, in the environment that sustains either of these. As it happens, this situation is fairly common –whether you’re an artist, a cultural center, an offshore bank, or even a state agency- and part of what really matters has to do with how we can adjust to and approach the shifting meridians of the environment(s) we’re in.


But what are some of the most consistent markers of change being faced by Latin@ artists and organizations today? Are we able to identify the sources for some of the corresponding challenges and, if so, how does our ability to articulate the nature of such reconfigurations help us approach them with solutions in mind? One thing’s for sure: the environment that sustains both our artists and organizations along with the obstacles they meet is not necessarily a stable one. That is to say, the environment that our work takes place in now at the beginning of the 21st century is, in a lot of ways, different from what it was like during the Civil Rights Era, for example. This just means that social challenges, just like the people who face them, don’t remain identical as time goes by.


One example of a transformation that has taken place -and continues to take place- with the passage of time has to do with the demographic shifts our country is experiencing as a result of our increasing Latin@ populations. In a previous E-Boletín we looked at U.S. Census Bureau projections that expect our population to grow by 86% between the years 2015-2050 and, furthermore, how newer projections suggest our population will reach 119 million by year 2060. This steady shift in our demographic landscape brings about a complicated set of issues and opportunities not only for the more dominant or mainstream social order but for the internal dynamics of our own different Latin@ communities, which is precisely why NALAC sees it as a positive challenge -one that’s able to further actualize our approach to serve our broad field of artistic and cultural production. In other words, this particular changeability prompts our organization to be further effective in just how we work towards our goals to support and be more inclusive of our constituencies –through dialogue, trainings, grantmaking opportunities, and other programs.


Now, before touching upon a temporary-pilot approach that we’re exploring to help us better meet our goals, let’s consider an interesting challenge that further speaks to the effects of our growing demographics and, at the same time, places those effects within the context of our larger cultural networks -in this case we mean the increased diversity that the significant population growth of our Latin@ communities will bring about. Through the course of its work and most recently through the Intercultural Leadership Institute (ILI) pilot at the end of last year, NALAC has been able to underscore the immense value of working, creating, and imagining interculturally. Driven by a similar ethical belief, our ongoing work advocates for and promotes an understanding of our multiple communities as multiple Latinidades. Together, these principles amplify the function of Diversity & Inclusion when it comes to a future that brings continued and welcome difference to our various communities, because, even though population forecasts announce the predicted increase of a Latin@ demographic, what is often left unsaid is just how diverse that forthcoming demographic will be. Quite simply, the future brings Latinidad, which has always been intercultural.


To be sure, these are but just a few of the unfolding narratives that organizations and artists are responding to precisely because the momentum of these forthcoming narratives can alter the course of our work. But that just means that calculated inflections on our behalf can help yield more sophisticated and coordinated responses. An initial modification could be for us to create a forum where it’s possible for us to engage our members and constituency in a different and more significant way, where it’s possible for them to go from being recipients of programs to being the driving force behind broad policy change and advocacy efforts. We can also approach things from a different point and focus on shifting the dialogue with which current and prospective stakeholders in the Latin@ arts field are engaged. One easy and immediate step would be further emphasizing the fact NALAC is not invested in merely raising support for NALAC as a single institution, but rather for the interconnected field of Latin@ arts our institution itself supports. In other words, our perspective leans towards movement-building.



Exploration and Testing Strategies



Upon initiating our process with EmcArt’s Innovation Lab, it was necessary to first articulate prominent challenge(s) to then convene a diverse group of individuals and members of different organizations from around the country in the form of an Advisory Working Group. Together with EmcArt’s Facilitator and NALAC staff, members of the Advisory Working Group met to identify these markers of change, to question any underlying or corresponding assumptions, and to chart a course of inquiry and research to address those issues. Soon after, the Advisory Working Group met to review consequent findings and recommended specific exploratory work to launch a broader community campaign –a pilot campaign modeled on localized advocacy efforts, such as organizational satellites or pods, and very much chartered on forms of inclusivity and belonging. The sequence of our process then brought forth and convened an Innovation Team to plan an adaptive response to and a concise strategy for our complex challenge(s). The Team itself consisted of a diverse group whose participants represented an intergenerational, multidisciplinary, intercultural, multi-gendered, and geographically diverse social body.


As a result of this inquisitive and collaborative process, our Innovation Team arrived at a crucial temporary strategy to explore and test: the activation of two regionally-allied NALAC Pods to co-design and generate forms of local activity, networking, resourcing, messaging, advocacy and peer to peer mentoring. The idea is to intentionally activate, help train, and resource already existing NALAC regional networks undergoing different stages of development. This, in turn, may better amplify NALAC’s ongoing efforts in empowering the overall field, broaden communication between different communities, and foster support for Latina/o artistic and cultural production. The spirit of this approach holds that our greatest shared resources as a field of artists, arts administrators, and cultural practitioners are the human relationships and networks that have evolved through careful and intentional cultivation. In short, the maturity and resonance of meaningful relationships built for over 26 years indeed positions the greater NALAC base itself to further mobilize independently and collaborative, with an ethics of reciprocity at the forefront.


But what is a pod and why does it matter? Well, we could see them in two ways, both of which help inform and sustain each other. At a level of thinking, organizations –like organisms- have a tendency to arrange themselves in the form of a network, that is, as a set of different points that are connected around shared ideas or shared goals or even shared obstacles despite the fact that these points may each be in a very different location or region. This connection (connectedness) between each of the different points allows mainly for communication, which no longer requires being part of a cumbersome infrastructure or relies on cost-prohibitive engineering and so it’s become a bit more liquid. Once a point belongs to a bigger network of communication, it’s able to interact with other points through the exchange of ideas and information: movement-building. The term “pod” is just a name for an interactive point of said creative network.


We’re all completely familiar with the overt importance of network-building as a practice through which we create and nurture personal relationships that are generally based on shared professional affinities or projects, disciplines, and causes that each individual is engaged with. Yet what happens if we rotate our perspective a little so that we’re able to see the purpose of interpersonal networking as a way of bringing our many ideas together so they can network with each other? The function of that very interaction between different people is to create a platform where our own thoughts and perspectives get to network.


The second way to look at pod structures would be like a set of stations on a dial. This view suggests each station is a member of an overall spectrum or environment that not only helps make each individual station possible in some way but also provides an interface that lets us come into contact with or reach that station/pod. This is important because belonging to a bigger spectrum which includes the activities of other pods doesn’t dictate, micro-manage, or diminish the specific autonomy of any one pod. So let’s consider a couple of examples that are part of this social experiment.



Testing Pilots: Platforms for Dialogue & Innovation



The prototypes for testing our Pod strategy involve Pod liaisons within each community, which means both of the NALAC Pod Prototypes have a few things in common as well as a strong uniqueness that results from their organizers, their geographic regions, and their vital cultural ecosystems. Let’s start with some of the commonalities. Each prototype is designed to convene different individuals around key ideas and values that hold meaning for the region they’re taking place in. Because both revolve around the act of convening, they are very much an exercise in self-organizing meant to foster and increase relationship-building among artists, arts administrators, and cultural practitioners from the surrounding communities. Furthermore, the core values helping to guide this exercise are deeply connected to NALAC’s vision and mission statement: advocacy, empowerment, equality, and ethics. These set of values, when taken altogether, seek to refine our constituents’ leadership skills, sharpen our aesthetic/critical thinking, help amplify our community’s exposure/visibility, encourage a sense of advocacy geared towards equity, support paths to economic empowerment, and create as well as promote unified messaging in support of Latina/o arts and cultures.


