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Culture(s) As Told by a Wanderluster

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I started interning at La Peña last fall, and it’s been one of the most wonderful experiences of my sophomore year. People always say that if you find a job that you love, you won’t work for a day. That’s how I feel about meeting people in the community who come to La Peña: not only because they’re fun and driven, but also because they teach me so much about their own cultures and do their best to promote others’. As an intern, I get to contribute to cultural development through the arts, education, and social action–a goal that I’ve always felt very strongly about because of my childhood voyages.

Neptune Fountain | Alexanderplatz

Neptune Fountain | Alexanderplatz

Painting on the Berlin Wall | East Side Gallery

Painting on the Berlin Wall | East Side Gallery

Wanderlust runs in the family; that’s something I can testify. As the daughter of two avid travelers, I had my first trip when I was nine months old. Since then, I’ve never stayed in the same place for more than half a year. It’s a restless experience, but I think I’m very lucky to have that. I’m extremely grateful that I grew up spending my summers in New York City, going to Japan with my mom just to shop at the Christmas sale, and having road trips all over Europe. How my parents save up all their money to travel teaches me the importance of understanding other cultures. Years of meeting people from other backgrounds and learning their cultures make me feel like I belong with them even though I’m from another place.

Following my parents around and eventually going off on trips alone, I realized where I was born doesn’t define who I am.
All those great conversations I had, with taxi drivers, local cafe baristas, random strangers on the subway, and street performers, inspire me to become who I am now. Friendships I built with people from different continents–some last forever while some only in memories–are things that truly define me. This is why being part of La Peña and working towards its mission of encouraging dialogues and discussions among diverse groups mean so much to me. My internship here has enriched my understanding of many more cultures, and there are always more to learn. A cultural center like La Peña encourages us to see the world from other cultural perspectives, and I think it’s essential to the community because empathy is the first step to connect with other people.
Anastasia Yip
Fund Development Intern 
My favorite bakery in New York City | Little Italy

My favorite bakery in New York City | Little Italy

View of Vltava River from my room| Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

View of Vltava River from my room| Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

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Awareness and perspective

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This past Winter break I was fortunate enough to venture into the ultimate realm of perspective: traveling to Japan. After a semester of interning for La Peña and working in an environment that all about expanding the mind, I was excited to further expand my mind with this travel opportunity.

As expected, things were different; everything about being in a bustling and overwhelming city where you don’t speak the language called for me to take on a new role as an observer, there wasn’t much else I could do. Despite my background as a city person, the new energy, pace and culture of Tokyo was one I was clearly not a part of. It was one of the most interesting positions I’ve ever been in; walking around the city by myself without knowing the language, my only job and obligation was to appreciate, notice and learn. My mind was expanded in a different way. I saw and felt the overarching principle of respect that the country embodied in Tokyo and beyond (I also got to venture to the quaint town of Kyoto). I always felt respected, especially through service, where it was never a question of bad or good. It was always good, down to the convenience stores. This ever present principle of respect expanded further to the metro and subways, where people were silent and reserved, a small assimilation challenge for my naturally loud personality.

Most importantly, this role of observer in a place so foreign to me brought me to think about and try to understand the lives of people in other places, like this one. Different culture, different mind sets, different goals, and different language. For some reason I have found this thought process to be an imperative part of my personal growth, because it is routed in thinking beyond the walls of just your own upbringing and society. My beliefs and norms were challenged. At it’s best, La Peña can be a space where we can give this level of intense perspective through exploring our differences. Traveling to Japan gave me the opportunity to feel this at full throttle, and as I return back to the bay area to continue my work at La Peña, I now have a better idea of its mission statement, to expand minds through culture.

Andrea Granera 

Programming Intern

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Amnesia: The Rememory of Race and Immigration

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Have you ever imagined living the lives of your grandparents? Many of us have forgotten our family history, letting our lineage sink into the past. Family ties are important, and when you take the time to retrace your family ties, you might be surprised by the story you’ve just reclaimed–one that’s exclusively yours.

