After 43 years operating under the namesake of famous printmaker José Guadalupe Posada, Sacramento’s premier Latino and Chicano arts and cultural group La Raza Galeria Posada is rebranding itself as the Latino Center of Art and Culture.
With the change, the gallery aims to reflect the broader cultural scope it has taken on since its early days as a bookstore founded by Chicano students from California State University, Sacramento, in 1972, said Executive and Artistic Director Marie Acosta. It also serves as a remedy for confusion caused by its Spanish name.
Acosta can remember when an artist mistook the gallery for a hotel and the innumerable exchanges of awkward silences with non-Spanish speakers who are embarrassed to ask for the translation.
“We shouldn’t do that to our community.” she said. “Especially when you’re trying to broaden your audience and broaden the communities you serve and engage the community in what you do. It’s been a detriment.”
The renaming is also intended to break with a history that includes financial troubles and five moves since the gallery opened. Galeria Posada has occupied a city-owned warehouse rent-free at the Miller Park corporation yard since March 2012, and since then hasn’t run a deficit.
After the recession hit, the gallery was running a large deficit every year. Its coffers had been filled with money left over from the $935,000 sale more than a decade ago of its former home, the Heilbron mansion at Seventh and O streets, Acosta said. But there wasn’t enough money to keep the group alive long-term.
“By moving here we did exactly what funders and what, thank goodness, in the board’s wisdom, they knew we had to do to survive,” she said. “We cut back programs drastically, we kept all but one staff person, (and) we have relied on volunteers.”
Though it was a challenge moving the gallery from midtown Sacramento three years ago, the board didn’t have a choice, Acosta said. “Our choice was die in midtown or move and make a transitional shift,” Acosta said. “We survived because we made the move.”
Now, the gallery has a fresh board with five new members who plan to chair events, garner publicity and find outside resources for funding. It pays only utilities at $380 a month, compared with the $1,700 it was paying just in rent at its previous home on 22nd Street between J and K streets.
The location is not typical for a gallery: It’s in an old warehouse on the riverfront with a small, grassy front and side yard near a barn that houses police horses. But it better reflects the Latino community’s approach to art, Acosta said. She said she anticipates the group will stay on Front Street for at least five more years.
“(Our community) does not traditionally go to the symphony halls; it does not traditionally go to museums. Our community doesn’t participate in the arts that way,” she said. Instead, she said, the work of Mexican artists often invites social participation and takes on political topics.
“Instead of being in a gallery where we’ve had families come in with kids and they have to say, ‘Sh, don’t run, don’t touch, be quiet,’ they can come in and see an art exhibit and tell the kids, ‘Go run outside. Go play. Have a good time. Let’s go over and see the horses.’ ”
This fall, the gallery will begin a partnership with other local community organizations at the old Fruit Ridge Elementary School site on 44th Street. Acosta said the board is planning to run workshops like Day of the Dead mask-making and piñata-crafting at the new annex.
The gallery will have an official renaming event on July 16, hosted by Sacramento City Councilman Eric Guerra. Guerra said the renaming is positive and is more inclusive for Latino communities. “I believe it is a renaissance period for them; a phoenix period for them,” he said.
More information about upcoming exhibitions and events can be found on the gallery’s Facebook page.