The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Photo by Scott Ball.

The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center will not host this year’s Contemporary Art Month (CAM) Perennial exhibit due to its exclusion of Latina artists.

“While the GCAC recognizes the talents and merits of the artists in this year’s Perennial, we have determined that CAM is simply not a mission-fit at this juncture,” stated Guadalupe Executive Director Jerry Ruiz in a short, emailed announcement on Thursday afternoon. “The Guadalupe remains firmly committed to the values of inclusion and access to the arts. The lack of diversity in this year’s group of artists, specifically the lack of representation of Latina artists in this year’s edition of the perennial, has forced the organization to make this difficult decision after much deliberation and dialogue with CAM’s leaders.”

The announcement came as a surprise to CAM organizers, according to CAM board member Orlando Graves Bolaños.

The CAM Perennial, which was scheduled for March 11, is one of the key annual CAM events in which a curator from another city is invited to come to San Antonio and select local artists for the show. This year’s curator is Laurie Britton-Newell, a lecturer for the Department Art & Art History at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo.

Britton-Newell decided to do an all-female exhibit and during the curatorial process, no Latina artists were selected. This is the first time Latinos have been left out of the show, but it was not at all deliberate, Bolaños said.

“We always bring in an outside curator and give them free rein,” he said, noting that any artist is welcome to go onto the CAM website and apply to be included in the CAM Perennial; through an inclusive, organic process.

This year’s selected artists are Jennifer Ling Datchuk, Marlys Dietrick, Emily Fleisher, Jasyme Graybill, Jessica Halonen and Leigh Anne Lester.

The Guadalupe’s mission statement reads: “The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center cultivates, promotes and preserves traditional and contemporary Chicano, Latino and Native American arts and culture through multidisciplinary programming.”

Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Executive Director Jerry Ruiz. Photo by Page Graham.
Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Executive Director Jerry Ruiz. Photo by Page Graham.

Inclusivity is part of the Westside cultural art center’s mission and contract with the City of San Antonio, Ruiz said.

“If we’re going to be giving away our space for free, we need Latino artists included,” he said, adding that the decision should not have come as a surprise to CAM organizers. “It’s something we’ve been talking about for the last couple of weeks. They can find another space. It’s that simple.”

The CAM board is now considering alternative venues for the Perennial.

“If there was an ultimatum, we were willing to make a change,” Bolaños said.

The CAM board and Guadalupe representatives were discussing ways to include Latina artists. One suggestion offered by the Guadalupe, Bolaños said, was to have the curator select a Latina artist to the show.

“No self-respecting artist would want to be selected in that way,” Bolaños said.

Another suggestion was to have two simultaneous shows, creating additional work for organizers and likely a logistical nightmare.

None of the proposed solutions were ideal, Ruiz said.

“There’s still a necessity to counteract (racist) attitudes that are deeply ingrained,” he added. “I’m constantly pigeonholed as an artist. People do not treat artists of color in the same way.”

In 2015, Latino artists such as Raul Gonzalez, Jimmy James Canales and Kristin Gamez were included in the show and if memory serves, almost all CAM events have featured Latino artists. About 63% of San Antonio’s population identifies as Latino or Hispanic.

Participants view a work by Jimmy James Canales at CAM Perennial 2015. Photo by Page Graham.
Participants view a work by Jimmy James Canales at CAM Perennial 2015. Photo by Page Graham.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with comments from an interview with Ruiz, who was not available for an interview before the original article was published.

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*Top image: The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.  Photo by Scott Ball.  

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Page Graham

Page Graham has been a resident of San Antonio – on and off – for over 30 years now. He has moved into the corporate world, making a living developing training materials and Powerpoint presentations...