Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. At La Peña Cultural Center, we are taking significant action beginning this month that will be remembered in our history as the “La Peña Spring” – when we reinvigorated La Peña’s mission of seeking social justice through culture and moved decisively toward financial sustainability.
This journey will be both challenging and rewarding, requiring the collective effort of all concerned about the future of La Peña, to help renovate, reinvigorate and retain its spirit for a new generation of activists and artists. From its birth amid the struggles of the seventies, to its formation as a gathering place that keeps the fires of hope lit, the La Peña of today is calling for new leaders to carry forth the fight. With the dedication of those invested in the center, La Peña’s legacy will continue through the social justice battles of the future.
Now we are sharing with you, our community, our plans to hire a new Executive Director and launch a “Long Live La Peña” campaign. We will hold a public meeting to discuss the initiatives below on March 23 from 3-5 p.m. at the center and invite you to attend.
We welcome all who are as excited as we are to help La Peña remain a vibrant and relevant space for arts and social activism for decades to come. Join us!
Initiative 1: Hiring A New Executive Director, and Other Staff/ Board Changes
A nationwide search is currently underway for an Executive Director who will advance the impact of La Peña’s cultural and social activism, while also securing a sustainable financial base. A number of strong applicants have already applied in response to the job description, which can be found here: Job Opening
The new Executive Director (ED) will work directly with the Board to redesign the staffing model of La Peña so that it can gain financial stability, sustainability and perhaps even a surplus. We aim for the new ED to begin work by May 1, 2013, while maintaining a flexible timeline due to the importance of the position for our future.
With that said, La Peña owes an extraordinary debt of gratitude to former E.D. Paul Chin for his decades of service and his willingness to postpone his retirement for nearly a year in order to assist with urgent needs at the center. Paul has been a steadfast pillar of La Peña, who since stepping away from his role in February has been elected to the La Peña Board of Directors and has been asked to serve as President. Former Board President Carol Pierson has offered to dedicate her time instead to leading the Finance Committee.
During this transition period, the Board of Directors has named two board members to serve as interim co-Directors: Lichi Fuentes, artist, longtime volunteer and director of the La Peña Community Chorus; and Eric Leenson, one of the original founders of La Peña who has been active in socially responsible enterprise for the past 25 years. Lichi and Eric will manage affairs together with La Peña Board Executive Committee members Carol Pierson, Mariola Fernandez, and Paul Chin.
Initiative 2: “Long Live La Peña” Campaign
We are standing on the cusp of a wonderful opportunity to propel La Peña into a period of renovation, leadership and impact. We plan to launch the “Long Live La Peña Campaign” later this spring, as a concerted community effort that will invest $500,000 over the next 18 months in order to: Update La Peña’s building by renovating performance and gathering spaces and its mural façade; Support new leadership and revamp our restaurant as a café/meeting space; Support new forms of cultural activism.
Renovation: As part of this campaign, we anticipate major renovation to the exterior of the La Peña building. This will include updating our historic mural, a project that is being led by master artist Ray Patlan. A mural preservation committee is currently undertaking fundraising efforts. The front of the café area will be graced with a new outdoor seating area and larger windows that will allow more natural light in the café and lounge areas. With the necessary funds, we project that construction may begin by January 2014.
The interior of the building will also undergo significant change, predominantly with upgrades to the theater and lobby areas, finances permitting. Renovation of the restaurant area will be most notable, as we plan to open it up to be a venue for cultural events within an intimate atmosphere. The ultimate goal is fulfillment of the “Peña” concept of a gathering place that integrates food, cultural programming, conversation and good times.
Management: For this transformation to be a success, it is essential that the café be operated directly by La Peña rather than a concessionaire to better coordinate programming between the theater and the café. A revitalized café is central to La Peña’s plans for financial sustainability and vibrant cultural expression. Thus, Café Valparaiso will be moving at the end of June upon expiration of the lease. We deeply thank Pablo and Myrian Valenzuela for their years of dedicated service and wish them the very best success in their new endeavors.
Beginning June 1, we will announce a “request for proposals” for innovative business plans from those seeking to be hired as the Director for the renovated Café/Bar La Peña starting March 2014. Competitive business plans will showcase creativity in step with the spirit of La Peña’s cultural and social justice mission. With the departure of Café Valparaiso on June 30, the dining operations will experience a temporary transition period from July 1, 2013 to January 1, 2014, at which time remodeling will commence. For this brief period we are considering alternatives that would assure smooth operations for our community.
Community: We recognize that the “Long Live La Peña” campaign is a highly ambitious undertaking. We believe that now is the time for such a venture, and that those of us who are seasoned advocates of social justice will take up the demands and challenges in stride, together. We are committed to keeping you, our community, well informed.
Meanwhile, we encourage you to be participate in this historic effort:
• As a DONOR, you can make a contribution here: Donate page
• As a VOLUNTEER, you can help at the center during day or night shifts
• As an AUDIENCE MEMBER, you can attend events and celebratory performances
• As a FAN, you can follow us and promote our activities: Facebook, Twitter, lapena.org
La Peña Board of Directors