The Latino Art & Cultural Center of Oxnard
By Armando Vazquez, M.Ed.
The dream of a Latino Arts and Cultural Center in California began for me in 1973, when a groups of us Chicano college students at California State University Northridge, founded El Jardin de Flor y Canto, an arts and cultural center in the barrio of Pacoima. So began the long, frustrating and often lonely journey to create a Latino arts and cultural institution for the community, directed by the community.
Some 25 years later in 1998, Dr. Debbie DeVries and I founded the Café on A/Acuna Art Gallery and Cultural Center in the heart of Oxnard. After two decades of showcasing some of the greatest artistic and cultural talent of the region, the nation and of Latino America; with heavy hearts, but with a keen and assured awareness of eminent resurrection, we closed our door at the 438 South A St. location on Wednesday, January 25, 2017.
As fate (faith) would have it the City of Oxnard has now come to our assistance and is working with us to find and provide city owned space for us to continue our work in educational, arts/culture. Social justice, and civic service work with the establishment of the Latino Art & Cultural Center of Oxnard.
On Tuesday, January 31st, the Oxnard City Council held a special meeting to prioritize the Capital Improvement Projects for Downtown, leveraging among other things the $6.2 million dollars that the city won in a recent lawsuit, Art in Public Places funding, currently about $300,000., Measure O funds that number in the millions on a yearly basis, Oxnard Downtown Improvement District funds of approximately $500,000.00 a year, CDBG federal funds that earmark “quality of life and safety issues”, OPAC funds, Department of Recreation and Public Housing and other line items funds that could be used to bring much needed economic resurgence, prosperity and vitality that Oxnard desperately needs and wants to be created and sustained in the downtown sector. This special city council meeting prioritized art and culture as one of the 16 leading economic, safety and civic drivers of the city and earmarked $200,000 dollars for arts and cultural projects in the downtown area.
The City of Oxnard has commissioned exhaustive work in the past researching the best practice formulas, concepts and ideas that have helped renovate downtown sectors throughout the nation that have come on to hard times and these respected national research projects always report out the same basic findings and requirements; expansion of arts and culturally congruent and sensitive incubator environments; which are appropriately funded, that will draw, invite, and encourage artists, students, families to become actively challenged by the magical, unique and transformative power of the arts.
The Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A proved without a shadow of doubt for two glorious decades that if you provide “the artists” park, the people will come. Oxnard has one of the greatest array of talented artists covering the entire spectrum of the artistic kaleidoscope to be found anywhere in the United States. All the City of Oxnard has to do is seize the opportunity and make the commitment to fully support our incredible talent of artistry that we have here in Oxnard!
Oxnard has world class writers, artists, musicians, performers; all we need is for the city council and the rest of the community to support an Arts Incubator District (to begin with the downtown area); this is already recognized by our community’s arts advocates, and many in city hall as a core asset worthy of consideration and financial support for our Downtown area.
Expansive arts and culturally congruent incubator environment zocalos and creative place giving artists, arts organizations, and community development practitioners the platform to deliberately integrate arts and culture into community social and economic revitalization work. It places arts at the table with community safety, land-use, transportation, economic development, housing, and green and sustainable infrastructure. Initial efforts of incubator environments zones in Oxnard must begin with cultural planning which will represent the collective vision of the community. In addition, staff has recommends setting aside funding for pilot arts engagement projects such as interactive programming, public art projects, and festivals and performances that activate public spaces.
We are highly encouraged by the recent work of high level city staff, under the direction of the City Manager and the City Council as we work together, community and local government, to help transform all of Oxnard into a more vibrant, exciting, creative, prosperous local economy that only arts and culturally congruent incubator environment zones can help create.
In recent days the city of Oxnard has greatly assisted the Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A in temporarily relocating our immensely innovative energetic and transformative Las Salseras healthy dance/movement programming to the PALS facilities. For this kind and heartfelt gesture we are deeply indebted and appreciative!
So the Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A and our partners move forward, led by the spirit of “unconditional love” as one sister put it at our periodic convivios held today at her house in La Colonia, where all of the 30 (plus) sister proclaim “Unidas baileramos juntas, y nos aydaremos y logaremos nuestros suenos juntas! (together we dance together and together we shall overcome and realize our dreams). We want to expand and solidify our relationship with the City of Oxnard to include the development of a world class and permanent Latino Arts and Cultural Center of Oxnard to become a reality in the near future.
You can support us with your, your heart, your voice, your petitions, your testimony, sus hechos brothers and sisters of Oxnard as we go through this glorious adventure of transition; and with your love, grace and guidance we will ascend united and land precisely in the right space and time that the spirit of love has assigned to us as we continue to serve the community of Oxnard.
Armando Vazquez, M.Ed. is Executive Director of Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A, Executive Director for The KEYS Leadership Academy and Chairman of the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health/coalition