In a little more than two weeks time, three young Latina artists will depart for New York City to expand on their burgeoning careers in the arts. As part of the first-ever Puentes Young Artists Residency, these three students will be able to meet new mentors and community leaders in the city and take classes and workshops with other creative types.
The residency program was envisioned by CEIBA (Communities Enlivened Interactively Building through the Arts), a cooperative community named after the tropical tree of life, focused on making arts education more accessible to the San Antonio community.
The organization was conceived by Erica DelaRosa, a Westside SA native who moved to New York for college in 1995 and lived and worked there until three years ago.
"It was so exciting and it was exactly where I wanted to be, but there were feelings of loneliness," she says of
her initial arrival as an 18-year-old to the city. As a student adrift in the Northeast, she found herself asking, "How do I create community? How do I navigate as a young artist in this huge city?"
After her return to South Texas, she founded CEIBA along with fellow teaching artist Clint Taylor, with the purpose of educating the community in arts, providing pop-up gallery shows with partner organizations, and linking together cultural workers, educators, and other facilitators into collaborations to make the arts more visible throughout San Antonio.
Just this year, DelaRosa and Taylor kickstarted the Puentes Young Artists Residency to allow young students to live like working artists, with mentors teaching them how to fundraise, network, volunteer, and self-promote online. Beyond the expertise of CEIBA itself, the residency program will also allow young artists workshop and internship opportunities once they arrive in New York City in the fields of their choosing.
Paola Sanchez, 19, met DelaRosa through her voice lessons a couple years back, applied to the residency, and was chosen as a finalist. An alum of SAY Sí along with the other two residents, she has been pursuing musical theater throughout high school and at Texas State.
"I've known for a long time that NY is where I wanna be," she explains as she describes her goals to transfer to Manhattan Marymount College for her junior year.
The program has already taught her much, particularly about how to fundraise to support her creative endeavors.
Already this summer, the three artists have hosted a yard sale, sold barbecue plates, and washed cars to help pay for travel and living expenses. The residency also
has a GoFundMe page to solicit donations.
"If you're choosing the life of an artist you have to learn how to fundraise for yourself," DelaRosa explained. To her, it's important for artists to learn how to create possibilities for themselves rather than relying on grants or other funding.
In their three weeks residency, Sanchez, and her companions Esmeralda Hernandez and Madeline Ramos will take classes in subjects like African dance, which aren't really available to them in San Antonio, and train alongside young artists and performers at studios like Steps Over Broadway.
Taylor explains that at the end of their journey, he hopes to have the residents lead a workshop or community event to showcase what they learned. But the true end goal of the program is creating a "wave of continuity" in which the three young Latina artists can give back to their immediate communities.
DelaRosa and Taylor intend for the residency program to provide a springboard for these young women's future creative pursuits, and teach them the value of sharing their experiences with the next crop of aspiring artists back home.