Our initial NALAC Pod Prototype took place in Phoenix, AZ, at 40 Owls Pop-Up Gallery on December 29th of 2015. The convening was the first of a sequence which will be organized by Casandra Hernandez, Arizona State University Art Museum Curator of CALA Initiatives (Celebración Artística de las Américas) and NLI Alumni, in collaboration with Gabriela Muñoz, Artist Programs Manager for Arizona Commission on the Arts and NLI Alumni/Guest Faculty. The event was hosted in a "nomadic gallery" run by amazing artists and brothers Gabriel & Isaac Fortoul -Gabriel shared a tour of his work which was currently on exhibit. The incredible sound environment that evening was produced by the always phenomenal DJ Musa Mind. We began the evening with a presentation on NALAC’s ongoing work by Adriana Y. Gallego, our organization’s Deputy Director, who was assisted by Claudio Dicochea, our Strategic Communications Associate, and then became a forum where the many individuals present shared the nature of their creative work or the work of the organizations they are affiliated with. In this example, the most prominent feature is how a large gathering of tremendously diverse, talented, and intergenerational attendees organically turned into a platform where so many new relationships were created and preexisting ones were strengthened, where all manner of aesthetic disciplines found ways to converge, where all sorts of viewpoints and social projects were in dialogue, where so many people who didn’t know each other were happy they now did. Simply put, the outcome of this exploratory Pod suggests the emergence of a new and complex network of active Arizona Latin@ artists.


Without divulging any spoiler alerts, the upcoming iteration of our NALAC Pod Prototypes will take place in Bronx, NY, during the first part of 2016 at Pregones Theater. This event will be organized by Lisandra Maria Ramos, Assistant Director of Administration at the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at NYU, which is a collaborative network of institutions, artists, scholars, activists and cultural creators from the Americas and NLI Alumni, in collaboration with Arnaldo Lopez, Development Officer at Pregones Theater and NLI Faculty. The Pod’s project seeks to activate and organize our NLI Alumni of the Northeast region through a two-tiered process. The initial phase includes surveying participants as part of an asset-mapping and resourcing strategy intended to make Latin@ arts and artists more adaptable, effective, and successful with the work being done in the field of arts and culture. The second component consists of a first-time regional peer meeting that will help connect, organize, and energize alumni as well as NALAC and potential partners around actionable strategies that would propel the efforts of the group forward and influence the national agenda.


In the end, these are but two examples that speak directly to this idea of an emergent network of artists, arts administrators, and cultural practitioners working within very different and separate regions throughout our nation yet in conversation with each other. Is the possibility of all of us belonging to a much vaster platform based on communication and interaction somewhat aspirational? Sure. And that’s precisely the point. We are at our most creative, thoughtful, and sentient when our ideas or yearnings can circulate and exchange freely, when they learn from models and struggles from other regions, when they recombine in some unforeseen way to solve something we didn’t know how. Of course, all pods on such network won’t be the same -by that we mean they're not identical and so very much possess their own identity. What they can be is a hub for the distribution and production of knowledge –a clear point of contact between all the crucial work and policy approaches generated here, there, and elsewhere through alternate strategies and other localities.



The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is a legacy organization investing in the Latino heritage of this nation. For over 25 years, NALAC has built a strong foundation for the promotion of Latino arts and culture and its advocacy efforts have advanced issues of cultural equity and raised the visibility and understanding of Latino artistic and cultural expression. The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (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 and facilitates intergenerational dialogues among disciplines, languages, and traditional and contemporary expressions. NALAC serves thousands of Latino artists and hundreds of organizations representing a national and international community of multiple Latinidades; a network that crosses many cultures across the Latino Diaspora. 

For more information visit our website at or like us on Facebook at



 151125 NALAC HolidayInsertv01




For more information visit our website at  or like us on Facebook at


2015 12 EbooletinAbove Right: ALI Fellows at the Smithsonian Latino Center Above Left: No Somos Inmigrantes by Jesus Barraza


Primer in Policy: from the boardroom to the community


A vital part of the work all of us do in the field of Latin@ arts and cultures that can, for several reasons, deliberately appear overlooked or under-seen has to do with how our individual practices influence and effectuate larger issues of policy. As it happens, the facts regarding our involvement with policymaking can be made less apparent when projected upon oversimplified or reduced portrayals of that activity. That is, through the idea that state, national, and international policies are only an effect of work between State representatives, governmental agents/agencies, lobbyists, foundation leaders or magnates of commerce. But what happens if we rotate that view a little so that the ability to influence policy is understood as a fundamental gesture and attitude that we can all access -that we can all possess and realize through the work we already do?


For many communities of color, our approach to policy has a lot to do with how we imagine that it gets made or built: are there specific individuals in our society who are solely responsible for it? Are policies the result and reflection of measures we decide upon only during election seasons? What’s the difference between public and private versions of policymaking? Is there a relation between the kinds of social engagement and activism we directly participate in and evolving policies?


Social Movements

Any insight into the histories as well as the contemporary features of our social movements can prove quite an advantage in broadening the field of policymaking because they (in many ways) are already an outcome of and a challenge to a wider institutionalized logic. For instance, dominant organizational and institutional layouts are guided by a kind of logic, one that consists of a nuanced internal culture -often embodied by its physical infrastructure- whose procedural model or administering is reflected by its external impact, by its effect. Because the organized and self-conscious mobilization of peoples has historically been a response to either political, justice-oriented, racial, or economic imperatives, our existing institutional networks have been called into that process: their function being either hailed or summoned to participate and legitimize the issue at stake or brought into question by that organized social body. In other words, emancipatory social movements –then and now- embody a political response and ethos often meant to address (and even alter) social stratifications. The forming of that response itself, at its most mechanical, is already a mobilization of social, political, and economic awareness: it’s an understanding of the existing state affairs struggling to take shape.


Recognized Government

Before we go any further, though, let’s consider policy to be generally understood as the activities and effects of any recognized government. That’s the classic take. Things get more interesting, however, when we look at the fact that our government shares a reality with other social forces that may not emerge out of a democratic mandate, like market economies driven/compelled by multidimensional corporations and a global civil order that we largely apprehend through INGOs and their remedial/relief work throughout the planet. And, lest we forget, beyond these forms of human organizing are a set of natural forces, the horizon of which yields not only an array of resources but also the potential for incomprehensible catastrophes, many of them man-made. In this scenario, any contemporary governing body –one that is in the service of public good- consists of national governments designed to administer the well-being of its people and institutions through the use of both public and private market sectors.


Now, what traditional summaries, like the one above, tend to underemphasize, though, is how the dynamic between the aforementioned entities/players/agents is itself a result of developing policies, which means the relations between those different social protagonists is constantly being analyzed, evaluated and translated to meet emerging or unforeseen needs. Simply put, the elements we’ve just described are all –each of them- far less simple or even stable and much more open to change or to fluidly integrating new behavior and ideas. And it’s that fluid tension between the state, our public/private institutions, globally integrated capitalism, and the philanthropic order which is the site of community engagement. So engage we do -through our manifold labor, through innovative ideas and thinking, through educating ourselves and others, through active participation in our market economies, and, on every election, through casting our votes. This vantage point allows us to see all too clearly how the production of culture, the production of arts, and the production of our communities is indeed always in conversation with the development of policies.


A further step in that direction could be to embrace the fact that –like anyone else- the work that we do as Latin@ artists, arts administrators, and culture bearers means many things to us. Sure, it’s a way of meeting general economic needs and expectations, but, it’s also a way of being part of a shared social experience and of building something that goes beyond our immediate or individual selves: it’s a way of making a better world out of what we found. Our current political economy really lends itself to thinking about our work this way by already drawing profound distinctions between material labor and immaterial labor and, even more specifically, physical labor and cognitive labor. In other words, sometimes we work to create things (art objects, cars, food) and sometimes to create experiences (entertainment, information, services). Either of these will consist of some combination of labor (physical/cognitive).


Imaginative Engagement

Another key to influencing policy lies in the overall way that we participate with institutions or organizations. Many times, the degree of that participation has to do with our role within the organizational or institutional infrastructure, but quite often it’s also determined by how we support activities, events, or programming as members of a surrounding community. The agency in such behavior comes about when we participate thoughtfully. Now, it merits clarification that a lot of the opportunities for organizational/institutional participation out there –whether artistic, social, or political in nature- consists in activities of following instructions. Those are exercises in obedience not participation. When we participate thoughtfully it means that, yes, we engage in an informed manner which, in the end, means that we engage in an imaginative rather than a prescribed manner.


