Commentary: Guadalupe’s ‘Win’ is a Defeat for San Antonio Art

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Contemporary Art Month draws a crowd at the Silkworm Gallery. Photo by Page Graham.

Contemporary Art Month draws a crowd at the Silkworm Gallery during CAM 2015. Photo by Page Graham.

Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Executive Director Jerry Ruiz sent out a press release last Thursday withdrawing as host for the 2016 Contemporary Art Month (CAM) Perennial exhibition, citing a lack of diversity that makes the event “not a mission-fit” for the Guadalupe, which is rooted in the Chicano and Latino art movements. None of the artists selected by Colorado-based artist and educator Laurie Britton-Newell are Latino.

The Guadalupe’s action has thrown the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

CAM is a grass-roots organization of volunteer artists and supporters who have a deep passion for and belief in art and in the ability of San Antonio artists to address and affect contemporary culture. Its mission is to “promote and raise the national profile of San Antonio contemporary art and artists.”

While its annual resources are limited, it is vital that CAM maximize the legitimacy its shows can have by considering, before all else, the merit and strength of the work.

Over the last five years the CAM Perennial exhibition, in its fifth year, and the CAM Exchange (CAMx), in its fourth, have incorporated professional outsiders. Bringing in professional outsiders has three results: 1) professionals are introduced to San Antonio’s contemporary art landscape, for many this marks the first visit to San Antonio; 2) San Antonio artists and their works are propelled out to other markets and opportunities that may not have otherwise considered San Antonio’s vibrant art culture; and 3) this outside perspective provides greater objectivity in the assessment of the local artistic landscape and, therefore, increased likelihood in merit-based selection because the outsiders are not influenced by local politics in the way institutional leaders who control access to local exhibition spaces are.

This year’s Perennial exhibition, which was scheduled for March 11, looked set to continue CAM’s critical success and strengthen its reputation, making it easier to secure the participation of coveted curators.

In lieu of the Perennial, CAM is arranging a panel discussion “to allow for a community conversation to take place around the issues of diversity and inclusion in contemporary art.” Details have yet to be announced.

Contemporary Art Month's opening party at Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum in 2014. Photo by Page Graham.

Contemporary Art Month’s opening party at Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum in 2014. Photo by Page Graham.

Ruiz and the Guadalupe should be congratulated for vocalizing underrepresentation and diversity, which are issues of national and cultural importance. Considering San Antonio’s demographics, the mission of the Guadalupe to remedy underrepresentation of Hispanic/Latino/Chicano artistic voices in the greater artistic world and raising broader audience awareness is of great import and deserves universal support.

However, it’s not hard to fulfill the Guadalupe’s mission of “cultivat(ing), promot(ing), and preserv(ing) traditional and contemporary Chicano, Latino, and Native American arts and culture through multidisciplinary programming” by exhibiting such voices at the Guadalupe.

What is difficult is promoting and exhibiting those very same voices in the institutions where they are not normally heard, in places where the mission isn’t so culturally specific to Hispanic, Latino, and Chicano culture and history, and which often forget or ignore that these voices are part of our collective history and culture, our past and present.

This is why the success of CAM is vital in opening our city and exposing our artists to the national scene. It is not clear if a San Antonio Perennial artist who gets accepted to shows outside of San Antonio has the Perennial to thank, but it certainly does not hurt the artist to be associated with respected curators who work professionally at a national or international level.

Kristin Gamez, a Latinx (she prefers to use the gender-neutral term for Latino) artist, participated in the 2015 CAM Perennial, which was curated by another white curator. She recently demonstrated support of the Guadalupe’s stance, but also admitted via social media “that (2015 CAM Perennial) was huge for me.”

CAM’s size and grass roots identity is a considerable factor for why the narrative, so far, is being controlled by Ruiz and the Guadalupe. Unlike the Guadalupe, CAM doesn’t have a press staff, nor does it provide salaries to its leadership or board members, or even have an office copy machine. The CAM board took a strategically limited – and not unreasonable – approach to responding to the serious insinuations made by the Guadalupe’s press release, which, by their carelessness, threaten the professional reputations of everyone associated with CAM.

