A cultural center showcasing Latino communities may be Phoenix’s next major investment in city art institutions.
Some Phoenix leaders and organizations have for years pushed for a space to highlight the artistic contributions of Latinos through a designated facility, without a designated funding source or plan. Now, the city is considering if nearly $1.4 million in bond funding could launch the project.
There’s no precise vision, location or business model — yet. A consultant approved by the City Council last year is investigating how such a center would function.
The institution would aim to hold exhibitions and programs that focus on cultural education and celebration. Early outreach to artists and an advisory board for the proposal point to interest in a multipurpose space that could include visual and performing arts as well as classroom and event space, said Evonne Gallardo, the California-based consultant working on the project.
Community members now have the chance to tell the city what they want to see. Three town hall meetings that start April 13 aim to reach a broad swath of residents, Gallardo said.
Latino and Hispanic people comprise about 40 percent of the city’s population, according to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“This is something that represents Phoenix’s history and current community,” Gallardo said.
Voters approved money for Museo Chicano
Phoenix has nearly $1.4 million in bond funding that voters originally approved in 2001 for the now-closed Museo Chicano, said Gail Browne, executive director of the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture.
Since residents intended the funding to highlight Latino communities, the city is looking at how else to use it, Browne said. It must be used for a capital project.
Phoenix has for years constructed or renovated cultural facilities with bond funding, including the Arizona Opera and Black Theatre Troupe buildings. The city owns the sites while the groups operate them.
The study underway for the Latino cultural center will explore what that agreement could look like. Gallardo has a $70,000, one-year contract that can be extended to provide a needs assessment and feasibility report.
The idea already is generating excitement, Browne said. Some think a Latino cultural center is overdue when cities like Dallas and Chicago have long had similar institutions.
An advisory board for the project includes representatives of existing Latino-focused arts and culture organizations in Phoenix. The city will consider how a new facility could complement those groups.
“We’re in the process of understanding how to move forward,” Browne said.
Location, business plan under consideration
A clearer picture of the next steps for the project will emerge from Gallardo’s work, she said.
Right now, Gallardo said she’s mostly listening. Artists are telling her what already exists in Latino arts communities here, what’s working and “what needs support,” she said.
Latino and indigenous arts organization Xico Arte y Cultura, for example, sees needs that a new center could serve, said Executive Director Laura Wilde, who is on the city advisory committee. Hispanic and Latino residents could use more resources in the community, and Phoenix needs to consider bilingual programming and opportunities for existing centers to collaborate to reach them, Wilde said.
“I think a new facility would really need to be accessible,” she said.
Town halls will ask community members where they imagine such a center being located and what it should include. Gallardo will compile that data into a report in the next few months that will guide possible locations and business plans.
A vacant building at Margaret T. Hance Park, a downtown site envisioned to receive a $118 million renovation, is one example of a site the city might choose to consider, according to a recent Parks and Recreation Board agenda.
Several council members have voiced support for the project but raised concerns about sustaining operations of a new facility. The feasibility study will gauge the market and possible partners, city staff said at a meeting last year.
Latino cultural center town hall meetings
April 13: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Memorial Hall at Steele Indian School Park, 300 E. Indian School Road.
April 20: 6 to 8 p.m. at Maryvale Community Center, 4420 N. 51st Ave.
April 22: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Grant Park, 701 S. Third Ave.
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