Year End Letter from Executive Director Kristen Sbrogna
January 1, 2014
In 2013, La Peña embarked on an exciting journey to revitalize the center and re-envision our role as a true “peña,” a gathering space for art, activism, culture, and building community and connection. As we look forward to our 40th anniversary a year from June, we have more to accomplish, but the view from here is bright.
Like many arts organizations, La Peña experienced a drastic budget reduction following 2008 due to cutbacks in foundation funding. In order to stabilize and revitalize the center, the staff and board laid forth an ambitious plan including structural reorganization, major renovations to the building, new cultural programming in our lounge space, and repositioning the café as a La Peña venture. As we stand on the brink of a new year, I am happy to report that we are well on our way to a reinvigorated and renewed La Peña.
Renovate, Innovate, Engage
2013 saw the launch of La Peña’s capital campaign: Renovate, Innovate, Engage. We raised over $100,000 in the first six months of the campaign, enough to launch the first stage of our building renovations.
This winter, watch as our building transforms!
You may have already seen the beautiful restoration of our Song of Unity mural, and soon the rest of the building will have a facelift. Phase I of the renovations includes a new façade and entryway, sidewalk café seating, improvements to the ticket booth, lobby, and theater entrance, and the addition of an ADA bathroom. Look for information about our grand re-opening celebration this spring!
Café La Peña opened in July with a fresh look and new cultural programming in the lounge space adjacent to the café. Café La Peña is a food hub, presenting pop-ups, cultural nights that combine the arts (music, dance, and/or visual) and cuisine of a particular country or region, and our own regular menu. Regular cultural nights celebrating music and food from Chile, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Spain, and Peru offer hard to find and authentic flavors.
Our new lounge programs continue La Peña’s commitment to arts, activism, and social justice. Local organizations hosting monthly forums on current issues include Food First, CENSA (Center for the Study of the Americas), Global Exchange, and Bay Area Skeptics. La Peña’s 2nd Gen (the “younger” organizers in our community) host monthly open-mics, dj nights, and live music.
The repositioning of the café has allowed us to develop these exciting programs while opening up a new revenue stream for the center, all the while continuing our regular programming in the theater.
2014 will see the completion of our first phase of renovations, commissioning of innovative work by local and international artists, expansion of our arts education program, and further development of cultural programming in the lounge.
Transition is not easy for anyone or any organization. Among La Peña’s other recent challenges, our beloved director of nearly three decades, Paul Chin, retired. The departure of such a dedicated and inspiring leader was difficult, but we are fortunate to have Paul serving as one of our top volunteers in his new role as board chair. Paul left me some big shoes to fill, but I’ve learned in my first several months on the job that there are many others in these shoes with me. I’m honored to serve this incredible community and to be doing such important work, and I’m so grateful to everyone who came before me and laid such a solid foundation. As I look forward to 2014, I feel we have weathered the storm; there is no doubt that La Peña will grow and nourish future generations while maintaining a firm connection to its roots and its history.
As always, we could not do our work without you, and we rely on our community for support. If you are reading this, you are part of that community! I invite you to deepen your involvement with La Peña in 2014. Come to more programs. Take a class. Bring a friend to a forum. Volunteer. If you can, donate. Be part of the movement. Be part of La Peña!
Aquí Nos Vemos.