Like Gamez’s acknowledgment might suggest, participation in a CAM event contributes to more opportunities for the artist’s voice, whether the artist uses that for self-promotion or to lift up and recommend other artists in the community.

The narrative Ruiz is crafting and the implication of professional impropriety against CAM’s invited curator may have intimidated the CAM board, the curator, or the selected artists to the extent that the entire Perennial is canceled – likely out of fear that this accusation would overshadow all other possible interpretations of the show. Perhaps, this means that the curator’s influence and ability to put the Hispanic/Latino artists she did meet and speak with into other shows, and recommend their friends and colleagues for other opportunities, may have evaporated from San Antonio’s grasp. Moreover, we can only guess as to the future impact; no doubt other curators may be nervous to engage with San Antonio for fear of having their professionalism questioned, for being human beings trying to do a deceptively difficult job.

Ironically, many of the artists who were selected, carrying the perception that they are guilty by association, teach and serve students from the same community the Guadalupe serves.

“… Somebody needs to stand up for Latino artists and artists of color, and if it’s not us (the Guadalupe), then who is going to do it?” Ruiz told the Express-News.

The Guadalupe theater and gallery function as spaces for Guadalupe programming and venues available for rent. In order for the center to justify the donation of its space, the event needs to be in line with its core mission.

Unfortunately, Ruiz in his obstinate execution of the Guadalupe’s mission, failed to see that it overlaps with CAM’s. While this one particular exhibition of six artists did not completely reflect the cultural makeup of San Antonio (what single exhibition can?), what it did do was put many artists, including a Latino one, in touch with the curator through studio visits, and the fostering of personal connections between the two parties. These connections can be just as important and productive as inclusion in the Perennial show.

Every year hundreds of San Antonio artists are exhibited under the umbrella event of CAM, which, as its name suggests, is a month-long celebration of contemporary art organized through an online calendar. As long as an exhibit pays its fee to help continue maintenance of the CAM calendar where their event is listed, no exhibit is denied their listing. This suggests a strong likelihood that in San Antonio, during Contemporary Art Month, exhibits featuring Latino/Hispanic/Chicano voices are, indeed, taking place.

Additionally, CAM hosts Open Studio Tours where any San Antonio artist desiring public engagement with their work, may list their studio location, free of charge. They are only required to be open and present during the time the tour is on going. So, again, Ruiz’s implication of exclusion by CAM is actually hollow.

The Guadalupe’s “victory” sadly calls into question the legitimacy of all previous Perennial exhibitions and participants, which have reflected a strong presence of Hispanic/Latino/Chicano artists, and seems to have created a schism for those artists who are Hispanic but also consider themselves contemporary artists, forcing them into the uncomfortable position of having to choose allegiance between these two organizations that are actually working towards the same goal.

This “victory” confirms a reality that we artists, who work at the professional level and who believe in the efficacy of art, struggle constantly to change: in the exhibition of art, it matters less that a work is good and more that it conforms to the political agenda of an institution.

Ruiz’s narrative positions localized political agendas over truly free expression. That position means art, or speech, cannot criticize the society in which it exists, and therefore cannot inspire change because, unless it speaks in the sanctioned manner, it will never be heard. The short-sighted action of Ruiz and the Guadalupe has undermined the whole idea of art and has compromised the ability of all artists in San Antonio to become promoted and exhibited based on the merit of their work, including all the Hispanic and Latino artists.

A vocal commentator of the situation put very eloquently that “when one stands on principle then they score big on integrity.”

From what I have seen, CAM stands on the principle of art, and Art, at its best, speaks to what is common in human experience, more than to what is particular.

