Voz Alta a haven for multicultural art, performance

    In the heart of San Diego’s East Village lies Voz Alta, a small, unassuming space that is the home for local artists of all art forms and backgrounds. The Voz Alta Project is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to “community empowerment with a cross-cultural approach,” according to Dawn Rotundo, the exhibitions and events assistant for the project.

    Started in 1999 by a group known as the Taco Shop Poets, the project initially worked with Chicano/Latino youth and literacy issues. This collaboration has grown to include a number of community members and fellow artists and activists, who all worked at local schools around the county to conduct a range of workshops.

    The Taco Shop Poets themselves are a group of artists devoted to creating community empowerment through the arts. As a group, they recognize the intangible treasures that are unique to each community and that show themselves through various artistic mediums. The Poets view the taco shops, which became their namesake, as “flavored places of culture and celebration, where all walks of life collide for a brief moment.” Made up of poets and musicians who hail from places as varied as the southern parts of Mexico to Mississippi and San Francisco, the Taco Shop Poets work together to spread the love of the art inherent within different cultures.

    Although it was founded by and along the political lines of Chicanos and Latinos, the project has expanded its vision to form a space that welcomes and houses a multiplicity of art forms including visual and performing art.

    Since settling in its own space in 2001, Voz Alta has been able to host a wider range of artists than it had before.

    “[Saying] that this is strictly a Chicano and Latino space is wrong, although that is the popular misconception that surrounds Voz Alta,” Rotundo said. “[Voz Alta] plays host to groups and individuals that come from and represent many different communities, racially, culturally, socioeconomically, sexually (and) geographically.”

    Voz Alta itself is a very multifunctional space. In addition to hosting visual art exhibitions and workshops, the space also hosts lectures and performances, which include dramatic presentations, poetry readings, live music and performance art.

    Past exhibitions hosted by the Voz Alta Project include a group exhibition titled “Arabs Anonymous/No Hay Moros,” which featured American, Canadian and Latino artists of Middle Eastern and Jewish descent. Other exhibitions showcased various emerging and established artists such as Valerie Aranda, Patrick “Pato” Hebert, Ribardo Islas, Ruben Ochoa and Gerardo Yepiz.

    Having just closed their most recent exhibition of a solo show for Aya Seko, a Japanese-American artist, the Voz Alta Project is looking forward to a slew of new exhibitions slated to be showcased in the coming months. Included in this lineup is Tuan Andrew Nguyen, a Vietnamese artist who works out of Los Angeles. His show, “While Dodging Fake Bullets in the Dark,” focuses on the relationship between violence, pop culture and spirituality.

    In addition to featuring prominent artists from San Diego, Los Angeles and Mexico, the Voz Alta Project strives to make itself available to residents of these areas who may not be professional artists.

    Every other Monday of each month, the Voz Alta Project has an open mic night titled “3rd Word,” which gives amateurs an opportunity to field their own music and verse, while encouraging dialogue with other poets and musicians. In addition to providing a forum for people to express themselves, this open-mic night also strives to uphold the Voz Alta Project’s self-proclaimed mission of being socially conscious. To this end, the open mic promotes community involvement through diverse art forms while at the same time welcoming people of all cultures, orientations and opinions.

    Voz Alta also offers “Bruja y Bellas.” Meeting the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month within the Voz Alta space, this is a group of women writers who support each other in developing and nurturing their creative talents.

    The Voz Alta Project makes it a point to extend its arms to the community that makes up its neighbors. The project continues to work to improve the communities of which they are a part, and to showcase the local artists who are also the strongest supporters of the space. The Taco Shop Poets themselves continue to perform as the artists-in-residence at Voz Alta, and have just released Intersection, their first CD.

    For information regarding upcoming events and artist showings at the Voz Alta, visit http://www.vozalta.org.

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