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

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The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Photo by Scott Ball.

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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20 thoughts on “Guadalupe Backs Out of Art Month, Cites Lack of Latina Artists

  1. Sort of left out the part when CAM issued a press release without consulting or having a contract with GCAC. Also the little detail of CAM knowing and ignoring GCAC’s stated mission. Also the tiny detail of CAM trying to force GCAC to do what they wanted… Hmmm

    • Oscar, the only press release regarding CAM Perennial that anyone had received as of press time was the official release from Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. That release first hit inboxes just before noon today announcing the cancellation of the event. As stated in the article, CAM was in discussions with GCAC and were as surprised by the announcement as the rest of us. As of this hour, CAM has not yet issued a press release, but various CAM board members have made statements for the media in various outlets.

  2. “…due to a perceived exclusion of Latina artists.”
    That’s a funny coded sentence.
    Shouldn’t it be either:
    “due to an exclusion of Latina artists” or
    “due to a perceived deliberate exclusion of Latina artists.”
    Sorry for playing hypersensitive editor but in these types of discussions, words and sentence structure carry a lot of weight.
    Just my dos centavos, carry on.
    – Robert Livar

      • A nom de plume is perfectly acceptable, especially when one raises an issue that is a “dead on” critique that would engender discriminatory behavior. Once you yourself takes a risk in that direction you will know what I am talking about.

        Magpie (yes, Magpie)

        • I respectfully disagree. I stick my neck on the chopping block every time I write an article like this that is based on a controversial situation. Quite frankly, it adds credibility to your voice if you’re not afraid to say who you are. James Davis and Mary Nethery come to mind. They are not afraid to speak their minds sans nom de plume!

  3. I agree with him. San Antonio belongs to the people. Too many Latinos artists are so good it makes me feel overwhelmed, and the community is so tight. The Guadalupe is doing the best thing for CAM. Outsiders need to understand and see and respect our Latino artists, not ignore the entire scene.

  4. The inclusion of “Latina artists” in an all-women show? Sigh. This should be about making good art, not a sexist, racist (seriously) agenda. It may very well be that because of hyper-inclusion in art scene in SA (for ethnic political reasons) over the years, Latina artists have not been exposed to the critical analysis that hones good art. Race and gender become a shield of protection from critique.

    When you get into art exhibits based on being a “Latina artist”…… it is time to put up your brushes. By making this decision, the Guadalupe, not surprisingly, has not lived up to the integrity of the people in the community it purports to represent. This is not a social justice statement. It is tantrum.

    • Agreed with this wholeheartedly. GCAC claims to promote “inclusiveness”, but only if you include the types of people they want you to include. That’s a pretty big contradiction to me. The behavior by GCAC seems juvenile and unprofessional. They should be ashamed

    • Im not suggesting it was intentional but do you think it’s just a coincidence that no Latina was selected at an art event in one of the biggest brown towns in the country in the brownest part of Texas.

  5. “Equity matters most of all.” Really?! Of course there’s talent all over the place, but it does not follow that everyone gets a “participation ribbon.”

  6. Rather than huff and puff because they don’t like the selections, It would be nice for the Guadalupe to counter-program an exhibit by Latina contemporary artist at the same time. Then we could go to both exhibits and decide for ourselves if any of the Latinas are good enough that they should have been selected among the best contemporary female artists in the city. Come on, Guadalupe, get to work and compete rather than just fuss!

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