Introducing Conexiones: Latino Arts @ WAA

Monday, August 17, 2015

In case you missed last week’s news….As of July 1, 2014, Latinos outnumber whites in the Golden State. In response to the news, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, a professor and dean of education at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, told the Los Angeles Times, “Where L.A. goes is where the rest of the state goes and where the rest of the country goes," he said. "We announce, demographically speaking, the future for the rest of the country.”

And so goes Western Arts Alliance—in anticipation of this news and response to the 2014 WAA Institute: The Emerging Latino Majority, WAA is creating a new interest group focused on Latino arts and arts professionals: Conexiones: Latino Arts @ WAA. Conexiones is dedicated to advancing Latino engagement, participation, and programming at Western Arts Alliance and communities across the West.

The formation of Conexiones is a direct outcome of last fall’s WAA Institute, which focused specifically on the changing demographics of the West. WAA Institute: The Emerging Latino Majority met in San Antonio, November 5-8, 2014. Twenty-eight arts professionals from around the country attended the retreat, with another twenty-two Texans (mostly from San Antonio and Austin) participating as speakers, panelists, and VIP guests.

And speaking of changing demographics, the WAA Institute participants embodied the change happening around us. Participants were far more diverse than WAA’s membership: Of the 28 registered attendees, eleven were people of color including nine Latino/Hispanics. The group was also younger than WAA’s membership: twelve were 40 or under.

The program, facilitated by Joe Randel, Talent Buyer- Concerts and Strategic Programming / Texas Performing Arts at UT Austin, looked at the demographic transformation as experienced by Latino arts and civic leaders, and drilled in on Latino identity, philanthropy, social media, and cultural participation of young Latinos. It was a transformative experience for everyone involved-- not an end, but a beginning. WAA and the individual participants pledged to continue working on strengthening ties to the Latinos, both as audiences, arts professionals, and artists.

Conexiones: Latino Arts @ WAA will be a two-staged effort (similar to CODA or 35Below). We’re creating a new interest group (open to all interested members) and formed a steering committee to oversee the mission, plans, and activities of the network. This will be a big job. We’re breaking new ground for WAA and our members. In the weeks and months ahead our agenda will include:

  • Using social media, webinars, and other forums to initiate dialogue with members;
  • Planning a roundtable for the Vancouver conference and breakout or plenary for Los Angeles/2016;
  • Supporting program development of a second WAA Institute focused on The Emerging Latino Majority; and
  • Advising the board on issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity.

It’s an ambitious endeavor, but we’ve assembled a great team (see our steering committee below)! Please join Conexiones and help WAA undertake this important work. To join the group, login in at, navigate to the Manage Profile page, under Community, select Groups, then Interest Group, and finally Conexiones: Latino Arts @ WAA.

Heading to Vancouver? Attend the Conexiones Roundtable, 10:30-11:30 am, Tuesday, September 1. Join steering committee members and WAA Institute Alumni to learn more about Conexiones and how you can be involved.

*Pictured above: Jennifer Fukutomi-Jones, Ford Theatre Foundation, Robin Mullins, formerly with Arts Northwest, Heather Rigby, Ford Theatre Foundation, and Michelle Maasz, Irvine Barclay Theatre at the 2014 WAA Institute in San Antonio.

Conexiones: Latino Arts @ WAA – Steering Committee

Emerson Bran, Emerson Bran Management, Chair

Heather Rigby, Ford Theatre Foundation, Vice-Chair

Shane Cadman, Whittier College

Phil Esparza, CSU Monterey Bay

Lynn Fisher, Frontera Arts

Tony Gomez, Broadway Center for the Performing Arts

Leah Keith, Opus 3 Artists

Dwayne Ulloa, AKA Productions