LOS ANGELES — Angelenos now have a one-stop website consolidating exhibitions and events for Latinx art and culture. It’s a brilliant and sensible idea for a city where roughly half of the population is Latinx.
The website, LatinxArtsAlliance.org, is one of the first initiatives created by the newly formed Latinx Arts Alliance (known as LAA), which is comprised of five notable art spaces in the greater Los Angeles area: the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in Downtown, Self Help Graphics & Art in Boyle Heights, the Vincent Price Art Museum in Monterey Park, and the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) in Venice Beach.
The idea for the group germinated in the aftermath of Pacific Standard Time (PST): LA/LA, the 2017 initiative by the Getty that worked with around 70 cultural institutions in Southern California to display Latin American and Latinx art. All of the founding members of LAA participated in the event, hosting influential, even historic shows, including the first comprehensive retrospective of photographer Laura Aguilar at the Vincent Price Art Museum. “That inspired us to continue our collaboration and expand it to advancing, serving, and supporting Latinx art, artists, and culture in greater Los Angeles,” John Echeveste, CEO of LA Plaza, told Hyperallergic.
Los Angeles had never seen so much Latin American and Latinx art on display at its major museums as it did during PST:LA/LA, and it felt like an auspicious start. The trickier part was holding these institutions accountable after PST was over, to hope that they’d continue exhibiting Latin American and Latinx artists and hire more Latinx curators. Ultimately, it is still the galleries and community-based spaces that have continued to do the legwork.
“While our art is culturally and artistically significant, it is often excluded from major exhibitions, leaving it up to Latinx-serving institutions, like the members of the Alliance, to elevate our art forms and artists,” said Betty Avila, the executive director of Self Help Graphics, over email.
On Thursday, September 10, LAA held a virtual launch and shared some of their priorities. One of the most urgent is addressing the overall lack of financial support for Latinx spaces. Members repeatedly drew attention to a troubling statistic: less than 1.3% of philanthropic dollars go toward Latinx organizations in California, where 39% of the population is Latinx. Lourdes Ramos, the president and CEO of MOLAA, noted that a lot of donors, including Latinx ones, often prefer to donate to “established institutions” that are not necessarily Latinx.
Avila pointed out that this problem also extends to funding from foundations and public sources: “Traditional funding practices allocate grants based on budget size, not on impact or reach, which is part of the systemic practice of keeping small organizations small, and large institutions large.” At the launch, she added that, as a “collective voice,” LAA hopes to have “a bit more power” and create more funding opportunities. “It’s one thing if we’re knocking on that door alone, and it’s another if we’re knocking on that door together, as an alliance.”
Avila sees the Latinx Arts Alliance as having a “potential role as a convener, a facilitator of conversations.” For example, LAA has organized to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs September 15 through October 15. Events include a Lucha Libre Comics Roundtable hosted by MOLAA and a shoebox altar workshop run by Self Help Graphics & Art. For those craving in-person art, SPARC will also have a special outdoor installation of its “Patchwork Healing Blanket” — a giant blanket against gender violence, sewn by women all over the world — from Monday, September 21 to Sunday, September 27.
Members of the Latinx Arts Alliance have observed how their initiative comes at a timely moment, as institutions are forced to look at their race-related practices more critically. “This is the moment for the art world to assess their priorities and hold themselves accountable for disbanding inequalities,” Avila wrote over email. Or, as Ramos stated at the launch, “This is our moment. This is when we can make a difference.”