Gary Francisco Keller Ph.D.

Arte in the Arizona Aire

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’Tween the mountain chic of Santa Fe and the wannabe trendsetting of the City of Angels, where is there a critical mass of art galleries and a vibrant, creative community? In the Valley of the Sun, of course – Scottsdale and Phoenix! So it was destined and so it will be. What was less aparente was a new lugar más transparente. Advocates for Latin@ Arts and Culture (ALAC) has made that aire a reality. On December 4, 2009, its Galeria 147 debuted in an inviting spot in downtown Phoenix, and so our energetic Latin@ art community has an outpost in the Sun.

ALAC brings together young talent and veteranos who I have respected for years. These include the dynamic duo Carmen de Novais-Guerrero and Zarco Guerrero, whom I spotted as Don Diablo, and Stella Pope Duarte, who gave a poetry reading. Martin Moreno is from the good old days, decades ago in Michigan (Michoacán del Norte). Joe Ray’s artwork graces the front cover of The Cisco Kid: American Hero, Hispanic Roots published by the Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe. From Tucson, Cristina Cárdenas and Alfred Quiroz participate.

With Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and a panoply of luminaries at the ribbon cutting ceremony, it felt like a homecoming. Without space to acknowledge all the movers and shakers, I’m going to plow into serious nostalgia. Marco Albarrán worked for our Hispanic Research Center to help minorities, and he has developed into both a splendid artist (Marco, I love what you’ve done with the lotería mexicana!) and an effective organizer. He’s a major force in ALAC and also of the Calaca Cultural Center (check them out! Jim Covarrubias, first VP of ALAC, has major roles – both organizational and curatorial – and his painting and involvement in the opera Guadalupe are important milestones. ASU filmmaker and Professor Paul Espinosa works tirelessly and effectively as a board member.

Dignitaries gather at the grand opening of the ALAC cultural center.

Rubén Hernández is a great publicizer of cultural events in the Valley and second vice president. ErLinda Torres, a longtime collaborator on various initiatives, is the ALAC board president and effective spokesperson. ASU Professor Rául Yzaguirre, founder of the National Council of la Raza and our new Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, helped ALAC establish itself.

The Latin@ art show mounted at Galeria 147 for the grand opening was the most poignant I’ve ever attended in Arizona. I’m still wowed by it. ¡Vatos y cholas, se aventaron! There are so many wonders that I can’t mention everyone, but I did put my money where my eyes were, purchasing Quetzal Guerrero’s new CD and a lovely work by Genaro García, La virgen de latte, that I look at in my office every morning. I invite you to the ALAC website,, to check out the photos of the opening taken by our maestro fotógrafo, José L. Muñoz!

ALAC has serious objectives, including an effective Latin@ arts network and advocacy for resources and funding already well on their way. Two key goals to work on – and I’m sensing that together we are going to make them a reality – are: 1) to initiate a campaign and strategy to create the first Latino cultural center in Phoenix, and 2) to provide art resources to Arizona’s educational system. These goals are are achievable, so let’s all jalar juntitos to make them a realidad.

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