Next Friday (Feb 27), Ariel Luckey will perform Amnesia at 8pm at the East Bay Center for Performing Arts in Richmond (339 11th St). Amnesia is a new play about race and immigration, written and performed by Ariel Luckey. Layering theater, dance, spoken word and an original score of Hip Hop, Klezmer, and Mexican folk music, Amnesia tells the story of a young man who retraces his family’s migration from a small village in Eastern Europe through New York’s Lower East Side to Phoenix, Arizona. He later finds that the violence his family fled cannot be so easily forgotten. As the only actor on stage, Luckey embodies himself and his ancestors. Combining his vibrant personality, dramatic monologues, mysterious settings and innovative music, Luckey brings the audience into a deepreflection of their own origins.

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An interesting aspect of this play is its interdisciplinary theater methodology and extensive research in Arizona, Ukraine and Belarus. Amnesia is a work-in-progress performance that continuously evolved with community feedback in the Bay Area. This special Bay Area Mini-Tour will incorporate a single from his collaborative album Rememory into his play. Amnesia is a powerful song that sparks off the Lumino City Station music project and reminds people to pay attention to their cultural roots. The mixture of rap and traditional music not only explores the resistance and survival of immigrants, but also that of their descendants. The combination of both new and old styles of music exemplifies how we should be grateful for changes in the society yet still be aware of our roles in fighting the same battles our ancestors did.

 

Click here to listen to Amnesiahttps://soundcloud.com/luminocity-station/amnesia

Tickets are sliding scale between $18-$36, and can be purchased online (www.arielluckey.com/amnesia) or at the door at each performance.

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La Peña Board Meeting Minutes December 10, 2014

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La Peña Board Meeting Minutes December 10, 2014

Present: Paul (Chair), Sarah, Gino, Victor, Ellen (notes), Kristen
Public: Carol Pierson, members of La Peña Community Chorus, Carmen Gloria Figueroa

The minutes from the previous board meeting on October 13, 2014 were unanymously approved online prior to the meeting. All noted and agreed to approval.

Public comment:
The Chorus sent out a letter to the Board previously. We had a conversation where clarifying questions were asked regarding their proposal which is to do 2 benefit concerts to organization of their choice with no rent or benefit concert proposed for La Peña. The Board agreed to consider the proposal and respond to Karen Chester as Chorus representative as soon as is feasible noting that the next board meeting is in February and a special meeting may not be possible prior to that.
Financial Assessment:
Laurie Campbell via the SF Foundation reported on La Peña’s financial status as part of the foundation’s Arts Hub. She noted that the trend rather than a single year is what gives a better sense of our situation. The majority of our income comes from earned income and individual donations. She encouraged us to continue yearly audits. Her report was followed by Q&A

Closed session:
Executive Director report: Kristen reviewed the report sent electronically. A fuller report will be coming later.

Whole Foods sponsorship: The Board discussed whether to go after Whole Foods financial support. Sarah moved and Paul seconded the motion to not partner with Whole Foods. The motion passed.

Cafe: Ellen reported on café transition process. Los Cilantros has a temporary alcohol license. While Café La Peña is no longer operating, it remains to be officially closed. After taxes are prepared a disclosure form will be sent to the State.

Fundraising: an acquisition mailing based on Event Brite participation along with our regular mailing list was done and donations are arriving. Kristin outlined several grants she is exploring.

Signage for Center and Los Cilantros: We agreed that a sign similar to the one in the café, possibly two signs in a similar style for both LP and LC would be desirable. Gino will get Dominique’s phone number for Ellen to make contact. We agreed that both signs can measure up to 5 feet wide by 3 feet high.

Chorus letter: The board discussed the letter from the Chorus.

Board development: We agreed on two candidates to approach about being on the board.

Ellen moved and Gino seconded to adjourn the meeting. All approved.

Next Board meeting: Monday February 23 at 7 pm at La Peña

A Fiscal Year End Update From Executive Director Kristen Sbrogna

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A Fiscal Year End Update
From Executive Director Kristen Sbrogna

La Peña’s fiscal year runs September 1 – August 31, and I’m pleased to share that after finalizing our financial statements, La Peña reports a surplus! For those of you familiar with our financial situation, this is big news for us, and reflects a turnaround to a new phase of stability, renewal, and smart growth.

I would describe the sentiment in the air at La Peña as one of hopefulness. We had a year full of “transition” and change, but we also accomplished a lot, and the result is a renewed center, a new restaurant, and new projects on the horizon. At our core we are still an organization committed to arts and social justice, rooted in Latin American culture.

