NALAC Catalyst for Change Awards foster Radical Imagination and Racially Just Systems

NALAC will award $1.2 million to Latinx artists over three years

San Antonio, TX, November 23, 2020 — In partnership with the Surdna Foundation, NALAC embarks on a new grantmaking initiative to support Latinx artists working to radically imagine more racially just systems.

For its first iteration of the grant, NALAC is working with past grantees and alumni with experience in community arts practice to build out and model the new Catalyst for Change grant program. Eleven artists, representing seven different states artistic disciplines, are working with NALAC in this model year with projects addressing systems of injustice within their own communities.

The second cycle of NALAC’s Catalyst for Change Award is anticipated to launch in late summer 2021 for Latinx artists.

“This partnership with the Surdna Foundation offers an opportunity for NALAC to support artists who can approach the concept of ‘radical imagination for racial justice’ in a variety of ways. Artists are focusing on an array of different structural issues in their communities, including the school-to-prison pipeline, food access and sustainability, and healthcare inequities affecting Black and Brown communities. Others are seeking to create spaces of shared healing and resourcing for underinvested groups, such as queer artists and undocumented writers, or to organize and mobilize intercultural collaborations to affect local policy.” said NALAC president and CEO María López de León.

This model year has allowed time for NALAC to design and test additional mechanisms to support its grantees, as well as evaluate its grantmaking processes from top to bottom with the goal of strengthening resourcing for the Latinx arts field.

NALAC has partnered with Ebony Noelle Golden, principal consultant of Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative to design a program curriculum focused on cultural strategy as well as an evaluation methodology that will capture the story and learnings of the Year 1 program and individual artist projects. 

Long-time collaborators Lisa Yancey (Yancey Consulting), Joel Garcia (Meztli Projects) and Lauren Ruffin (Fractured Atlas & Crux) served as coaching partners for artists as they developed their projects. 

 “The inaugural Catalyst for Change grantees demonstrate the power of artists to challenge the status quo and reimagine a more just world in which everyone can thrive,” said Robert Smith III, program officer of the Surdna Foundation’s Thriving Cultures program. “As communities across the nation work together to dismantle systemic racism, we are proud to partner with NALAC to support this powerful cohort of artists to work within their communities to use their collective experience, strategies, and creativity to realize lasting change.” 

 NALAC’s work with Surdna is part of a larger $13 million commitment that the Surdna Foundation has made with ten other organizations including Alternate Roots, Creative Capital, and NDN Collective. Details on the next iteration of this grant opportunity will be shared on the NALAC website in summer or early fall of 2021. 


Catalyst for Change: Year 1 Model Year 

Artist Project Descriptions 


Artist/Ensemble Name: Anel I. Flores 

Project Discipline: Literature 

Project Title: La Otra Taller Nepantla 

Place: San Antonio, TX 

Project Description: La Otra Taller Nepantla builds on the life of Gloria E. Anzaldua’s legacy of radical imagination uncovering decolonial alternatives to scholarship, research, the creative process, health and reciprocal relationships among lgbtqia+ Bipoc creatives. Anel I. Flores seeks to reimagine the dissemination of resources for queer writers, artists and healers by hosting the first of a lifelong, biennial, one-month, creative residency for BIPOC creatives to retreat, heal, research, present, teach and share their work without the guilt, micro-aggressions, stress, financial strain and distraction often found in institutions of learning, in the workplace and even in our own homes. 5-7 Participating practitioners will artistically collaborate on building a shared long-term vision that seeks to eradicate racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and the “gatekeeper” model found in too many creative residency programs around the globe. Ultimately, La Taller will serve as a solitary time for each creative to nurture a current individual project while also gaining the constructive feedback and professional and spiritual support of their Taller-Cohort, for a lifetime and beyond. 