Signed,

An artist who is Hispanic, but does not identify as Chicano

 

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*Top image:Contemporary Art Month draws a crowd  at the Silkworm Gallery during CAM 2015. Photo by Page Graham.

Related Stories:

Commentary: Why the Guadalupe Was Right to Say No

Guadalupe Backs Out of Art Month, Cites Lack of Latina Artists

Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center to Revitalize Progreso Building

Guadalupe at 35 Years: Jerry Ruiz Brings Fresh Perspective

Contemporary Art Month: 30 Years Later

52 thoughts on “Commentary: Guadalupe’s ‘Win’ is a Defeat for San Antonio Art

  1. Alcantar brings vison, philosophy, and wisdom to the issue. Thank you.

    I would add: The GCAC win was much like a child grabbing up the bat and ball all the youngsters had worked to pay for and running home with them and slamming the door while crying out nyah, nyah, nyah….

  2. I’m a big proponent of respecting communities and it seems like poor planning and/or communication by CAM led to a decision that didn’t fit The GCAC community guidelines. CAM and GCAC are no strangers to each other, this shouldn’t have happened.

    That being said, I personally believe it would be a very positive and powerful message for GCAC to accept the art curator’s decision on the basis of art and not deny for cultural reasons. If we truly want to build culutural relations we all have to be open to accepting and promoting other cultures.

  3. Completely canceling CAM was a mistake. They should have found an alternative space for it while at the same time encouraging Guadalupe to set up the best exhibit of Latina art in the city they could find. We could have all enjoyed two shows. We could have judged for ourselves whether any of the Latina artists were as good as the female artists chosen for CAM, etc.

    Instead, we are now faced with whether CAM should continue to try to have their opening show at the Guadalupe and what that means for the future of CAM and its legitimacy in terms of trying to showcase the BEST art coming out of San Antonio vs. the Guadlupe’s role of trying to showcase Latino art in San Antonio.

  4. If CAM doesn’t support Guadalupe’s mission, then they can use a different space for curation. It seems a failure of communication, and assumption, left them unprepared. There’s plenty of other locations in SA. Guadalupe does just fine on their own showcasing local artists and bringing in talent from around the world. The upcoming Cinefestival being an example of that.

  5. Perhaps David “I’m an artist who is Hispanic but does not identify as a Chicano” Alcantar should have also have identified himself as a CAM board member. That conscious omission on Alcantar’s part undermines his whole argument. And shame on the Rivard Report for publishing a so-called opinion piece without identifying the relevant association of the writer.

    • Actually, I am not. I used to be, so I definitely have a place in my heart for CAM, but as a Hispanic, I also recognize the importance of places like the Guadalupe. I actually have a place in my heart for the GCAC as well, because I have contributed some of my best works, often about the identity crisis I feel as a contemporary Latino, with the Guadalupe.

      • I do think it should have been disclosed that you were a board member and I’m guessing that your decision to leave the board was involved in this matter. So I think Ray does have a point.

        Doesn’t take anything away from your opinion and article, though. Thanks for sharing it.

          • David… haha Did your decision to leave the board have anything to do with the non-cooperation between CAM and CGAC? Or a better question, why did you leave the board?

            Not attacking you are trying to get you. If your frustration with this matter (the one you wrote the article about) led you to leave the board, I think it has a lot of relevance and the explanation can add more to your position/article. I also think it’s an issue of transparent and honest.

