Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mexican Heritage Center Rides Again!

Been busy helping to put together a Mexican Heritage Center in Stockton. The group was founded about a dozen years ago and roughly consists of 25+ Mexican slash Mexican-American slash Chicano slash Latino slash Hispanic artists (we call ourselves Artistas Del Valle) and various other supporters. Most of us have been exhibiting together throughout the San Joaquin Valley for over 25 years.
For about six years we had a space in a dilapidated downtown Stockton building, with no heating or air (we shivered in winter and sweated in summer), donated by a philanthropic businessman, whose front entrance was often frequented by druggies, and homeless who urinated and sometimes defecated on our front door. Paraphernalia was often swept away. But it was free as long as we paid the utilities! All of us are volunteers.
But our love for art and culture drove us to put together a vibrant center which displayed some of the best art and artists from the Central Valley. Our exhibits compared with any from Sacramento or the Bay Area (San Francisco). In this period we also hosted many cultural events, speakers, symposiums, live music, Mexican folklore dance groups and poetry readings to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Mexican Indpendence Day, Day of The Dead etc. and our events were well attended by the community, even the few non-Hispanics who braved stepping outside of their safe environs to broaden their view of the world.
Well, we lost our home when the owner decided to remodel the space and rent it for some real money and being poor starving artists we were on the street again.
Despite this, we were determined to keep our name in the public, continuing to exhibit at various venues like local Community Colleges, other galleries, the libraries and our local Haggin Museum.
In these tough economic times, we are again venturing forth to open a new center. Our first exhibit opens on May 1 and we are hoping it will mark a new beginning for us. The space is clean, recently painted, with nice, clean carpets, plenty of wall space, a room for an office, and another for educational events, and workshops. Best of all, the bathrooms are spotless and the Men's Room has a real urinal! All we need is the money to keep it open. Not much, huh?
Though the core of this group consists mostly of Senior Citizens, we are excited as kids with the possibilities of our new location. We can only hope that the handful young supporters will be inspired to carry on the banner after we are gone. What unites us is the belief that culture is a gift which needs to be nourished and preserved. Like a plant that needs sunshine and water.
Wish us well, but send us your money.

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