To follow such thread, participation of that kind has been invaluable for arts organizations of color and is an irreplaceable element for their collective future. For example, when many Latin@ arts organizations that had emerged as a response to social inequities began to forge a deeper relation with government agencies and foundations in order to qualify for the types of resource support previously secured by more dominant or legacy organizations and institutions, we drew upon the further professionalization of skills, knowledge, and cultural practices already present within our communities. In other words, our organizations benefited from a thought-driven investment on behalf of employees, artists, advisors, and community supporters that to this day fosters their longevity. The drive to further professionalize our efforts also leads arts organizations of color to understand the powerful effects of engaging visionary, dedicated, and savvy board members that bring cross-sector knowledge.  This level of robustly activating the cognitive, material, and fiscal resources of our communities is at the source of our organizations’ regenerative capacities. It engages the unparalleled faculties of our artists, arts administrators, culture bearers, leadership, and donorship.


One example of such imaginative engagement would be the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC), in particular their recent release of a USDAC Statement on Syrian Refugee Crisis. Now, it would take only a little bit of research on the USDAC for one to confirm that there is indeed no such departmental branch of our national government. The immediate conclusion is then that in reality USDAC does not exist, except for the fact that it completely does exist: it's both the effect and result of a collective affirmation, of an organized collaboration, and of a concrete response by a diverse range of agents/agencies to what is perceived as an absence in our shared cultural spectrum. Together, the participants of this organized entity address concerns, issues, and ideas that resonate with the sphere of contemporary artistic and cultural production. Through this platform, their statement "...calls on all artists and creative activists to use our gifts for compassion and justice, sharing images, performances, experiences, writings, and other works of art that raise awareness, build connection, cultivate empathy, and inspire us to welcome those who are forced from homes that are no longer safe."


Their statement, available for sharing online, ends with these lines:

 "We join together in affirming to all public officials and policymakers that a culture of fear and isolation cannot stand. We join together in applying our gifts to sustaining a culture of compassion and justice. We stand together with generations of creative activists in communities across the nation who have been envisioning and working toward a world of equity and belonging for all."


In moving through these ideas and examples that turn policy development into a more commonplace activity, one overarching feature does make its way to the forefront, and it has to do with how important it is that we begin from a place of interculturality. One of the most powerful things we can do is speak to the process of governance that we've just summarized as “policy” from a tradition of solidarity with and among distinct cultures. By doing so, we turn what generally gets approached through the context or lens of history (tradition) and invariably turn it into a practice. More specifically, we reoccupy the type of work widely regarded under the banner of social practice and untie it from the ameliorative measures that it can often be associated with, measures which tend to be in the service of streamlined models of assimilation.  The ability to speak from an intercultural position not only tends to clarify any historic gloss-overs on any subordinate culture’s historic development, but, in doing so, reveals an ongoing practice of solidarity between subordinate communities, one that is incredibly present today. An additional effect of intercultural work is that it also helps underscore agency and autonomy in our communities, which helps make our work less vulnerable to unknowingly being pawned or placed in the service of mainstream causes whose targeted goals may be less aligned with our own.





The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is a legacy organization investing in the Latino heritage of this nation. For over 25 years, NALAC has built a strong foundation for the promotion of Latino arts and culture and its advocacy efforts have advanced issues of cultural equity and raised the visibility and understanding of Latino artistic and cultural expression. The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (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 and facilitates intergenerational dialogues among disciplines, languages, and traditional and contemporary expressions. NALAC serves thousands of Latino artists and hundreds of organizations representing a national and international community of multiple Latinidades; a network that crosses many cultures across the Latino Diaspora.


For more information visit our website at or like us on Facebook at


 ILI 20150928 day2 0721Above: Intercultural Leadership Institute participants and the San Antonio community gathered at La Fonda for a Welcome Reception and Dinner this fall. Photo by Luis M. Garza.

A Model for Equity: Diversity and Inclusion


As members of a larger national and international field of activity, one that prioritizes the value that artistic and cultural practices have for our many communities, NALAC participates in conversations on issues which may be internal to a particular region or population and, at the same time, we are also part of broader discussions about precisely how our field itself is organized and shaped. These are usually good opportunities to consider not only the more external social forces that influence and often motivate how our organizational activities -thru programming, initiatives, or actionable measures- are in the end structured, but also how the very nature of our own individual participation can determine or at least enable the shape, dynamics, and just as easily the unresolved conflicts within our field of arts and culture(s).


Two themes that commonly appear as topics in these macro-level discussions, although usually in some mystified form, are diversity and inclusion. Quite often, these terms are used in ways that blur two very distinct ideas. On other occasions, they are used to implement policies and recommendations whose goals counteract the ideals that these two terms stand for, a strategy we will address further ahead. We view these as a chance to at the very least normalize some thoughtful, candid, and nuanced dialogue about what diversity and inclusion can mean in the 21st century, in order to move beyond its mere discussion by actually working toward its realization. And what better time than now?


If we consider the most recurring misconceptions about these two very different terms -diversity and inclusion-, they have to do with either making them interchangeable –so that they both end up meaning the same thing- or with suggesting that if we’ve got one, then we’ve automatically got the other. Either way, the point is that a lack of clarity on what these two concepts are about is a great way of not realizing them. And so we must ask: is diversity the same thing as inclusion? If we manage to create an environment of inclusion, does that mean we have diversity? Is it true that we can have diversity without any inclusion? And finally, perhaps the most powerful question, why does it matter that we achieve either of these equitable goals?


The strange part is that, under most conditions, it doesn’t matter. In fact, diversity and inclusion –or D&I- only matter within a framework of democracy, within a shared political context through which we’re all recognized as equals: democracy being itself that framework which, in the end, presents us with equality. There have been, of course, all too many other socio-politico models in our recent past that also tried to arrive at democracy -a goal that we ourselves are still distant from- by managing or curtailing the obverse dynamics of a capitalist economy, an economic model whose smooth functioning naturally undermines equality. So then, perhaps, the core of our predicament lies in how to move past what's generally referred to as the crisis or failure of modern representation, which is where we believe D&I can serve as a model for transcending said crisis/failure. In short, we at NALAC believe diversity and inclusion to be a model for equity. 



is diversity the same thing as inclusion?



So let’s start by looking at some working definitions of D&I taken from three distinct yet overlapping institutional coordinates: the private sector, our public body of governance, and academia. PepsiCo defines “diversity as all the unique characteristics that make up each of us: personality, lifestyle, thought processes, work experience, ethnicity, race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, age, national origin, disability, veteran status or other differences.” Furthermore, their corporate view of inclusion means a “workplace culture that values different perspectives, builds employee engagement, fosters creativity, fuels innovation and helps us attract the very best talent.” (our italics)


An example from our most immediate public consortium, the nation-state, hails from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Their 2011 document, Guidance for Agency-Specific Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plans, defines “…workforce diversity as a collection of individual attributes that together help agencies pursue organizational objectives efficiently and effectively. These include, but are not limited to, characteristics such as national origin, language, race, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, veteran status, and family structures. The concept also encompasses differences among people concerning where they are from and where they have lived and their differences of thought and life experiences. We define inclusion as a culture that connects each employee to the organization; encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness; and leverages diversity throughout the organization so that all individuals are able to participate and contribute to their full potential.” (our italics)


This last definition comes from our knowledge-based institutional networks, or academia, through UC Berkeley’s Division of Equity & Inclusion which provides a glossary that defines D&I in the following manner: “Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another …A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender …but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values. Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate …It is the "active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity — in people, in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum, and in (intellectual, social, cultural, and geographical) communities with which individuals might connect — in ways that increase one's awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions (Clayton-Pedersen, O’Neil, and Musil: 2007).” (our italics)


By now it’s clear that, despite their distinct origin and context, there’s significant overlap between these descriptions of D&I. We could attribute that, perhaps, to just how present such ideas are within these varied organizational structures while they continue to evolve and while they seek to realize their promising potential. In reality though, as last year’s report from Deloitte University Press indicates, there’s an astonishing gap between many organizations’ statements on or goals toward diversity and their implementation of said goals, which is one major reason why a record number of corporate clients are either reviving and rebuilding their diversity programs.


Still, the deliberate prevalence of our topic along with the projected increase of cross-sector inclusion programs suggests that there is a sense in which its importance is clear, and that we’d be pretty hard-pressed, at this point, to find any agents or entities presumably operating within the public, private, or knowledge-based sectors that would experience confusion over D&I.



