Local artist Marisela Barrera was one of five local Latinx artists who were awarded a NALAC grant for their work.
Local artist Marisela Barrera plans to use her $5,400 NALAC grant to add 10 voices to her Tejana Rasquacha project and to engage a musician for original music to back their narrations. Credit: Courtesy / Marisela Barrera

Five San Antonio artists and one local nonprofit are among the 43 awardees of National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) Fund for the Arts grants in its 13th annual granting cycle.

Anna De Luna won in the theater category, Michael Menchaca won in visual arts, Xelena Gonzalez for literature, and Amalia Leticia Ortiz and Marisela Barrera won in the interdisciplinary category.

Recipients receive grants of $5,400 each for their specified projects: DeLuna for My Arab Fall, an original multimedia performance; Menchaca for a continuation of his digital codex project, tracking changes in Latinx lives from social media technology; Gonzalez for a “family-friendly” book based on lotería games; Ortiz for a series of music videos based on poems, collectively titled The Canción Cannibal Cabaret; and Barrera for two one-hour radio productions of her ongoing project Tejana Rasquacha, featuring local working-class women talking about their lives.

“Think This American Life, but This Tejana Life,” Barrera said of her project, comparing it to the popular narrative format show on National Public Radio. The Tejana Rasquacha version for radio is a further evolution of Barrera’s one-woman show that she’s performed several times in recent years in San Antonio.

The grant will allow her to expand the project to include the voices of other Tejanas, 10 over the two shows, and to engage a musician for original music to back the narrations. Her show will also have a potential place on the air, due to her work with Radio Esperanza, the low-power radio station housed at the Esperanza Center for Peace and Justice.

“I believe we all have a story to share that will connect us,” Barrera said, in these divisive times.

According to the NALAC news release announcing the grants, many of the projects receiving grants explore themes of social justice, including migration, gender, and cultural equity.

The San Antonio nonprofit organization Fuerza Unida Inc. receives its first NALAC grant, $5,000 for an exchange of traditional crafts and medicine between textile artists in San Antonio and Chiapas, Mexico.

The San Antonio grantees join 37 other artists and organizations from around the United States and Puerto Rico, with diverse projects such as a Latino chamber music festival in Seattle, a Bronx dance company, and a Detroit art magazine featuring onetime Artpace artist-in-residence Arturo Herrera.

Other Texas grantees are Carolina Storyteller from Killeen, for 24 episodes of a literacy podcast called 3Cuentos that focuses on Latin American folktales, and Houston artist Virginia Diaz with The Roots of Texas Mexican Food. Cara Mía Theatre Co. in Dallas received $10,000 for a full-time educational program manager, and Centro del Obrero Fronterizo in El Paso won $10,000 for a project focused on ancestral arts of the impoverished Chamizal neighborhood.

The San Antonio-specific category for individual artist grants is funded by the City’s Department of Arts and Culture, which in 2018 awarded NALAC $40,000 per year in its current three-year funding cycle. Further information on the City funding is available here.

NALAC offers a free glimpse into each of the 2019 grantees through a downloadable PDF on its website, available here.

Taken together, the 43 projects receiving a combined $267,000 in grants “push the envelope of Latinx cultural production,” according to Adriana Rios, NALAC grant program manager. In the news release, Rios is quoted as saying, “The NALAC Fund for the Arts is a glimpse into the incredible innovation, reimagination and creative engagement taking place across Latinx communities.”

And in an email to the Rivard Report, Rios emphasized the themes of justice and social engagement present in much of the work. “The Latinx artistic voice is too often overlooked when it comes to solving the problems we face, yet it is a powerful antidote to much of the discourse of our time and must be amplified to overcome our challenges and move into the future,” Rios wrote.

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...