          • Paul,
            I had previously mentioned my intention to step down from the board of Contemporary Art Month because it was starting to take up too much of my time and I wanted to focus my energies on making and improving my artwork. The events of the past week, the fact that I was separated from CAM, and my passion for art as a tool, an idea, and as speech, allowed me talk about what I believe is a very important issue to art: institutional access. It just so happens, that because of my proximity to CAM, it allows me to speak about these specific events with an accuracy that no other individual outside of CAM can. To my knowledge, Contemporary Art Month is not in support of the commentary that I have made. From what I can tell, and am glad to see, CAM isn’t battling with the Guadalupe, because the two entities are not enemies. CAM is actually supportive of the Guadalupe’s mission and, as I say in my commentary, the two organizations are working towards the same goal of promoting Latino/Hispanic/Chicano voices. It just so happens that CAM’s mission also includes promoting every contemporary art voice in San Antonio that wants to be promoted. I, however, as an interested party to art, artistic institutions, and art curation, am happy to engage in a serious discussion about who gets to show what when, where, and why. This, I believe, is the discussion that the Guadalupe brought up, when rescinding their support of the CAM Perennial show, and one the public is clearly needing to talk about. This is actually an opportunity to strengthen the San Antonio art community through continuing dialogue, but the Guadalupe seems now not to want to talk about it. We can’t unite as a society, come to resolution about difficult topics, and make progress if you are unwilling to talk (or if your speech is unproductive).

    • Shame on you, Ray.

      David, in this article, has proven to be a terrific and thoughtful writer. CAM board member or not, he is speaking as a person who respects ALL artists. I can appreciate that.

    • Ray:

      We have added David’s former board member status to his bio for clarity. It was unknown to me until now. Regardless, this piece is clearly identified as a “commentary” – it is literally a “so-called” opinion piece.

      Managing Editor Iris Dimmick

    • Ray, let me announce myself first, Im Mary who resides in Nashville presently, raised San Antonio. You are correct, David “artist who is Hispanic but does not identify as a Chicano” should have lead with former CAM board member for this piece. I wonder if He identifies as artist or writer? Labels, Identity, as well as status seem very important in this comic-tary . I was saddened to read His opinion that “outside” curators impact the success of your local artists so much their chances/ opportunities have been “evaporated”. I am of the opinion that GCAC did not have to explain themselves at all; why should they? They do,after all, have a copy machine. David, curious, what part of Hispaniola are you from?
      -Mary

  6. Thank you, David, for writing this.

    Regardless of how you feel about GCAC’s mission, you have to agree that sending out a press release and not working with CAM to gently and respectfully break ties was solely a political and career move on Ruiz’s part.

    Here’s the soap box, stand on it and scream “exclusion” as loudly as you can, then be the hero since NO one in their right mind would try to speak reason in the face of racial accusation. That’s cheap. GCAC’s move was CHEAP.

    I wish CAM the best, as it has proven to be a jewel in this city for giving a larger reach to all artists, including Latinx.

  7. Here is the major issue with most nonprofits and other community organizations that minorities have an issue with in San Antonio. These organizations usually have a mostly white older board (Rivard you have this as well), they usually have “old money” tied to them and the curation of works is very insular. I want to make clear, it is not an intention on their part to do this, it is part of a SYSTEMATIC CULTURAL AND SOCIAL TENDENCY. Instead of seeking the unknown and misunderstood, most art, tech and news based initiatives here work with those around them.

    So how do we solve this? We have to seek beyond our own comfort zones. Have dialogs and engage with the marginalized to see what they are trying to communicate.

    We need more representation in the media of people of color and minorities in general being seen as part of the audience. Not just the aristocrats, whether white, asian, black or latino. In order to have things feel truly inclusionary, the young must be able to see themselves as part of the future and part of the present and past. Whether artists or patrons.

    Yes CAM has helped minorities, because it is exclusionary, much like TEDx San Antonio. But that doesn’t make it an even playing field, it creates “token” situations. Trust me I know, TEDx SA tried using me as their token last year and I didn’t have any of it.

    We have systematic issues with affluent white (and sometimes of color) structural socialite powers choosing who will be popular and curated amongst the media and art scene here in San Antonio.

    I think something that should be noted, is that the tough part is CAM really is trying to do a good thing, so are most other initiatives, but it is the all too familiar power structures and curation that leaves out latino, african american, asian american and other voices.