“To thrive in the long term, it is crucial that museums bring the demographic profile of their staff into alignment with that of the communities they serve.” 



For if diversity is just an aspect of a situation or a property of an activity, and inclusion is merely the process or mechanism by which such activities and situations take place, then our own field of arts and culture(s) has the creative advantage to achieve this state. After all, the relation we’re dealing with is, in a lot of ways, like that between form (inclusion) and content (diversity).


This year has indeed offered us at NALAC some particularly bold glimpses into the status of our arts organizations, arts administrators, and creative professionals of color. Particularly when it comes to our shared status in relation to our more financially prosperous counterparts within the sphere of arts and culture. We’ve caught a glimpse by way of either a study, a positional statement, or a philanthropic recommendation whose purpose has been to reveal some pretty measurable differences out in the field that have to do with employment practices, funding policy, and even donorship. Taken altogether, though, it’s easy to read these diverse efforts as a way of struggling to shape a more cohesive response to a larger concern within our shared practice -that concern being an inevitably far more diverse American landscape. This makes our struggle to ethically integrate new worlds of difference part of an ongoing phase of, shall we say, growing pains connected to the realization of equity.


If we recall this past March Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) put forth a remarkable Statement of Purpose on Racial Equity in Arts Philanthropy meant "to increase arts funding for ALAANA (African, Latino(a), Asian, Arab, and Native American) artists, arts organizations, children, and adults" and also preface their Racial Equity Forum. It was soon after in April, during the opening for the new building of the Whitney Museum of American Art, that our First Lady Michelle Obama made her timely remarks sharing how "there are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, well, that’s not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood. In fact, I guarantee you that right now, there are kids living less than a mile from here who would never in a million years dream that they would be welcome in this museum." Needless to say, the July release of a crucial Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation brought the dynamics of our dominant museums' internal culture into sharper focus through a set of poignant findings. Key among these was how "Non-Hispanic White staff continue to dominate the job categories most closely associated with the intellectual and educational mission of museums, including those of curators, conservators, educators, and leadership. In that subset of positions, 84% is Non-Hispanic White, 6% Asian, 4% Black, 3% Hispanic White, and 3% Two or More Races.  With the exception of the Asian demographic category, which makes up 5% of the United States population today, these proportions do not come close to representing the diversity of the American population."


The report’s press release was accompanied by two comments that helped intentionalize its core findings and information. The first was from Susan Taylor, then President of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), who stated that the "entire field is now better prepared to encourage the changes that will be necessary if U.S. art museums are to reflect, and address, the increasing diversity of the American people." The second was from Elizabeth Merritt, Director of the American Alliance of Museum’s (AAM) Center for the Future of Museums, who succinctly expressed that "To thrive in the long term, it is crucial that museums bring the demographic profile of their staff into alignment with that of the communities they serve. This will require challenging a broad range of assumptions about how museums train, recruit and manage the staff responsible for collections, interpretation, education and leadership of our institutions.  And it will require taking a hard, uncomfortable look at the conscious and unconscious influences that have shaped our institutional culture and created the current imbalance."(our italics)


Stranger still is how the findings of this report -exclusionary culture and a balanced sameness- eerily converged with the findings of a revised report on employee demographic for fourteen of the largest Tech companies published by Fortune that same month. This scenario was underscored again in August by an L.A. Times article announcing how Twitter “plans to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the U.S. from 10% to 11% overall, and from 7% to 9% in tech roles. It also wants to see the number of underrepresented minorities in leadership roles rise to 6%.”


Looking back, these snapshots give us an idea of what the status quo is or what the existing state of affairs is in the sphere we work in. And although these recent statements, reports, and demographics are ways of commenting on the rare and weakened conditions of/for inclusion, they nevertheless come from an informed position or, at least, from a position that knows the benefits that D&I bring in terms of our country’s economic performance for example. Due to a broad understanding of D&I's function as engines for innovation, the commenting sources remain oriented towards a future that favors equity. This perception is not uncommon throughout private, public, pedagogical, NGO, or foundational sectors where the adaptive organizational features that our topic makes feasible along with the complex or optimized interactions that are consequently made possible are mutually grasped. In other words, the immanent potential for transformative capital growth –both financial and symbolic- that our topic represents for incentivized stakeholders is a difficult thing to overlook.



Difficult, but not impossible.



By that we mean there certainly are examples of glimpses from this year that position themselves away from the values we have just described. An easy example would be the latest study by the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland, Diversity In The Arts: The Past, Present, and Future of African American and Latino Museums, Dance Companies, and Theater Companies, published this September. The report was overseen by Michael Kaiser, DeVos Institute Chairman and former Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts President, who was interviewed in a corresponding L.A. Times article where he commented on the nature of this endeavor. The article shared two of the key findings, one of which was “that minority-focused arts organizations’ most debilitating weakness has been difficulty in attracting private, individual donors, a demographic whose charitable giving far exceeds the grantmaking of foundations, corporations and government.” The report itself finds this to be “the most important single statistic in the study” though oddly encourages funders to instead support “a limited number of organizations with larger grants to a smaller cohort that can manage themselves effectively, make the best art, and have the biggest impact on their communities.”


Let’s pause and think for a moment.


By now, several aspects of this particular study have been called into question –from its methodology to its instrumental and co-optable value- but there is a far simpler quality to be noticed. Let’s consider the central logic: based on the tenet that arts organizations of color are under-resourced, underfunded, and working to expand an under-developed donor base, the proposed solution is to redistribute available resources to our dominant network of arts institutions, which already possess an asymmetrical portion of wealth resources, foundational support, and donor base. This line of thinking is usually called circular reasoning. In this case it is also specifically prescriptive. By that we mean that it specifically restates the problem as if it was the solution. In other words, because of our dominant institutions’ “chronic” inequality and inability to implement D&I (refer to previous portion of this article), philanthropy and donors should minimally support arts organizations of color and rather concentrate funding toward our dominant institutions. Or, if put another way, arts organizations of color that often emerged out of poorer communities as a response to the previously described inequities are struggling fiscally therefore we must reallocate the vast majority of our available resources to the institutions they’ve primarily been excluded from. Approached from a purely economic position, we could restate the findings as such: because poverty is a permanent condition of our current economic order, we should reroute our palliative efforts to instead support the sources of that condition. One could go on. And the reason one could go on is because the report's recommendations are crafted in a way that blur and consequently mask two complementary flows or movements of consolidation: on the one hand, support for dominant institutions is being consolidated, whereas on the other, Black and Latin@ organizations are being asked to consolidate their vying for a now more limited support.


Let’s rather look at some elements that are generally overlooked by studies -such as this last one- whose primary effect is to curb the types of mobilization necessary for realizing D&I through the scope of our work together in the field. For example, if we encourage the redirection of entrepreneurial and philanthropic investment (art donors and funders included) toward our already most-successful institutions, then we should not be surprised if this redirected support flows along the stratified lines of antiquated social hierarchies -precisely the fixed hierarchies (often along class and racial/ethnic divisions) that our topic seeks to overcome. Therefore, the goals of D&I encourage donors and funders to diversify their support streams based on the significance and function of an organization's or institution's goals rather than consolidate along hegemonic lines.


The other element of the equation that tends to be overlooked is the counterpart to the more material types of support resources (financial, real estate, and so on), that is, the less tangible resource of time, or the often eluded temporal resource. If we look at the dominant organizations that emerged out of the kinds of prescribed and hierarchical institutional layouts put forth by these more regressive studies, one can see the prized role that time has played in their successful development. In other words, institutions of this order now possess a history through which they were vested by public and private resources that in turn translated into leverage for garnering the support of individual donors. In time, individual donors grew to become the broader base of support we call donorship. The crucial temporal resource was the time necessary for the previously described long-term support to take effect.


The inevitable question becomes: why would it seem feasible that our organizations of color (color not being reduced/distorted to Black and Latin@) would not need or stand to benefit from that kind of long-term investment?


