La Peña welcomes Aaron Lorenz as new Executive Director!

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Aaron LDear La Peña Community,

La Peña Cultural Center’s Board of Directors is very pleased to announce the hiring of a new executive director, Aaron Lorenz. Aaron will replace our going director Kristen Sbrogna. Just as Kristen has done, Aaron will continue La Peña’s practice of arts education, artists collaborations and developing community through the arts and social justice programming.

Aaron is no stranger to La Peña. He grew up in Oakland not far from La Peña and frequented La Peña as a child. His mother was a La Peña staff-person during the 1980s. After high school, Aaron attended NYU and received his BA in Theater and MA in Performance Studies while working in after-school as a theater literacy teacher with several non-profits and arts organizations in New York City. He later received his PhD in Latin American Studies at Tulane University. Aaron is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, and French and has taught Portuguese and Spanish at the collegiate level. He is the author of several articles about Post-Testimonio discourse, urban violence, and the drug trade in Colombia and Brazil. Aaron is also a practicing musician and a practitioner of Capoeira Angola.

Aaron has lived, studied, worked, and traveled in Latin America, Europe, and all over the US. He is honored to help preserve La Peña’s Latin American roots, expand its international and multicultural outlook, and promote inclusive and dynamic programming that works towards positive social change. He looks forward to meeting with members of the La Peña community in the coming months to synthesize La Peña’s ongoing role as a catalyst in the Bay Area and globally.

Please join us in welcoming Aaron Lorenz.

Aaron will be on board in time for our June anniversary events.  La Peña will host a meet and greet during our anniversary kickoff weekend, Sunday June 7, from 4 – 6 pm. Come by and say hello!

Paul Chin
For the La Peña Board of Directors


ED Kristen Sbrogna’s Letter of Transition/Thank You

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Dear Friends,

It has been my honor to serve the La Peña community for the past two years as executive director, but in a few months time I’ll be stepping down from my role, and La Peña is launching the search for its next leader.

I feel proud of the work La Peña was able to accomplish during this period. It has been such a joy and privilege to get to know so many of you and to have this be my daily work. Though I have enjoyed my time at La Peña immensely, the needs of my family and my personal life have made it difficult for me to meet the demands of the role, and so it is time to pass the baton to someone who has more energy and time to give right now than I do. Although I will not continue to be La Peña’s director, I will continue to support the organization through this transition and beyond.

During these two years we accomplished a huge goal: stabilizing the organization financially and readjusting to a new budget that is less than 2/3 what it was in 2012. The board and staff are to be commended to helping channel this transition. Now, on the brink of our 40th anniversary, I feel we are at a new stage, ready for some smart growth and artistic development. It is time for a new leader to carry La Peña into the next phase, which I see as building programming, enhancing artistic vision and strengthening community relations.

Our amazing and talented staff and board are more than capable of keeping things on track, and I am committed to overseeing a smooth succession, and will not be leaving right away. We hope to have our new leader in place by our June anniversary. Please see the attached job announcement and share it far and wide. We are looking for an inspirational and multi-talented leader to carry us into our next 40 years!

with my heartfelt thanks,



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


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.


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 Amnesia

Tickets are sliding scale between $18-$36, and can be purchased online ( or at the door at each performance.

Amnesia al2

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.
Screen Shot 2014 3 at 4.34.39 PM





*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!