    And while I do like the Guadalupe cultural arts center and all that it does, like I just stated, this is more than just about latino representation (which in theory should be the majority, but isn’t), it is about San Antonio understanding that diversity and inclusion should be far reaching into all areas of San Antonio, whether affluent or on brink of existence.

    And with that I say thank you Guadalupe Cultural Arts for beginning a long overdue public conversation. And thank you to the Rivard Report for reporting on it, even if it wasn’t favorable in my opinion.

  8. It is also important to note that David Alcantar was one of only two Mexican Americans on the board of CAM and the only Mexican American artist on the board. Really? In 2016? in San Antonio, Texas? He very recently quit the board. The Rivard Report, disclosure?

    • Hi Ito, Actually, while I was a board member there was myself, two other hispanic board members, a person with a Hispanic last name that doesn’t look hispanic (not that it mattered to CAM, so who knows with that one ) and a Puerto Rican who doesn’t have a puerto rican “sounding” last name. CAM also had a board member who was married to Latino/a San Antonio artist, who also doesn’t have a Latino sounding last name. There was also a board member at one point who was Indian. So from my perspective, any suggestions of a lack of diversity or interests in promoting diverse voices in CAM are just uninformed assumptions. Just want to clarify. Thanks for moving the conversation forward.

  9. I’ve volutneered and participated in CAM events in the past and never once did I ever think it as a “cultural” experience … Haha … It was a lot of “affluent” art lovers drinking wine and beer and eating from overpriced food trucks. Hhaha … Sorry, not sorry … It was a great event but don’t paint it with the “cultural” brush just because it happens to take place in a “culture” driven city, such as San Antonio.

  10. Just for the record, CAM is a shoestring operation. It runs on a annual budget of $6000-8000. It does not receive any city funding because an decision was made by the board years ago not to take city money in order to avoid any undue influence or bureaucracy. The current CAM board is a culturally diverse group, and certainly not a bunch of “affluent white” people. They are taking on this task for the love of art, and to encourage the growth of arts in this city. CAM is all about art, nothing else.

  11. Well written. I remember a quote- “when will man be judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character?”MLK
    Who really loses here are the artists.
    Is it safe to assume Guadalupe was founded as a place where they could show Latino and Chicano art because these artists were having problems being shown in other places? That must be very difficult for the Latino artists. It must have been hurtful. The weird thing is that they turn around and extend that same hurt and exclusion to a minority women’s show- with a feminist activist woman in Leigh Anne Lester and a Chinese American in Jennifer Ling Datchuk. Did Guadalupe think for a moment and remember how much exclusion hurts? I would think that would be in the founders’ minds when they created this mission statement. Guadalupe may feel they won today and feel like they stood up for their beliefs, but really everyone lost. This creates more division and more exclusion. So, San Antonio loses today.
    I thought things like NDO protected minorities from being excluded. I believe Guadalupe receives city funds…

  12. I think the third point is where I have questions. Alcantar writes :
    3.) this outside perspective provides greater objectivity in the assessment of the local artistic landscape and, therefore, increased likelihood in merit-based selection because the outsiders are not influenced by local politics in the way institutional leaders who control access to local exhibition spaces are”
    The assumption is that outside curators are objective authorities and that is probably not always true. That assumed objectivity is a privilege that cultural institutions don’t get. Must be nice.

    • To be fair, I said it “provides GREATER objectivity”, not absolute objectivity. This greater objectivity increases, but does not guarantee, likelihood in merit-based selection. Absolute objectivity is impossible, considering that human beings make decisions based on experience, and experience biases how humans make decisions. This is why it is critical that when selecting art, and towards a goal of promoting “high quality” art, one suppresses as much bias as possible in order to be able to see what is actually being said/done through/by the work. This is why I describe curating as a deceptively difficult job, because setting aside biases, in any situation, is not easy. There is no assumption of objectivity, to truly understand what is being said in any artwork, one has to struggle to objectivity.