On yet another level, studies in the service of (economic) demobilization tend to erase all ethnicities from the spectrum but black and brown. This is a major disservice to artists and arts organizations of all color that have worked far too long to empower each other, to foster solidarity, and to purposely bridge our limitations by working together through regenerative models. It’s thus disappointing when our intercultural familia undergoes facile erasures or has to evade projected divisions. The uneven outcomes of such inaccuracies also yield overt distortions that do not help prompt a better understanding of our white familia. Understanding structures of whiteness is one thing (and by now a requirement for navigating and ideally altering stratified or congealed social orders), but one would be deeply mistaken to confuse that with the realities of our myriad white ethnicities -the vast majority of which are seldom financially wealthy, strictly Eurocentric, heteronormative, or simply homogeneous.


So, after offering a brief description of the main features that characterize the purpose, use, and propensities of D&I, we can see the kinds of effects it suggests for our sphere of activity. And like any other concern that also happens to be an expression of social justice, it's path of realization will no doubt encounter push-and-pulls from many directions (as our examples illustrate). So it will be up to our collaborative field of imaginers and creative practitioners to rotate the dial in order to move beyond this frame, in search of more just conditions. Because although Diversity and Inclusion are, strangely enough, also in line with current imperatives of our economic order, equity is still a rather more elusive commodity. 







The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is a legacy organization investing in the Latino heritage of this nation. For over 25 years, NALAC has built a strong foundation for the promotion of Latino arts and culture and its advocacy efforts have advanced issues of cultural equity and raised the visibility and understanding of Latino artistic and cultural expression. The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (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 and facilitates intergenerational dialogues among disciplines, languages, and traditional and contemporary expressions. NALAC serves thousands of Latino artists and hundreds of organizations representing a national and international community of multiple Latinidades; a network that crosses many cultures across the Latino Diaspora.


For more information visit our website at or like us on Facebook at


Agustina Woodgate 5 AutoBody Radioee.netbove: Radio Espacio Estacion online radio transmission in Miami, Florida. Augustina Woodgate; Photo by Monica McGivern


Technology 1.0


For the past 26 years, NALAC has had the immense benefit of learning from our vast and growing network of Latin@ artists as well as our incredibly dedicated Latin@ arts and cultural organizations. It’s a type of learning that includes the advancements we’ve made together, that includes the challenges we share, and it also includes the ways we (ourselves) engage to fulfill our respective work. A key change during this time has been an increased reliance on digital technologies to meet our goals as artists, arts administrators, social activists, and culture bearers. So that regardless of what types of artwork we create, or what kinds of organizations and institutions we’re affiliated with, or even what our cultural and political affinities may be, the field of activity we casually refer to as the Tech Industry plays a huge role in how we go about the work that we do. Along those very lines, and because of its prevalence, we can easily begin to interpret our use of any particular kind of technology as an endorsement of that particular kind of technology, which changes our relation to the tools we usually work with by revealing that relationship to be much more complex and intertwined. So much so that NALAC believes it is important to strategically look at and begin to thoughtfully ask: what are the ways in which the field of technology supports the production of Latin@ arts and culture?


There has indeed been a lot of talk lately about the overall field of technology, which is good, because it helps lend clarity to what kinds of roles it plays in our communities, that is, beyond our own use of particular devices, services, and purchasing trends related to the extensive content made available through our mainly portable devices. Here’s where conversations over the digital divide, which is quite real, can help frame things a little better.


For example, by the time that the Pew Research Center released its report on Closing the Digital Divide: Latinos and Technology Adoption back in March of 2013, it had become evident “Latinos own smartphones, go online from a mobile device and use social networking sites at similar—and sometimes higher—rates than do other groups of Americans, according to a new analysis of three surveys.” Amongst a range of interesting findings, the report indicated a decreasing digital divide among Latin@s along with a significant increase in cellphone ownership and offered that “when it comes to owning a smartphone, going online from a mobile device and using social networking sites, Latinos are just as connected as other Americans.” But we risk a one-sided view of the whole picture if we look mainly at our activities as consumers or absorbers of a given industry.


Towards the end of last year, Maria Teresa Kumar, President of Voto Latino, released the article Why there aren’t more Latinos in the tech industry and it centered on a discouraging statistic: “currently only 6% of all U.S. tech workers are African-American and 7% are Latino.” Ms. Kumar goes on to then stress our need of leveraging “technology to engage and empower Latino Millennials to find solutions to the most pressing issues facing Latino communities” and that “although Latino high school graduates entered college in 2012 at a higher rate than their white counterparts, Latinos made up less than 9% of computer science and engineering college graduates in 2013.” Despite such lamentable statistics, we at NALAC feel it does present us with a goal to work towards where we can, for instance, foster our community’s usage or adoption of emerging technologies in ways that connect that experience and knowledge to viable educational and, consequently, professional careers.


Around that time, the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative (MDSCI) at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism released a study indicating that film “characters from Hispanic/Latino backgrounds were the most underrepresented across the groups studied. Just 4.9 percent of characters were identified as Hispanic or Latino, despite representing 16.3 percent of the U.S. population and purchasing 25 percent of all movie tickets.” With this information in mind, things start to get a little more compelling and we are also then able to start broadening the lens through which we look at the industry a bit.


By the time Forbes published a revised report on employee demographic for fourteen of the largest tech companies on July of this year, See how the big tech companies compare on employee diversity, many of us felt that what was being described was something more than just a mere trend, and possibly a symptom. This was reiterated by an L.A. Times article at the end of August, Twitter's diversity plan: approximately 40 women, which announced how the social media company “plans to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the U.S. from 10% to 11% overall, and from 7% to 9% in tech roles. It also wants to see the number of underrepresented minorities in leadership roles rise to 6%.”


Through this scenario, we can begin to forge some questions that can then most likely help us define our path towards a particular set of capacities, knowledge, and patterns which shed light on the current relation between Latin@ arts and the vast field of electronic technologies. The path itself will bifurcate or fork out into different areas that correspond with the various facets of cultural and artistic production within our communities, which is not surprising. The underlying idea, after all, is that for an unprecedented portion of our population electronic, online and digital technologies operate or play a vivid part in almost every aspect of daily life.  On one hand, this influences and helps situate our outward social being, meaning the parts of our 'selves' that give shape to a shared social fabric through interaction and participation out in the public domain. On the other hand, this also involves our private or inner being, that is, the part of us that works to identify and meet our own personal needs through self-care, regeneration or leisure.


The next curious feature has to do with the fact that no field of inquiry, manufacturing industry, or economic sector is completely self-generating and self-renewing. Today, more than ever, one should bear in mind the many ports of exchange and connectivity that exist between these areas and how technical innovation tends to emerge collaboratively and, furthermore, applied indiscriminately throughout this networked spectrum. Yet also, and perhaps more importantly, these areas of activity are produced and reproduced (sustained) by individuals who labor collectively to maintain a certain level of output. So that whether we are talking about a technological feature’s conception, pre-production, manufacturing, beta testing, distribution, or marketing –one is naturally inclined to ask: how do those processes include Latin@ creativity and encourage us to meet our social and personal goals?


For NALAC these are deeply relevant questions, capable of exploring how our community's imaginations are expressed more concretely. Obviously this first sketch is an attempt at direction, a task of orientation by not only staking out the parameters to help us survey this sprawling landscape, but to do so transparently, by sharing and making visible the assemblage of this process with our constituents as we move through towards clearer results.


An important step now would be to further clarify what we mean when we talk about the field of technology. Most notably it refers to a portion of our economy that consists of individual entrepreneurs and companies as well as multinational corporations which sustain a physical presence in many regions by way of retailers, business headquarters, as well as public and private institutional wings. In short, the Tech industry. Often included are INGOs (international nongovernmental organizations) that may have a fixed local presence along with more mobile iterations that emerge according to their mission or purpose. All of these, of course, are also physically present within our systems of governance as lobbyists or other special interest representatives. But again, these are some of the more tangible or brick-and-mortar ways that portions of this sector are present, and we really must also consider the more virtual ways by which the industry is known, such as internet service providers, software & programming companies, consumer electronics manufacturers, or online retailers to name a few.


