By Kendra Sitton | Editor
Centro Cultural de la Raza — a community center founded in conjunction with the victory of activists who claimed and created Chicano Park — is preparing for its 50th anniversary. Ahead of the celebration, the volunteers who run the Centro are fundraising and seeking community input as they hope to redesign the interior of the building that opened in 1970.
That effort kicked off on Friday, May 24, with a fundraiser and art reception unveiling the new exhibit, “Raza Visions: Revitalizing Centro Cultural de la Raza.” The exhibit is filled with works by SDSU students from the School of Art + Design. They were tasked with creating an interdisciplinary project that imagines renovations to the space, including a lounge, café, artist workshop areas, library, store and other ideas. The designs will be exhibited for the month of June as community members are invited to continue providing input and vote on the design they think is best.
The Centro is run by a collective of artists, organizers and community members under the Arts Advisory Committee (AAC), which promotes Chicano, Mexicano, Latino and indigenous art and culture.
During the event, Uptown News spoke with two of those organizers about the future of the campaign.
“The purpose is to enhance public engagement, come up with methods to preserve our own history, have an archive here and then to encourage new artist collaborations,” Evan Apodaca said. “This space is extremely meaningful to multiple generations here in San Diego because it’s a radical space — an art space for Chicanos, Latinos, indigenous, people of color. There’s a void for that.”
Apodaca said the art space was once revolutionary and the first of its kind, but has been neglected in the past. He hopes it can once again thrive.
“Things have just been unfolding to us. We really didn’t plan, ‘Oh let’s ask them to do this’ — it just fell on us and then just happened. But we have been working to revitalize this space,” Liz Huato, who is a part of the AAC, said. “It’s us thinking of how we’re going to make this space more engaging to the community. How are we going to continue to nurture the history, and also [use] that history to inspire the youth and also future generations?”
The Centro volunteers also did a spiritual cleaning of the space so it could be livelier and involve the community again. Community input is one of the main reasons they have decided to leave the renovation process very open.
“We don’t really have a timeline. It’s still very abstract, very conceptual,” Huato said. In August, when the fundraising campaign is over, they will evaluate what they have the resources to do and go from there.
The volunteer-run organization is also hoping to make a permanent historical archive and exhibit as well as hire archival experts to properly house and digitize decades of art. To donate to the campaign, visit gofundme.com/centro-raza-visions.
— Reach Kendra Sitton at email@example.com.