Urban 15 performers dance among the attendees at the grand opening of Centro Cultural Aztlan at their location in the Deco Building 10 years ago. Saturday marks the 10-year anniversary. Photo courtesy of Deborah Keller-Rihn.

Centro Cultural Aztlan, a center for Latino and Chicano arts and culture, will celebrate its 10th year in the Deco Building at 1800 Fredericksburg Rd., Ste. 103, on Saturday, June 25 from 3-10 p.m.

The free event, called El Gran Dia de los Artistas, will include music, poetry, theatre, dance, pottery, and crafts for people of all ages. It also will feature live performances by local Latino bands, painting opportunities with local artists, a demo from the San Antonio Potter’s Guild, a poet’s corner, a clown, craft table, face painting, and more than 30 artists and artisans showcasing original work.

“We are celebrating and showcasing most of the artists that were with us in 2006 and a bunch of the new ones,” said Malena Gonzalez-Cid, executive director of Centro Cultural Aztlan. “We’re showcasing an explosion of all the creativity around us.”

The center organizes annual events to showcase Latino, Chicano, and indigenous cultures throughout the year, such as February’s Segundo de Febrero Exhibit that commemorates the signing of the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty, which ended the Mexican-American War and established the Southwest region of the United States. 

Most of the programming takes place in the organization’s 2,500 sq. ft. state-of-the-art gallery, Galería Expresion.

Every May, Centro gets local kids involved with their Annual Superhero Exhibit, which invites kids from Kindergarten to 12th grade to create a piece of art based on their favorite superhero.

In November, Centro celebrates the annual Día de los Muertos tradition with a group exhibition titled Altares y Ofrendas and hosts an annual holiday market, ZONARTE, that features unique handmade goods such as prints, textiles, paintings, sculptures, furniture, and jewelry for sale. In addition, every Dec. 12, Centro opens up a Celebracion a La Virgen de Guadalupe exhibit to explore the secular icon and her cultural significance.

Centro Cultural Aztlan has been in the Deco Building since 2006. Photo courtesy of Centro Cultural Aztlan.
Centro Cultural Aztlan has been in the Deco Building since 2006. Photo courtesy of Centro Cultural Aztlan.

With just three part-time and two full-time employees, Centro hopes to boost local artists’ exposure – both students and up-and-coming professionals – by providing materials and a space to showcase their work, whether it be in a gallery or at a special event.

“We act as stewards,” Gonzalez-Cid said. “We maintain and sustain what is rich in (San Antonio’s) traditions and values. We bring a better understanding of the population of our city — what keeps us unique (and) what keeps us original.”

Gonzalez-Cid takes pride in the legacy the organization has created in the past several decades, she said, as it has become an integral part of the growth of San Antonio’s heritage and culture.

“We have launched the careers of thousands of artists who have come through our gallery and then have gone on to bigger and better venues and have become known in the community and elsewhere,” she said.

Formerly an employee for the now-defunct Arts Council of San Antonio, Gonzalez-Cid said she was one of the first Latinas to work in arts administration in the city. At that point in time, the Department for Culture and Creative Development did not yet exist.

Gonzalez-Cid has been Centro Cultural Aztlan’s executive director for the past 29 years, ever since they operated out of an office in Las Palmas before moving to the more accessible and central location at the Deco Building.

“The work that we set out to do in our community is exactly what we wanted to do — use art and culture to bring a better understanding of who we are as Chicanos, who we are as indigenous people, as Latinos, as Mexican-American individuals, whatever word it is that the individual (uses to identify) their dual identity,” she said.

To learn more about Centro Cultural Aztlan, visit their website here.

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Top image: Urban 15 performers dance among the attendees at the grand opening of Centro Cultural Aztlan at their location in the Deco Building 10 years ago. Saturday marks their 10-year anniversary at the Deco Building.  Photo courtesy of Deborah Keller-Rihn. 

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Katie Walsh

Katie Walsh studies journalism and English at the University of Texas at Austin and will graduate in May 2017.