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If you ask me if I’m an artist, I’ll usually say no. My friends say this is due to imposter syndrome, but I’ve always thought of myself as a writer first. Even though I’m in school for visual arts and my work has been in galleries, I’ve always preferred working with artists to actually thinking of myself as one. Being in the background is more my speed. 

I grew up around art, in all its forms. My father is an actor and my mother worked as a visual manager for various retail companies, even freelancing at one point for local boutiques. From a young age, I learned that even if you don’t have a lot, anything can be beautiful if it’s presented properly. 

In my senior year of high school on a trip to Washington, D.C. with my class, we visited the National Endowment for the Arts. I thought it was amazing that there was a whole organization dedicated to helping fund and uplift artists. I felt like I found my calling, but I didn’t know how to get there. I never thought of working at arts foundations, galleries, or museums. The jobs almost seemed unattainable.

I went to Pratt Institute for creative writing but later dropped out. I had trouble picking a college major because I was interested in it all: writing, visual arts, architecture, photography, and design. I didn’t know there was something out there that could combine all those interests into one.

Through my various part-time jobs — including interning for an art director, writing for a magazine, being a visual manager in various retail stores, and working at a furniture store as an underpaid pseudo-interior designer — I kept picking up skills. None of these jobs ever felt like the all-encompassing dream job, but I met several amazing women along the way who offered me guidance and mentorship.

When I turned 21, my best friend Elena got me a job with her in the McNay Art Museum gift shop. I thought it would be a simple retail job, but it wasn’t. I was in a place where I could see and talk about art all day and meet all kinds of people who were passionate about it. I spent around four years there, working my way up to eventually running that gift shop.

It was during these four years that I grew closer to Sealia Montalvo, a friend who had interned and worked at the McNay with me. We originally met in high school through our ex-boyfriends, but started to bond more when we hung out around our mutual friends. Sealia was part of a DIY curatorial project that I assisted her with. After that project ended, we thought of how we could continue helping the art scene, but in a different way.

After having some bad experiences, we were tired of seeing primarily male-dominated spaces in the art world and noticed that our young, talented artist friends weren’t getting the recognition they deserved. We wanted whatever we did to be women-run and dedicated to highlighting contemporary art from underrepresented artists in our city. It took us a while to find the name, but in January of last year, Motherling was born.

Our first show featured 21 artists and 40 pieces and was well attended despite being sandwiched between a second COVID wave and a snowstorm. We popped up in galleries all over the city until April of this year, when we started renting a space at Mercury Project. Our favorite exhibition, and perhaps the most meaningful, is our current show L.A. to S.A., which we curated in collaboration with Jacqueline Valenzuela, an artist and curator from Los Angeles. The show brings together artists from our two respective cities and illustrates how even though Latinx identity can be so diverse, we all find similar homes within our culture. When I saw how the show came together, it even made me cry.

We really embody the meaning of DIY, doing everything, from installation to social media to art sales. We’ve worked with amazing artists, booked bands, thrown markets and even collaborated with other curators and gallerists. We even have an intern now (shout out to Katalina)!

Art pieces part of the Mothering collective hang on the walls of a collaborative studio space where artists, architects and musicians rent office spaces and tables to work.
Art pieces part of the Mothering collective hang on the walls of a collaborative studio space where artists, architects and musicians rent office spaces and tables to work. Credit: Kaylee Greenlee Beal for the San Antonio Report

But it’s never all that easy. Sealia and I have both worked and gone to school simultaneously while running Motherling. Without our passion and perseverance, none of it would be possible. Running an art gallery can be financially very hit or miss, and every sale we make goes directly back into the project. We are so grateful for all the support we’ve gotten and all the meaningful connections we’ve made in the city where we were both born and raised. I feel lucky to have been able to work on this project with Sealia, who is one of my most cherished friends, and who is moving at the beginning of next year.

While this will present some new challenges, all I hope the future for Motherling holds is a way for me to keep doing what I love and to keep making a positive impact on the arts community. No matter where I may move to, or how the gallery transforms, I will always strive to uplift the artists of San Antonio.