And even though this early century we belong to can boast about radical innovations in nanotechnology and biotechnology, which do yield extraordinary cross-sector influence, it is the ongoing development of modes for processing and sharing information made possible by this particular Tech Industry that we’d like to focus on: Information  and Communication Technology (ICT). Largely due to the ever-diminishing scale of personal hardware like laptops and cellphones in conjunction with an ever-increasing mapping of fiber cables, pipelines, and towers, these broadly determine our communications at a more private, personal level -with immediate family, friends, and colleagues- as well as our communications at a public or institutional level -like governments, corporations, and educational systems.


The next phase could be for us to identify the ways our varying communities engage with ICTs beyond a user or consumer level. For NALAC to properly grasp the kinds of interface that already exist and –just as key- articulate those that do not yet exist but are nonetheless possible, our approach must include how Latin@s participate in or operate ICTs as producers. The first thing this means is, yes, to what degree are Latin@s present in the organizations that shape this industry and what are our functions within these organizations? At the same time, we must also ask ourselves: how do our communities continue to integrate evolving technologies in their artistic work, as cultural creators, as social activists, or as community or organizational leaders?


In a very clear manner, it’s the ubiquitous nature of a now globalized Tech Industry that requires us to be all the more savvy about how we position ourselves in relation to it. And it’s tricky because the output of this field –its devices, platforms, and its more translucent forms of social ordering- are already once-removed from our experiencing of it: when reading an article, streaming a video, or posting our status, it is the content of that activity we feel most affected by, while the medium that allows us access is there but just not at the center of our attention. Like a true peripheral, it takes one step to the side as it introduces us to the content. We surely miss our components when they’re not there though, as any of us who have either lost bars, left our phones behind, or had to replace gaming consoles or laptops know all too well.


In the end, the question persists: how can we look at our roles as effective participants and producers within this sprawling field we often abbreviate as Technology? We know the term Tech Field is a common shorthand for a complex sphere of economic, scientific, and cultural activity that appears to be always at the helm of our social engagement. Given that, it may be better for our purposes to simply ask: how is the Tech Industry supportive of Latin@ arts and cultures? It’s a big question, yes, because as an arena it is made up of different entities operating in different directions. But it’s also a big question because there are so many ways in which to support Latin@ arts and cultures. Besides, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask the big questions, the ones that we’re uncertain about phrasing, and even less certain about the territories they’ll lead us through. 







The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is a legacy organization investing in the Latino heritage of this nation. For over 25 years, NALAC has built a strong foundation for the promotion of Latino arts and culture and its advocacy efforts have advanced issues of cultural equity and raised the visibility and understanding of Latino artistic and cultural expression. The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (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 and facilitates intergenerational dialogues among disciplines, languages, and traditional and contemporary expressions. NALAC serves thousands of Latino artists and hundreds of organizations representing a national and international community of multiple Latinidades; a network that crosses many cultures across the Latino Diaspora.


 For more information visit our website at or like us on Facebook at


2015NLI papelpicado


Fifteen Years of Learning Leaderships


The NALAC Leadership Institute (NLI) turned fifteen years old this month. In many ways, it seems kind of like a Quinceañer@. By that we mean it's gone through some heady developmental phases and grew wisely during its early formative years, it's got enough memories to fill an archive yet keeps dreaming of the future, and its attitudinal coordinates are very much a result of our surrounding time(s) and place(s). It also feels like a Quinceañer@ in the sense of event. For example, there's no one person or source that puts the whole thing together -it's a collective and community effort. Also, there's no global franchise or one-stop clearinghouse there to provide all our supplies -its materials emanate from excluded, dominant, neglected, mainstream, academic, and political areas of our culture(s). Most significantly for our purposes, it's an aesthetic expression and self-valorization of our Latinidades with the purpose of enhancing our reentry into the social field.  In short, what we are dealing with is the coming-of-age of a new thought, one that sees itself having a leadership role within a much larger, transformative narrative.


This year, we were incredibly honored to have our Graduation Keynote Address delivered by renowned American playwright, actor, writer, and film director Luis Valdez. For the first time, the Keynote portion of our program was a public event and it was held at The University of Texas at San Antonio Downtown Campus. Furthermore, we were also deeply fortunate to include a magnificent session where Congressman Joaquin Castro (Texas' 20th District) shared insightful views on the importance of Latino art and cultural production for him personally, as well as for broader policies that can affect the future of our various communities. The sum and combination of these crucial elements once again illustrates just how the NLI is produced through a set of coordinated, collective efforts.


The 15th annual NLI took place July 13-18 and we were graciously hosted by UTSA Downtown Campus. Through the generosity, dedication, and forthright community engagement  of UTSA, our program ran extremely successfully. No less crucial was the inspiring presence and indelible work of our always amazing participants who brought this summer's NLI to fruition. The multi-generational and multi-ethnic group of tremendous arts leaders constituting our Class of 2015 NALAC Leadership Institute fellows brightly represented ten U.S. States, including Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Texas -thus bringing our overall total representation to thirty-three states. Since its introduction in 2001, the NLI has nurtured an emerging cohort of 276 artists and arts administrators who are dedicated to sustaining culturally specific work at the core of Latin@ communities and dedicated to changing and shaping cultural policy. Similarly, over 184 organizations nation-wide have sent Fellows to our program and over 95 U.S. cities are currently represented. For detailed information on the NLI, including our Class of 2015 participants, the organizations they represent, and Faculty click here (PDF attachment).


At this point, it is also well worth noting there's three things we must ask in order to really proceed any further: what kind of experiential forum is the NLI, why is it important that it be available, and how does its ongoing development come about? Let's start with the first question.


The NALAC Leadership Institute (NLI) provides critical training to the next generation of Latin@ artists and arts administrators from across the nation by way of a comprehensive curriculum rooted in our diverse Latino cultural experience. An outlier among other leadership programs, the NLI employs a holistic pedagogical approach to professional arts management that not only equips emerging leaders with a fundamental skill-set, but perhaps more significantly, contextualizes said learning experience to promote responsive cultural stewardship. Our unique methodology is consciously based on the historic overview and corresponding analysis of Latin@ artistic and cultural production in the U.S., including the vital role of civically-minded community engagement. After all, leadership is but a type of professional development, one that answers a call which usually arrives from tomorrow. This lens provides the notional framework for all Institute presentations, discussions, and instruction. Given this situational approach, each year's weeklong, intensive training is customized to the leadership development needs that are specific to each incoming class and thus confidently adjusts the study of eight fundamental topics which the NALAC Leadership Committee believes central to the participants’ development and consequent success in our competitive national art scapes: Mission, Programming, Budgeting, Marketing, Fundraising, Governance, Evaluation, and Advocacy.


This is also why the NLI has served as a platform, inspiration, and at times springboard for the advancement of our programming. To that extent, NALAC has additionally had five Advanced Institutes consisting of thirty-six participants and five Advocacy Leadership Institutes (ALI) that include forty-four participants. We are also currently proud to be working on our forthcoming pilot Intercultural Leadership Institute (ILI), which is set to occur at the end of September this year. Our programming labors under the belief that it's good to invest in our constituencies, especially when one believes in the results of our joint work, which is why NALAC includes our Alumni in the form of staff, board members, partners, speakers, panelists, and faculty for example.


NALAC believes that our strategic programming brings together a wide range of Latin@ artists, organizations and individual communities in an effort to prompt artistic excellence along with incremental forms of social inclusion.  Connecting representatives of Latino constituencies to organizations in other diverse regions strengthens our collective knowledge(s), amplifies our local community’s contribution to this country, and creates a more engaged population. Moreover, this connectedness is critical in our pursuit for cultural equity, which will arise when diverse populations address social inequality together and work to create shared opportunities for access to resources, cultural participation, and artistic production.


So, why would it be important for this educational forum to remain available? A part of our answer has to do with specifically how culture gets made and, maybe just as appropriate, who it gets made for. Another part is directly linked to the status of education and the questionable political, economic, and ethical side-effects of our increased disinvestment in the prospect of learning which are all but impossible to overlook. Let's start with the latter point and how that ties into our program.