  13. Bitching and whining because a Westside cultural institution defended it’s mission statement is unseemly. “When you’re accustomed to privilege equality feels like oppression.” Forcing them to disregard their principles is not a great place to begin a “conversation about race”. Make sense?

    • I think the problem here is how they did it, not that they did it. They paid no respect to CAM, the curator, or the artists by slapping a press release down, knowing it would start a flurry of he-said, she-said over a topic that needs MUCH more attention than a press battle.

      Who in their right mind does that? Oh, an organization that needs a boost and isn’t afraid to bully a small, artist-run board.

    • It’s an assumption to think that I am accustomed to privilege. Since you are not familiar with my history, let me take a moment to enlighten anyone who thinks I speak from a position of privilege. I was born in Laredo, TX in 1978. The neighborhood I remember growing up in had, not streets, but a gravel paths that led to all the houses. The house my grandmother died in also had a gravel path. Her porch always had a collection of coffee cans from which grew her herbs and aloe plants. I always loved the way the air would smell when she would water her plants. But I was always disappointed when for Christmas she would give us oranges instead of toys. When my parents divorced and my mother moved us to San Antonio, she, of course, wanted to provide the best that she could to me and my brother. So that meant taking “shameful” walks everyday through the rich neighborhoods to a Catholic school that she probably was struggling to afford because, to my recollection, we didn’t even have a car. But with a persistence that I never realized, and didn’t give her credit for until I became an adult, she work her way and ours to the middle class. We were on the bottom rung of that middle class, but we did it. While all my high school friends were driving the cars their parents bought for them and going to parties to maintain or improve their social status, yours truly was stuck at home sitting in front of a drawing table working out how the human body moves through space. My education was not free, and not paid for by anyone (with the exception of scholarships), except myself. You better believe that I work to provide my children with opportunities and privileges that I didn’t have, but I also work to make sure that they do not forget or ignore the bloodline from whence they came. Thank you for letting me share this. I am going to give my mother a big hug when she comes to watch her grandchildren tonight, while I work towards their future.

    • Ana, actually no, it doesn’t make sense. And it is the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, not “a Westside cultural institution”. These are two separate phenomenon.

  14. As a curator, art historian, and founder and executive director of a community-based organization, I can’t for the life of me understand why the CAM Perennial curator did not take into consideration the mission of GCAC when she was developing the exhibition in the first place. A curator should not only be familiar with the space in which the exhibition will be installed–site limitations and specifics influence selection of individual works based on gallery size, floor space and other practical matters–, but also with the mission of the organization itself.

    • Without speaking for the curator, in my opinion, she did take into consideration the mission of the Guadalupe, to the extent that Contemporary Art Month could emphasize it. Again, if we are talking about selecting the best art works that exist in an environment, it is in the interest of that goal to remain neutral towards all of them. For CAM to emphasize the mission of the Guadalupe is to break that neutrality and influence the curator to bias towards Latino/Chicano/Hispanic artists, which runs counter to CAM’s mission to support and promote ALL San Antonio contemporary artist. That bias is the responsibility of the GCAC, and while the curator did a site visit at the Guadalupe for 45 minutes-1 hour and met with the visual arts director to see and ask about the space, to my knowledge, at no time relayed to the curator the importance of the mission of the Guadalupe. In my opinion, the curator, like CAM, assumed that the Guadalupe would understand that in the event a show was put together absent any Latino artists, and the APPEARANCE that their mission may not have been carried out based on the demographic make up of the final exhibition, it actually was being carried out on the back end, through the extensive list of artists that she was provided, which to my knowledge has plenty of Latino/Hispanic artists on it (though not every artist that exists in San Antonio), and through the studio visits with artists that she conducted.

    • Sounds like a job to GCAC, right? If it is their job to stand up and apply their mission, they should have spoken directly to the curator about such, NOT CAM whose mission is to further contemporary art in San Antonio.