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In addition to stabilizing our budget in 2014, La Peña completed phase 1 of our Building our Future capital campaign. We raised $100,000 to fund renovations to the café, bathrooms, and lobby, and to purchase new sound and lights systems for the theater.

Our financial success is in large part due to our ability to adapt to the new fundraising climate. Between 2010 and 2012, La Peña reduced its budget by more than a third (from approximately $750,000 to approximately $450,000) due to the loss of a few large corporate grants. The necessary result was a multi-phase restructuring. The final phase, reflected in the graph below, shows the final implementation of the restructuring in 2014.

Despite the savings in staff expenses, our impact on the community has not been compromised. In 2014, La Peña added many regular free and low-cost programs in our lounge while maintaining close to the level of La Peña presents shows in the theater. This slight decrease is reflected in the dip in artist fees from 2013 to 2014 seen below.
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The artist fees are still impressive: they surpass those in 2012 when the staff budget was more than double what it is now. In addition, the distribution of total artist fees is over less shows overall, meaning artists are being paid more on average per show than in 2013. This is largely because at the beginning of 2014 we restructured our financial agreement for our shows to give artists a higher percentage of the door net.

The graph below shows our mission-based categorizations for our La Peña presents programs.
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*In addition to the more than 140 La Peña presents shows included above, in 2014 La Peña hosted over:
46 2nd Gen events
750 classes, workshops, and summer camps (15-20 individual classes/week)
123 community free or by-donation events (mostly in our lounge)
97 rentals
26 Saturday morning family programs

Ensuring we are on a sustainable path will take a little more time “in the black,” but I am confident that as we move forward we will continue to secure our financial footing and expand our programs. As we approach our 40th year, La Peña is as strong as ever!

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Amiguitos returning this fall!

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Since I was a kid I would begin moving to the rhythm and reciting lyrics as if written on the back of my hands the moment that song played on the radio. Whether it was in the intimacy of my own home by myself or with family, or in an open atmosphere shared with friends and friends-to-be, the joys and innocence of dancing and singing hand-in-hand go un-matched. Now-a-days the radio and television don’t exactly have the most kid-friendly music with suitable lyrics, it can be difficult to find the right match and we all know music is better when enjoyed with others, especially live music.

The Amiguitos program at La Peña provides a space and atmosphere that upon entering I was immediately brought back to my childhood. Local artists and musicians alike come together with kids and adults to create an atmosphere that’s fun, welcoming, and lively. And after a great time with music there is fresh and authentic Mexican cuisine next door at Los Cilantros that the whole family can sit down to enjoy. Artists offer their own unique talent and style of music making each time a different and refreshing experience for everyone.

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The Bug Family Band had the kids non-stop jamming to their originally composed music as well as the cover of classic children’s tunes. Even the “older kids” (adults) couldn’t help but bug out. Also really popular within the community is Your Song My Song, comprised of musicians Jaime Lee Currier and Eric Hart. With both Jaime and Eric being teachers it’s no wonder that they are able to keep the attention of both the kids and adults during their performances with such a high level of engagement and participation, their enthusiasm is contagious for anybody who’s in the room. Musician, activist, and educator, Bonnie Lockhart is also another great member of the Amiguitos team. Her knowledge of knowing how to play the guitar, piano, and percussion provide her a diverse range of sounds to get the children moving along. Drawing from different cultural backgrounds such as the Caribbean, Mexico, West Africa, and here in the United States as well as many more, Bonnie’s songs are as much educational as they are entertaining. Equally informative and inspiring for the youth is the EarthCapades theater performance. Performing at festivals, schools, and theaters across the country the show is a well-balanced mixture of music, comedy, storytelling, and audience interaction while raising environmental awareness.

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All of these artists are just an example of the great talent that is shared at the center. The fall line-up has yet to be announced, but there’s no doubt that they will bring the same great energy and fun to the space as the previous ones. The roster of artists for the months to come will be up soon on the La Pena events calendar. Stay up to date by following La Peña on social media such as facebook, twitter, and instagram.

About the author: George Cheng is currently an intern at La Peña Cultural Center and an undergraduate student at the University of California Berkeley studying Interdisciplinary studies with a focus on Art and Social Change. George will be teaching a break-dancing workshop alongside other members of his student organization, Dwinelle Hall breakers, on September, 20th. Click HERE for information about the workshop.