To be sure, participants along with faculty and all of us involved in creating the NLI are able to learn things we didn't know or didn't know as much of. And, yes, through a proper sequencing of sessions we interactively exert skills that could stand to be further exercised within our own individual day-to-day operations. In this manner, what we co-create is a site of learning: site in the sense that the Institute very much has a physical location and is quite there, en su sitio, except that its effects are not bound or confined by that specific location and are therefore irreversibly not only there. If we consider that scenario and if we consider learning as an action that results from our abilities to connect with the people around us and build consensus on what is perceivable and by what means, it's then easy to see learning is a social practice. The content of that learning (fiscal planning, marketing, board development and so forth) along with the formal channels through which we arrive at that learning also tend to develop who we are, who we see others as, and how we locate these positions on a more detailed spectrum (be it a family, a neighborhood, a nation, or hemisphere even). That makes learning a cultural activity, with some foreseeable political implications not too far behind. These aspects of what it means to teach and the tangible/intangible outcomes of learning were at the source of what we now know as the NLI, which began as a conversation between our former Executive Director, Pedro Rodriguez, and our now Executive Director, Maria López De León.


"At its origin, the NLI consisted of this idea to bring people together, of building a platform upon which convenings could take place where different people came together to share ideas, experiences, knowledges, and practices", Ms. De León recalls, "fifteen years later, through all of the changing differences and newness that have gone through the Leadership Institute, that original idea remains at its heart".


This idea had to be flexible enough to include existing pillars of knowledge in the field of arts and cultures, while strong and resilient enough to integrate emerging, less defined, sets of information that secure both the longevity of our project and its intentional goals. We knew it required individuals capable enough to embody such mission and transmission, individuals with unforeseen abilities to both teach and seamlessly learn the swift currents shaping our professional practice. So in comes our core faculty of nationally recognized professionals and leaders in the Latino arts and culture sector: Maribel Alvarez, Ph.D. (University of Arizona, Southwest Center -Tucson, AZ), Abel López (GALA Hispanic Theatre -Washington, DC), and Rosalba Rolón (Pregones Theater/Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre -Bronx, NY). The NLI has also been incredibly fortunate for the participation, overwhelming support, and astounding teachings of Dr. Tomas Ybarra-Frausto and Dudley Brooks. We think it's plenty fair to say that the NLI would be a great although inoperative template or format without our Faculty, Guest Faculty, and Keynote Speakers to catalyze its realization. Especially when, through the years, our Keynote Speakers include Dr. Arturo Madrid, Pablo Miguel Martinez, Raul Salinas, Jesse Borrego, Norma Cantu, John Philip Santos, Sandra Cisneros, Guillermo Gomez-Peña, Carmen Tafolla, Carlos Gallego, Christine Ortega, and now Luis Valdez. For these and many other reasons, at our fifteen year mark, we feel a remarkable gratitude.


Although both agile and nimble, this idea called NALAC Leadership Institute consists of a proper physical structure too: an operational place to interact, to house spatial activities. Quite simply, a material hub for the continual exchange of information and knowledge. Our first year, the NLI was held at San Antonio College and the following years it took place at Trinity University and St. Mary's University. For many years thereafter, we were so generously hosted by Our Lady of the Lake University. Suffice it to say, the NLI has also very much been a taut mobile structure -one often made into place via institutional partnerships. This goes directly to the question of how its ongoing development comes about.


In its nascent phase, the NLI was and very much continues to be shaped by the values and coexisting needs informing NALAC as a service-based organization with transformational purpose at core. In other words, it's part of our understanding of the organization itself as a social function. Its inception was also based on the several yet limited tangible or concrete resources that we had access to. Over the years, and perhaps most important to note, these initial resources expanded, yes, because of the entirety of NALAC's evolving programs, but, they also grew out of the precise activities and relationships built through the NLI (the production of culture, knowledge, affects, communication, informational infrastructures, codes, services, etc ). We cannot gloss over this part because what it says is that unquestionably tangible or material resources (be they funds, space, supplies, and so forth) can be generated through seemingly intangible or immaterial kinds of work -like the production and exchange of understanding that constitutes learning, network-building, leadership development, conviviality, and so on. These being, to some degree, all forms of pliable currencies. After all, the inscription of new knowledge into our lives -a primary benefit of learning- is seldom accompanied by hard, physical evidence: education is by nature an investment on some future return.


There is also a substantial need, one that's not easy to articulate, that prompted the creation of the NLI and, to this day, fuels its ongoing development. It has to do with providing an efficient service to the field of Latino arts and culture which, in turn, strengthens the field overall. Such training of Alumni and Fellows is indeed an investment in our field as a whole, one that goes beyond the spheres of our immediate Latinidades and quite often extends even further into multiple sectors, unrelated to the arts, as crossover talent. Nonetheless, the fulfillment of our service first means that we must produce a space through which the necessary experiences -discussion, inquiry, learning, inventiveness, solidarity- can take place. In some very obvious ways, many Latin@ artists, arts administrators, and culture bearers aren't offered these experiences through the dominant circuits providing professional development and career networking tailored to the arts and cultural sector. These often more traditional consortiums seem inherently capable of overdetermining our work and discourse (which is many times connected to themes of social justice, equality, and the several political dimensions of culture) in ways that, if left unchallenged, can minimize our efforts. Despite their variegated renditions, they can be surprisingly oversimilar. That is to say, our work and research is prone to the failures of re-presentation. And quite often, when it is present in these settings in the shape of first-voice, it is prone to be included in isolated or tokenistic quantity -like an offshore subplot. Other times, the ticket for inclusion demands such rigorous decontextualization that our work gambles with the risk of coming across as stereotype, or simply gets 'othered' enough to appear incoherent and frankly unintelligible.


So, sometimes, we take on the challenge of tactfully shifting the public conversation of how our artistic and cultural work intervenes into an unfolding American narrative. In that sense, the NLI is an ever-evolving strategy for the kind of cultural interface that is modeled on equitable inclusion, a substrate interface that joins together different voices and stories as peers, as intercultural colleagues with a knack for creative problem-solving and a principled commitment to building better leaderships.


Of course, by now it's become exceedingly common to reference the premises of rhetoric that have defined either the limited scope or, according to some, the uncharted possibilities of our present social/cultural/economic realities. Sometimes it's useful to bear in mind that the very need to make and constantly repeat such arguments is a symptom (or syndrome, depending on who you ask) of how they haven't been properly absorbed or assimilated by dominant policies or servile efforts in the field. It is also a healthy reminder to expect various forms of disengagement from entities whose role is precisely to creatively pursue the preservation of our cultural status quo or unapologetically serve the interests of stillness. The fact is that our trajectories of mixed histories and social movements do not have a monopoly on progress. And awareness of this fact is a feature that only activates our imaginative capacities to render learning a sign of equality, and the development of new leaderships throughout our communities as an act of freedom.




The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is a legacy organization investing in the Latino heritage of this nation. For over 25 years, NALAC has built a strong foundation for the promotion of Latino arts and culture and its advocacy efforts have advanced issues of cultural equity and raised the visibility and understanding of Latino artistic and cultural expression. The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (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 and facilitates intergenerational dialogues among disciplines, languages, and traditional and contemporary expressions. NALAC serves thousands of Latino artists and hundreds of organizations representing a national and international community of multiple Latinidades; a network that crosses many cultures across the Latino Diaspora.

For more information visit our website at  or like us on Facebook at

Arts, culture, and shifting demographics: The time to realize this great sense of hope

The demographic shifts due to the continued increase of our Latino populations have become recurring talking points over the years and it is not uncommon for them to appear as some form of topic in conversation ranging from general consumer confidence to ecological stewardship, international trade policy and cultural equity, electoral politics or economic inequality, and, of course, our own field of arts and cultures.  

One thing these discussions signal for us at NALAC is the emergence of a great sense of hope, quickly followed by a deep responsibility to help realize this hope. For over two decades, this responsiveness has guided our dialogue with peers, colleagues, and dedicated cultural workers out in the field who see first-hand how talk of these statistical shifts actually impact their immediate communities, or more often than not, fail to yield any meaningful results beyond a floating talking point.  And yet, we must ask ourselves how the current discussion is different from prior ones or, at the very least, ask ourselves how we have become different.