  15. I remember taking Freshman English in college, and I’m pretty sure they taught the notion of research so this article leaves me with a deer in the headlights look. Director Ruiz is not being “obstinate” he has a fiduciary obligation to honor his grantors and his mission. It’s very simple. That means a legal obligation in case you missed that one in ethnics class in college. To suggest that they violate a major ethnic code or that they being “obstinate” not to do so is just ludicrous. Amateur hour is over…. That is all….please let’s just move on…

    • Oscar, thanks for the opportunity to clarify. Nothing in my statement suggests that the Guadalupe was being asked to abandon or ignore their mission. What I am suggesting, and believe, is that exercising the mission of CAM is also exercising the mission of the Guadalupe, thereby fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility. My position is that the Perennial exhibition, even though it didn’t feature any Latina artists, definitely promoted Chicano, Latino, Hispanic voices by putting at least one Latino/Hispanic contemporary artist in touch with a curator, who in this case, has connections and the potential to promote that artist in London, which for an artist, is a big deal. So, yes, I think “obstinate” is an accurate assessment when one is unwilling to at least consider a wider interpretation of how a mission can be carried out.

  16. The Smithsonian Institution almost entirely excludes and ignores the Latino population of the United States. This lack of inclusion is glaringly obvious in the lack of a single museum facility focusing on Latino or Latin American art, culture, or history…
    Because it’s all about the Art?
    A 2015 Mellon Foundation Study Reveals Non-Hispanic white staff represent 84 percent of “the job categories most closely associated with the intellectual and educational mission of museums, including those of curators, conservators, educators, and leadership.”

    Because it’s all about the Art?
    One of the 20th century’s most celebrated artists (Basquiat) is underrepresented in museum collections including MOMA. When asked why there was no Basquiat at MoMA Christophe van de Weghe matter-of-factly said, “They missed it.”
    Because it’s all about the Art?

    The Art World is not separate from the societal issues of race, including underrepresentation or outright exclusion of People of Color. This is true nationally and this is true in San Antonio. The complete lack of sensitivity of these issues by current and past CAM representatives is very telling, and speaks volumes to the fact that the Latino community should expect more of the same exclusion in the future, since no one at CAM seems to acknowledge that diversity is an important and ongoing issue. Its much easier for CAM reps (past and present) to just blame the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, then to take a hard look at their own curatorial practices or to affirm a commitment to working with organizations based on respect for their missions and the diverse communities they represent.

    • Hey Rey, your points are not completely factually correct, the Smithsonian does, indeed have the Smithsonian Latino Center, but your sentiments are. To clarify, I have not suggested that underrepresentation is a made up problem or is not important. My commentary says the opposite. And I absolutely agree that Latinos, Chicanos, Hispanic voices and experiences should be both preserved and promoted, but I want that to happen at more major institutions, all across the country and the globe. It seems to me that fostering cooperative relationships with the people in power positions at those institutions is a better way to do that than to demand that your rules are the only ones that people are allowed to play by. You are absolutely right that the Art world is not separate from society, which is why the outcome of this situation is so irksome to me, because now six artists who all were dealing with contemporary societal issues, similarly but individually, will not get to speak and educate viewers, westsiders and non-westsiders, alike, about these issues that they probably aren’t aware are present.

  17. Both organisations have released two official statements. Personally while I think we naturally all have opinions, I’m not as interested in the dialogue being continued via proxies online as much as I am in this promised conversation. I hope that the moderator is prepared to move us through current & past slights & exclusions to laying the groundwork for future best practices. Because we know that one community conversation isn’t going to provide a final answer.

  18. Bitching and whining because a Westside cultural institution defended it’s mission statement is unseemly. Expecting the Guadalupe to disregard their principles for “arts sake” and then offering to sit down and have a “conversation about race” in the same sentence is absurd. It’s not your space. The level of entitlement I’m seeing here is off the charts.

