Local arts center promotes and cultivates Latino artists

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The Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center, located in downtown Phoenix, celebrates and promotes the Latino presence in Arizona though the arts, education and advocacy. ALAC was founded in 2009, and has since grown into something really special for showcasing the arts and artists in Arizona, with a gallery and a store that people from all over the world have been able to experience. Here to discuss is Elizabeth Toledo, executive director at ALAC.

What makes ALAC such a special place?

“It really brings the community together. As a community, we’re artists. Everybody sings, everybody paints, everybody is doing something that has to do with art, and when you do something that people can relate to, that’s what’s so special, and we enjoy it, and we love it,” Toledo said.

Supporting artists and education is so critical to your initiative. What kind of artists would you say collaborates with you most?

The center focuses on visual artists, mainly painters, Toledo said. ALAC has a few “artists in residence” who help growing artists discover their distinct style.

“Our goal is to promote local artisans. And we help people learn their own style and to find their own style…and then how to develop that and make it your own.”

Toledo said that in addition to the galleries themselves, ALAC’s artists are usually in the center’s gift shop, where “everything is made by local artisans.”

Other than paintings, what is there at the shop?

“We teach artists to market their work. It’s not easy to buy an original piece. That could be $15,000. But that artist could make T-shirts, prints, we have paper prints, they make t-shirts, purses, aprons, hats, there’s all kinds of stuff that the artists make,” Toledo said.

You have an exhibit coming up featuring female artists. Can you tell me about that?

“We send out a call to artists, we get so many artists wanting to participate. I have people from Japan that want to participate, of course, people from Mexico. People from South America, people from France, and they want to participate. And it’s really exciting. These are women who, some are new, some are upcoming, and some have been exhibiting before, but they don’t get a big opportunity,” Toledo said.

“Usually, it’s the male artists that get the ‘come on in,’ and for us it takes a bit longer to really be known. It’s like authors. It’s the same thing. Remember in the 1800s, female authors had to use other names, male names in order to get published. And so artists, ourselves, it takes a little longer, it’s a little bit more challenging. But when we have a show like this, I want it to be for women.”

Elizabeth Toledo- executive director at the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center

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