Addressing American Demographic Shifts In & Through The Arts
Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center, based in San Pablo, CA, is a band, a nonprofit organization, a music academy, a community space for youth and families, and a hub for Latino artists–all of which work in tandem to amplify the community’s Mexican roots in the Bay Area and beyond. Founded in the 1990s by local artists responding to the needs of Latino youth, Los Cenzontles uses art, music, dance, and culture to foster ethnic pride and identity and build the local economy. Los Cenzontles is a leader in the Mexican roots revival, bringing that heritage alive for new generations.
Through the Artography program, Los Cenzontles was able to strengthen its program offerings, expand its community relationships, and conduct planning to fortify its hybrid nonprofit model, which generates revenue through both philanthropic and commercial strategies. By growing its philanthropic donor bases and its partnerships with popular musicians simultaneously, the organization has made headway in securing its long-term future.
“For too long, mainstream funders have only considered classical or jazz as art. There have been cultural and genre biases against organizations that, like Los Cenzontles, act at the intersection of local communities, outside metropolitan centers, and representative of politically marginalized cultures and communities,” said Eugene Rodriguez, Executive Director of Los Cenzontles. “Yet these overlooked programs often are the ones actively responding to their audience’s interests and needs. Community arts organizations are institutions that are multi-faceted and holistic, a kind of second home for many families, serving both the community and the art. If we want to make real lasting change, we need to support organic expressions of art in neighborhoods like ours.”
Los Cenzontles serves as a zocalo—a center for community gatherings—and is expanding its facility in response to the growth of its program and its community. Support from LINC allowed the group to think strategically about the best way to pursue facility updates. This investment in careful planning has positioned the organization to enter a new phase of development—both in terms of its capital project and the organization’s future.