  19. If you do not see your submitted comment posted here there is a reason. We do not post comments that disparage individuals by name, resort to use of obscenities or insults (in either language), or otherwise take the conversation away from civil discourse and into the arena where people are taking aim at one another rather than communicating. –RR

  20. David,
    I remember now several of our conversations because of the clarity and integrity of the commentary you have posted here. Well written. Well intended.

    I especially appreciate your persistent references to the QUALITY of the work (regardless of the ethnicity or gender of the artists) as being the essential consideration when discussing these issues of a social, transient nature (that is, the ebbs and flows of societal issues) . I was beginning to wonder if the “new” art scene has all but lost an awareness of professional critique before all considerations of the market.

    As for the Guadalupe, I sense your commentary has a prophetic tone… It’s mission statement (at least at it outset) was to even-out the playing field for minorities and , if successful, put itself out of business (happily). Apparently, it has overshot its mark and is now “the man” who promotes, through bullying and intimidation, Hispanics/ Latinos/ Chicanos artists. Now, rather than preparing them by honing the quality of their work for a rich exchange of truly diverse ideas and experiences of artists with whom they share their world. In light of this, it may be time for the Guadalupe Cultural Center to retire its mission or simple cease as a viable community partner.

  21. its about the future…
    the nation is watching how the San Antonio arts community is dealing with this issue…it’s time to be family and solve some issues in a manner fit for San Antonio and the amazing meztizaje that makes us who we are…put some egos aside and be excellent to each other

  22. Look, we have got to talk about this in an adult civilized manner. We must take this opportunity to have a national conversation and show the world that we are professional enough to do it without being ugly. Our country is on a brink with divisive rhetoric. Let us show that the San Antonio arts community knows how to work out our differences without ugliness. Let the conversation happen and then let’s figure out how to make it work with sensitivity for all.

  23. “Prominent” curators are desperate to stay relevant, which in the art world, frequently means pandering to the status quo. Yes, it is much easier to play along and go with that flow, but the Guadalupe took a stand in a city that is predominantly Latino, and whose public platforms should reflect the diversity of the city. I also want to point out that we don’t know how ugly and obstinate situations are until we resist them; the Guadalupe is simply exposing issues of racism within the San Antonio art scene that have always existed.

    • Dear Sarah,

      Thank you for your unique opinion on how curators work and operate. I think it’s unfortunate that the curatorial field has left you with the impression that we are simply “pandering to the status quo” in order to stay relevant.

      I can’t speak for all of us, since curators also operate within their own methods and concerns. However, I will use myself as an example here to highlight that just two years ago, when I was selected to curate the CAM Perennial at the Guadalupe, I attempted to address two major concerns: 1. to curate a show relevant to both CAM and GCAC audiences, and 2. to reach out to artists in San Antonio who had been under represented in the visual arts community.

      As I moved forward, I wrote weekly articles documenting the entire process, all the studio visits I conducted (27 in the month of January 2014), and the history that I uncovered about the GCAC itself. These can all be found online in the San Antonio Current online archives (the series itself is called the curator diaries, if you’re so inlined).

      As an international curator, my experience with CAM, and the City of San Antonio itself was such a wonderful, positive one, that I have continually advocated for the arts in San Antonio even after curating the exhibition. I have maintained friends and colleagues with the people I met along the way, and outside of San Antonio I have advocated for the city as a leader in the visual arts.

      CAM laid the foundation for a healthy collaboration to happen between myself as an itinerant arts professional, and all the artists whose studios I was invited into. Since that time I have shared my notes with galleries, institutions, and other arts professionals all over the country and abroad (I live in Mexico City).

      While the exhibition happened over the course of just a few months nearly two years ago, it’s a project that has stayed fruitful for all the parties involved, which is exactly the best kind of exhibition. It’s not always just about the show, or the work on the walls, because oftentimes so much more is happening behind the scenes. It’s about the bigger conversation that is ignited between multiple voices across multiple locations.

      This is what CAM has been doing successfully with the CAM Perennial, and as a curator I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work in such a fruitful environment.

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