Latin Number by Brian EugenioDuring our Regional Arts Training Workshop at Albuquerque in 2012, we were honored to have Brian Eugenio Herrera deliver a keynote address where he spoke on just how perceived shifts in our population affect Latino arts specifically as well as the broader field of cultural production.  In particular, Dr. Herrera cited four different Time Magazine covers from four different decades (2012, 1999, 1988, 1978) to help illustrate how the notion of Latinos gaining unprecedented relevance in the mainstream or dominant social order as a result of their increase in number reappears in the media only to quickly fade every ten years or so.  He essentially described a process of collective performance through which our communities are perpetually being "discovered".  This odd social ritual that Herrera describes functions as a way of heralding our new found ability to effectively influence American culture while, at the same time, postponing that very ability by locating it in some future time.

Hispanic Populations Scaled BackWhen we look at the revised population projections released by the U.S. Census Bureau this past December, it becomes clear why questions about how our community's heightened physical presence will effect society at large are once again so prevalent.  According to their projections, the Hispanic population is expected to reach near 106 million by 2050, making it almost twice what it is now.  Soon after that press release, the Pew Research Center stated how "the new Hispanic population projection for 2050 is lower -by nearly 30 million -than earlier population projections published by the bureau" (Krogstad, Jens Manuel 'Hispanic Trends Project).  The article attributes thescaled back increase to a notable decline in migration from Latin American since 2008.  Once we consider the raids on our communities, followed by dire relocation to encampments along the borderlands, it's easy to see how a draconian immigration policy begins to directly shape these population forecasts.  

Things get further interesting when we think about the internal dynamics  of our own communities in relation to, for example,  the fact that the median age for Latinos is 28.1 years, or, when we observe the increasingly multiethnic and multiracial nature of our communities.  Those who may remember the first President Bush speaking in Spanish to an imagined Latino voter in 1984, the launch of former President Bill Clinton's Spanish-language campaign in 1996, or more recently the elation of President Obama's first victory in 2008, are far from being the same individuals we were then and, more significantly, the communities we belong to are not the same either.  

From our perspective at NALAC, the demographic shifts we are experiencing include the introduction of further difference into our Latinidades.  We share unfixed racial identities, multiple belongings or affiliation, and an inclusion of genders, orientations, and age that bring with them a welcome complexity.  We are not just more, but also more diverse.

Lighting the Road; Installation by Patricia Carzola and Nancy Saleme; 2013 NALAC NFA Artist/Ensemnble GranteeSuch an inclusive characterization of our expanding Latino population make the new NEA reports from this January all the more compelling.  By looking at the factors that drive or hinder overall arts participation while studying the economic impact of the arts and culture industry, all three reports convey information meant to help arts institutions and organizations establish a stronger level of engagement with the larger populace.  On one hand, the reports suggest that exposure to the arts during childhood leads to adult attendance.  On the other hand, there is a measurable decrease in overall arts attendance, making questions of participation a crucial matter in our field.  But what kind of participation?  How will new approaches speak to a heterogeneous Latino population?  Is the diversity being sought through this research itself reflected by the organizations surveyed?  Can long-established arts providers connect with future attendees who do not adhere to any one static definition of their selves, or their interests?

Quite steadily, a multi-generation of Latinos have been leading our cultural work out in the field.  Whether it is millennial Latinos in the digital commons, seasoned leaders or practitioners who invaluably serve as catalysts for progress, or elders who have made their life into a practice and commitment towards better ways of being and of being-together, the shared networks made up by our particular cities and regions have not remained still because our communities themselves are not fixed.  Indeed the study of how our populations change is exactly what drives the rhetoric on demographic shifts and its speculative betting on what is yet to come.  In other words, what this moment reveals is an opportunity for our selves and our communities to redefine and reframe what our future will be through a shared agency.

Our present circumstances can be a stark reminder that we do not live in a world where the desired change automatically happens, but rather a world where changes (plural) take place -sometimes competitively, oftentimes collaboratively.  In either case, when social changes meant to benefit communities of color are put into effect they are the long result of negotiation.  Of interest is how years after Richard Florida's notions of  a creative class-struggle at the turn of the century (which gave policy makers a language with which to relocate the arts away from culture and back into tourism, along with a now largely contested paradigm for 'soft' displacement of poor communities in the name of  a strangely biased revitalization with a weakness for the benevolent inclusion of difference), the dominant art institutions in any given region continue to display a noticeable absence of Latino artists and programming.  This, in turn, is matched by a corresponding lack of funding made available to Latino-based arts organizations.  A more comprehensive and tremendously insightful analysis of this social practice can be found in Dr. Arlene Davila's 'Culture Works' (New York University Press, 2012), where she contextualizes these trends by locating their relation to forces and interests beyond the culture sector.

Such undeveloped cultural competency proves rather curious in particular after local, regional, and national organizations alongside rather formidable funding entities invested their efforts into ongoing 'community-building', 'community-engagement', and all manner of  'social reconciliation' projects for over ten years.  Exemplary of this exclusionary practice at a local level is San Antonio's Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, while at a national level we see the standard being displayed by the Kennedy Center Honors Program.  Are institutions of lighthing the road 01this sort capable of incorporating and recognizing Latino artistic expression through the use of strategies in line with those reflected in the NEA report's findings?  Or, are their trajectories far too mired in outdated world-views, separatist and elitist in principle?  The answer remains to be seen.  Moreover, perhaps the impact of this cultural work on behalf of dominant institutional networks has not been felt by communities of color in a way that register with our values and sense of place in the American story or, and we do not think this irrational or implausible, perhaps the outcome was precisely meant to be just that -the appearance of a shared social ethos, purely a surface or veneer through which to brightly reflect the change in demographics in order to be dispensed from actually integrating bodies and minds of color.    

There is one definitive outcome of these partial or false attempts at responding to the physical changes of our presence in our nation: the adoption and adaptation of our narratives, repertoires, and affects by institutions and social agents in the service of the existing state of affairs.  Of course there is nothing unusual about the cooptation of any subordinate group's cognitive or immaterial labor, so that seeing the practices and hearing the language of social struggle or emancipation movements coming from conservative sources as a very means of preserving the status quo is, if not worse, a wonderful example of a progressive-reversal.  So that, in the end, if these unprecedented demographic shifts in our Latino communities primarily result in mere stylistic changes of policy or the appropriation of our social rhetoric for the sole purpose of discursive or inconsequential platforms, then it becomes crucial for us to feel all too comfortable modifying the language, ideas, and critical thinking behind our social movements in order to meet the goals of a different, alternate, future.  All in effort to articulate and then reconcile the very real demographic shifts in our communities with the corresponding discrepancies in terms of recognition, representation, and inclusion in the overall field.  

The immediate effects of cultural appropriation make themselves known in two key ways.  First, the ineffectual practices of social inclusion and diversity on behalf of formerly elitist institutions are legitimated through their newly co-opted rhetoric, which now accompanies a kind of cultural work that is heralded as innovative (an often vague term, capable of misrecognizing the ingenuity in methods of assimilation as a form of "newness") by capital F Funding sources.  Secondly, subordinate communities and organizations that devise and continue to rely on these social practices for everyday survival are now labeled unimaginative or incapable of innovation due to a strange form of creative unviability.  Meanwhile, the conditions for which these strategies are in direct response to continue to be very much in place. Our communities are therefore put in an interesting bind when asked or prompted to develop new fiscal plans, organizational programming, and new kinds of infrastructure as if we are now dealing with an entirely new situation that somehow manages to still possess much of the same qualities as before.  Possibly, all we are being asked to do is invent new language and reposition our ideals in that sense.  Or maybe it is yet another phase in the vicious cycle of cultural displacement where marginalized groups have to repossess or re-appropriate their creative work through experimental models.    This present situation, where the roles have been inverted between artists and organizations of color and the dominant order, is the challenge we as a multitude of ethnic, racial, gendered, sexual, and class differences are left to address.


The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is a legacy organization investing in the Latino heritage of this nation. For over 25 years, NALAC has built a strong foundation for the promotion of Latino arts and culture and its advocacy efforts have advanced issues of cultural equity and raised the visibility and understanding of Latino artistic and cultural expression. The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (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 and facilitates intergenerational dialogues among disciplines, languages, and traditional and contemporary expressions. NALAC serves thousands of Latino artists and hundreds of organizations representing a national and international community of multiple Latinidades; a network that crosses many cultures across the Latino Diaspora.

For more information visit our website at or like us on Facebook at