By Melinda Gonzalez
There is a renewed energy in the air and the culmination of efforts to re-establish the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) as the beacon of Chicano Art is paying off.
Founded in 1980 and located in the heart of San Antonio’s historic Westside, the nonprofit organization serves over 100,000 people each year on a local, national and international scale through artistic, educational, and community programming.
Jorge Piña who is a native San Antonian is back and fulfills a key leadership position for the GCAC after resigning from the organization in 2000. Prior to his resignation, he served as Director of the organization’s theater arts program for 16 years and was the founder of Grupo Ánimo, GCAC’s resident youth theatre company.
His presence, the leadership of Executive Director Cristina Ballí, and the commitment and passion of staff members like Production Manager Mark Riojas are instrumental in the upwards momentum of the GCAC. “People that are long-timers from the Guadalupe, who haven’t been here for a while, are coming back around,” says Riojas. He also credits the organization’s former Performing Arts Director, Joel Settles, for sparking its reinvention.
Along with established events that include the Annual Tejano Conjunto Festival, CineFestival, and Día de Los Muertos Annual Celebration and Alter Exhibition, The GCAC continues to offer classes and workshops for learners of all ages in dance, theatre arts, music, and visual arts. Visit their in house art gallery, Galería Guadalupe, for the current exhibition titled “The Best of Tejano Conjunto Live Y Selena”, which will be on display until May 31.
The organization has recently complimented their offerings by adding “Celebrando Tradiciones”, its new monthly dance and music series to take place on First Fridays.
This initiative brings together its professional companies in residence, the Guadalupe Dance Co. and Mariachi Azteca de America. Dance Program Director Jeannette Chavez says “Each month will showcase different regions, styles, and dance traditions. Audiences can return throughout the year and have a different experience.”
In an effort to support local artists and add diversity to their First Friday programming, the GCAC also provides free space for artists, performers, and vendors to set-up and showcase their work.
In reference to the preservation of the GCAC and the University of Texas’ (UTSA) massive downtown expansion plans that are set to impact the Westside in a big way, Riojas says, “The area is changing. We can’t control that, but what we can do is keep the culture here and that’s why it’s important.”