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Advocates for Latin@ Arts & Culture Consortium,Inc.,5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28 th, El Portal Restaurant , Phoenix

The seeds of a Latino Cultural Center through ALAC: Advocates for Latin@ Arts & Culture Consortium, Inc. were planted at a public reception held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28th, at El Portal Restaurant, 117 Grant St. in Phoenix.

Activity began at the front door of El Portal Restaurant, a wonderful metaphor of searching and passing through to another place.

Jim Covarrubias not only welcomes, but demands one to enter with ALAC’s collaborative vision and commitment to promote Latina(o) arts and culture in a public meeting space.

Together with ErLinda Tórres, ALAC Board Chairwoman, this dedicated and passionate group of persons is committed to this community dream.

El Portal Restaurant is 56 years old and holds a SENSE of PLACE in this Latina(o) community that has been resurrected by the leadership of persons like Earl and Mary Rose Wilcox who have invested physically, emotionally and financially bringing pride and safety to the neighborhoods where they grew up.

Murals with images (symbols) of significance cover walls in the area.

As well as facilities created to give respect and honor to those persons who have given so much to this community and nation.

Earl and Mary Rose Wilcox bought the old El Portal in 1999 and renovated the interior with the help of Mexican craftsmen. The 56-year-old restaurant has historical significance, most notably as a gathering place for prominent Hispanic leaders to discuss issues important to the Grant Park Barrio during the restaurant's early days.

A younger generation of artists also passed through the front door at this event.

Francisco Garcia, visual artist, and Sylvia Rodriguez, poet, join Ruth Osuna, Chief of Staff in Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon’s Office, and Francisco X Gutierrez, General Counsel for the ALAC board and practicing attorney.

Artwork by Francisco will be exhibited at the Fair Trade Café during Art Detour, 1st Avenue and Roosevelt, March 7-9, 2008.

They were greeted by Martin Moreno, Artist and owner of Cuervo Studio and Gallery.

Once inside the reoccurring images (symbols) from the street are Visual Reminders:

Tenemos Que Mantener Viva La Tradicion!

People networked and enjoyed conversation while signing in and joining as new members of ALAC.

Donna M. Valdes, Executive Director of Xico, Inc. takes on this responsibility.

Dr.Gerry Petersen, PUHS Distsrict (left) Judge Rachel Torres Carrillo (standing/right), Lisa Carrillo, Marketing Director (right)

Silvia Rodriguez, Poet/ASU Student, & ALAC Board Member, Pete Dimas, Executive Director of Braun Sacred Heart Church, Inc.

ErLinda Tórres began the formal component of the evening with introductions of all the Founding ALAC board members and expresses a thank you to new ALAC Founding Members, Community that represent inter-generational leadership.Thanks to everyone who has already made a commitment to join ALAC and "walk the journey" with passion, time and energy.

ALAC Board Member Marco Albarran, Artist and Executive Director of Calaca Cultural Center, Inc.

ErLinda continued to discuss the declaration of theNew Latino Arts Consortium which has officially Inspired this Valley Latino Cultural Center Campaign:The Advocates for Latin@ Arts & Culture Consortium was created in June 2007, and consists of Valley Latino artists, arts organizations and community advocates. The primary mission is to create a Latino Cultural Center.

The cultural center would be a multi-purpose facility for art exhibits, dance, theater and literary performances, rooms for classes and workshops, offices for operations, and a gift shop and café.

Jim Covarrubias reiterates the message of thanking everyone who has made this founding process possible and noting every person’s importance in this campaign.

Earl and Mary Rose Wilcox were introduced.

Earl Wilcox talked of the importance of this community and the need to support and give Pride and Respect to the generations of Latina(o) families who have lived and thrived here, contributing significantly to Phoenix’s history .

Mary Wilcox then spoke:

"We are honored to host the Advocates for Latin@ Arts & Culture Consortium, Inc. (ALAC). We are strong supporters of Latino Arts and Culture community organizations. We are very proud of your accomplishment of bringing together Latino artists. We feel this will keep Latino Arts and Culture alive." says Mary Rose Wilcox, Maricopa County supervisor and a community leader. She and her husband, Earl Wilcox, Special Assistant for Community Outreach, Governor’s Office for Children, Youth & Families, own El Portal.

Earl had discussed the programs in the area that have sustained this community for many years and the value they have given to containing gang activity including the arts with 8 murals in the area that have not been tagged!

He and Mary Rose spoke of the passion they know all the persons involved with ALAC contain and how this passion will be felt by many who will benefit from these persons' leadership and commitment.She referenced the Alwun House in the Garfield Neighborhood and the work Kim Moody has done there for more that 3 decades. Earl reminded the group to LOOK TO THE COMMUNITY where you will build this space.Do not take it somewhere where there is no history. Both Mary Rose and Earl reminded everyone of the necessity to rely on partnerships and collaborations to get this structure constructed and functional.There are many people in place already to assist ALAC including Michael Johnson, Councilperson from this district.

At this point ErLinda introduced Ruth Osuna who has attended many of the ALAC meetings since June. Latino Coalition Meeting - June 29, 2007"I applaud ALAC: Advocates for Latin@ Arts & Culture Consortium for bringing together an effective network of artists and advocates that represents our community." says Ruth Osuna, Chief of Staff in Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon’s Office.

"ALAC’s vision and commitment to promote arts and culture will contribute to the cultural vibrancy of and enhance the quality of life for citizens in the City of Phoenix."She stated she was very proud of the efforts and the ongoing movement demonstrated by the group to attain their initial proposal.

Input from the audience was asked about what they saw as activities in the center:Responses ranged from presentation space for all the arts to including storytelling and wonderful food.There needs to exist an education classroom space for bridging the generations and developing leadership skills within the younger population.

Martin Moreno followed by introducing the next generation of artists who will continue this work.

Martin brought forth Francisco Garcia, a student at Phoenix College and a local mural artist, with accolades that this young man represents the community.He is of the spirit of persons like Diego Rivera and of course our own local Latina(o) artists."Francisco is of the spirit of the Masters—"Murales"- spirit of giving to community."

Francisco introduced a fellow student who has been inspirational to him, Sylvia Rodriguez.

Sylvia Rodriguez, Poet and ASU student, read a poem with NO Title to the group.It began with the line (this documented review is paraphrased and not exact in its poetic content):

This is a poem of not only one person, but of a whole community.

I am the child left behind.
The HOPE of the state.
Born on the so called wrong side of town.
Why do you hate me and call me illegal?
My DREAMS are much larger than your hate.
Wait is all I can do because this is my fate...

The poem continues on; but by now everyone is so intent on the power of this young woman’s passion and words that all else in the room stops. Admiration for the strength and commitment of Sylvia is easily noted on Jim’s face.

Announcements were made to end the evening as well as carry out the raffle of donated artworks.

Annie Loyd who is running for Congress was introduced at this time and given time to voice her commitment to ALAC’s mission.

One of the raffle winners is Michele Ceballas, Opendance Director and dancer. She left with a beautiful mask by Zarco Guerrrero

Tenemos Que Mantener Viva La Tradicion!

We look forward to seeing all of you at the next planned event!
ALAC Meeting/Network Reception:
March 27, 2008 5:30 pm, PUHS District Office
Hosts: Superintendent Art Lebowitz & Cristy Lopez, PUHS Board Member

Photos and review by judy butzine, Cultural Arts Coalition/Celebrating Global Connections , a member group of ALAC