Celebrating 39 years of culture at La Peña

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La Peña Cultural Center has been a lively cultural space in Berkeley for the past 39 years. Since it’s doors opened, La Peña has served as a community cultural center promoting a wide diversity of cultural traditions from the Americas and Caribbean as well as promoting social and political justice. Doing so, La Peña has created the perfect mixture of politics and the arts in a community that is known for its diversity.

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This past month of June has been filed with celebrations geared towards celebrating La Peña’s 39 years of promoting peace, social justice and action, as well as cultural awareness through the arts and education. Paz: Fandango Urbano was one of La Peña’s 39th anniversary events that filled the theater with sones jarochos. A son jarocho is a regional folk musical style pertaining to Veracruz and the Gulf of Mexico consisting of the jarana jarocha, a guitar shaped instrument, a requinto jarocho or guitarra de son, which is also similar to a small guitar, a pandero jarocho, similar to a tambourine, a quijada, typically made of a donkey or horse jawbone and conga drums or a cajon.

Once the doors opened and people greeted each other and took their seats, the musicians came out onto the stage and began playing their harmonious and lively music, that were composed and put together in previous Fandango workshops and jam sessions.  These sones reflect the Bay Area experience of those who have partaken in the past Fandango Urbano workshops. The lead artists, Maria de la Rosa would zapatiar to the music in her traditional son jarocho dress adding the rhythm of her tapping heels as she danced to the music. The zapatiado dance is a traditional dance in fandangos and is also a form of percussion, having their dance essentially become an instrument. After playing a few sones the artists, invited the audience to dance and to come up and showcase their zapateado. Once the artist were done with their performance, they invited the audience to jam with them in a Fandango Urbano and create new community sones.

Listening to sones for the first time, was really a pleasing musical experience. The combination of the small acoustic instruments gave the music it’s folkloric accent, while the cajon conga drums, and the zapatiado dance gave the music it’s percussive rhythm.

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The following day after Paz: Fandango Urbano, La Peña held it’s open house to invite the community to see the newly renovated lounge and cafe, which now  serves farm fresh Mexican food from “Los Cilantros,” and to officially celebrate La Peña’s 39 year anniversary with live music and the broadcasting of World Cup’s match between the U.S.A. and Portugal. The afternoon started off with a performance by Gail Dobson’s vocal class, which consisted of the community’s children singing popular songs and the Latin American Songbook class who were both very good and showcased both group and solo performances. There was also Salsa, Bomba y Plena, Cumbia, and other diverse genres of Latin and Afro-Cuban music, that just made you want to get up and dance, like some of the attendees did. The food provided by “Los Cilantros” was also very savory and fresh. I had the opportunity to try their chicken tamales and they were simply delicious. The fresh agua de piña (pineapple water) was also very sweet and refreshing and complimented in my opinion the chicken tamales. The World Cup also started soon after, which drew soccer fanatics as the U.S. and Portugal played an intense and suspenseful game, which lead to a draw between the two teams. La Peña was additionally holding a silent auction. The auction consisted of many paintings and posters that reflected what La Peña stands for culturally and politically, as well as books and other cultural objects from different areas.

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Attending both events made my weekend truly a different experience from the typical routine. In two days I heard a wide variety of new music and was able to enjoy and be exposed to the different compositions of other cultures besides my own, try some wonderful and appetizing food, as well as being able to enjoy it with the local community all thanks to La Peña Cultural Center. My favorite part was the Fandango, where majority of the audience made a circle around the band and artists and began having a jam session with traditional Veracruz folk music, which I would never thought possible for folk music. The soccer match, was an adrenaline pumper, as people would stand up and cheer as their team came close to scoring and things got even more exciting towards the end, the energy in La Peña was really something else. Being able to attend La Peña’s 39th anniversary celebration really was a great cultural experience and a fun time.

About the author: Sonia is currently  an intern at La Peña, as a part of her work field. She first heard of La Peña Cultural Center through her Chicano Studies advisor at UC Berkeley. She took interest in becoming an intern at La Peña, as it provides a space for people of all cultures to showcase their cultures through the arts, spoken word, and theater performances. She is currently finishing her bachelors at Cal and hopes to use the experience learned at La Peña to further promote cultural and ethical awareness.