Artist/Ensemble Name: Bobby LeFebre 

Project Discipline: Interdisciplinary 

Project Title: Sobremesa: Radical Imagination, Accountability and the Future 

Place: Denver, CO 

Project Description: Sobremesa aims to gather and engage BIPOC artists and cultural workers across every city council district in Denver to produce a collective manifesto with ideas and demands by the group targeted at Denver policy makers, public and private philanthropic funders and the nonprofit sector. Organizing will center on community dinners where BIPOC artists and cultural workers will discuss, plan and imagine a liberated future. These organizing circles will serve as a space for imagination and intercultural movement building, with the intention of infusing shared knowledge and the concepts of radical imagination. 


Artist/Ensemble Name: ChristinaMaria Xochtlzihualtl Patiño Houle | Las Imaginistas  

Project Discipline: Interdisciplinary 

Project Title: Borders Like Water  

Place: Rio Grande Delta  

Project Description: Borders Like Water is a multi-year initiative to network healers, activists and artists throughout the continent of Abaya Yala towards the generation of a shared culture of liberation. Participants will create a shared understanding of liberated time, decolonized language and healing ceremonies as a strategy to combat systemic race, gender and sexual-based oppression. The result will be a framework of practice to integrate collective identity with social and natural consciousness. 


Artist/Ensemble Name: Emilio Rodriguez & Black and Brown Theatre 

Project Discipline: Theatre (non-musical) 

Project Title: Restoring Stories to Restore Classrooms 

Place: Ypsilanti, MI 

Project Description: Restoring Stories to Restore Classrooms examines the potential of restorative justice practices such as learning and mindfulness tools to replace expulsions and suspensions for students of color in our elementary schools, dismantling the school to prison pipeline system. Designed in partnership between artist Emilio Rodriguez and an advisory committee of students, parents and educators, a theatrical piece that identifies and analyzes the reasoning behind behavior issues, the effects of punitive actions and demonstrates restoratives practices as new solutions will be created to incorporate into in-person and digital educational curriculum for students in Ypsilanti, Michigan. 


Artist/Ensemble Name: Jesus CIMI Alvarado 

Project Discipline: Visual Arts 

Project Title: Appropriated Boundaries 

Place: El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juarez, MX 

Project Description: Appropriated Boundaries is a community-informed mural project which will be digitally augmented between El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juarez, MX. Viewers and passerby will encounter informational data, sound bites and video addressing the failure of the immigration system and the perpetuation of social injustice along the border. With the aid of augmented technology, the mural will allow any viewer to see patterns of migration, the entrapment of systems that are deeply rooted in the political systems reigning over the Americas, the plight of asylum seekers and the voices of U.S.-exiled community members in Juarez. In partnership with community members and immigration advocate organizations, the mural invokes the ability for border communities to see inside themselves to create change. 


Artist/Ensemble Name: Michelle Angela Ortiz 

Project Discipline: Visual Arts 

Project Title: Our Market 

Place: Philadelphia, PA 

Project Description: Our Market is a community-centered, multi-layered, multi-year, public art project that focuses on supporting the vendors, business owners, and neighbors that work and reside in the 9th Street Market. The Market is one of the nation’s oldest and largest working outdoor markets located in South Philadelphia. In its initial phase, artist Michelle Angela Ortiz will organize a group of community collaborators representing the makeup of the Market, her home for over 40 years. Community stories will be drawn and digitized on a trans-generational timeline that maps communities’ layered histories. These stories will build the foundation of the creative community strategies set to tackle the issues of gentrification, racism, displacement, and erasure present in the Market. 


Artist/Ensemble Name: Milteri Tucker Concepción | Bombazo Dance Co, Inc. 

Project Discipline: Dance 

Project Title: The Bombazo Education Program 

Place: Bronx, NY 

Project Description: The Bombazo Education Program utilizes a curriculum of Afro Diasporic dance and drum to impact the lives of youth in the South Bronx, giving them tools to think radically about culture, justice, and identity. Bombazo’s staff and teaching artists are people of color, and this program will continue to increase Black and Brown leadership and creatives within the world of performing arts. Ballet to the beat of the drum requires radical imagination and offers young people in the South Bronx an opportunity to understand themselves and disrupt mentalities forged through systems of racism and class that often show up in the South Bronx through violence or divisions that separate us as people.  


Artist/Ensemble Name: Sanchez/Muñoz y DouglaPrieta Trabaja 

Project Discipline: Interdisciplinary 

Project Title: Nourishing Fronterizx Bodies as Resistance 

Place: Douglas, AZ and Sonora, MX 

Project Description: Nourishing Fronterizx Bodies as Resistance centers on a continuing a five-year collaboration between lead artists Jenea Sanchez and Gabriela Muñoz, and a colectiva of twelve women in Agua Prieta, Sonora, MX: DouglaPrieta Trabaja. The work addresses food security, self-representation and self-determination in part by visibilizing the histories of labor exploitation and colonization targeting Indigenous and Brown bodies. Through collaboration with Rosalinda Sagaste Chavez, Triny Anguamea Brasil, Berta Alicia Alvarado and Matilde Sagaste, DouglaPrieta Trabaja leaders, we will create self-sustainable food supplies to address the food insecurity in their community. The work will center DouglaPrieta Trabaja’s permaculture knowledge and practice, promoting food security and region-appropriate food production systems. The project will elevate the horizontal leadership model these women have successfully employed to sustain their colectiva and shift food production to an individual familial scale,lessening our dependence upon a system of food production that dysfunctions upon the oppression of seasonal and migrant laborers.


Artist/Ensemble Name: Paul S. Flores 

Project Discipline: Presenting & Multidisciplinary Works 

Project Title: We Are Essential/Somos Esenciales: Day Laborers and The Latinx Pandemic 

Place: San Francisco, CA (Mission District) 

Project Description: We Are Essential/Somos Esenciales is a community-led art and research project that explores the impact of COVID-19 on Latinx day laborer and domestic worker health outcomes in San Francisco’s Mission District. The project will feature a multimedia performance and video installation to address health disparities and high COVID infection rates in the Latinx day laborers and domestic worker community. Theater maker Paul S. Flores will collaborate with Dolores Street Community Services and Accion Latina, Latinx day laborers, domestic workers, artists and families to lead story circles and collect firsthand testimonies from Latinx community members who have recovered from COVID. These testimonies will detail how community members
contracted COVID, treatment by health officials, their experience of relocation, hotel isolation, hospitals, recovery and how their life has changed since. Systems leaders including the director of the Department of Health and the Mayor’s Office will be invited to a post-show conversation with project participants to discuss new health policy recommendations based on the project. 


Artist/Ensemble Name: Yosimar Reyes 

Project Discipline: Literature 

Project Title: WRITING HOME 

Place: Los Angeles, CA | Virtual National Experience 

Project Description: Seeking to shift the public, citizen imagination around undocumented individuals, Writing Home is a 5-month writing fellowship that will explore various elements of writing from the undocumented experience and uplift the voices of undocumented writers across the United States despite systems of citizenship entangled with race and class. By creating narratives that are led by and for undocumented people, artist Yosimar Reyes will collaborate with 15 undocumented artists and immigrant advocacy organizations to design and create a first-person collective voice that takes stock of the way in which undocumented individuals laugh, dance, create and live in joy. 


Artist/Ensemble Name: 4 Ollin (Karla Aguilar)

Project Discipline: Presenting & Multidisciplinary Works 

Project Title: Ollin Movement Assembly: An Ofrenda for Unity 

Place: San Antonio, TX 

Project Description: Ollin Movement Assembly: An Ofrenda for Unity seeks to engineer a model for community dialogue for high school youth of color and their families in San Antonio. The project weaves together Indigenous and West African cultural artforms and philosophy with popular education practices to create community solutions rooted from our natural relationships and inherent resiliency. In a city with systemic over-policing in schools which disproportionately impact youth of color, this project reimagines how social relationships happen in San Antonio’s high schools by inviting in examples of culturally empowering restorative justice practices to contrast the current school-to-prison pipeline.