It is hard to miss the kaleidoscopic four stories of the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts swathed in a Carlos Loarca mural.
But lately, Pedro Reyes is more interested in directing your attention to what is happening — and what has happened — inside. To do that, he’s taking the 36-year-old cultural center, digital.
Since his arrival seven months ago as the new events and media coordinator, the high school teacher-DJ-radio host-turned community organizer has built partnerships with local TV and radio stations. He has also launched the center’s first effort to digitally reformat recordings of exhibits, performances and events — all for archiving, streaming on the web and outside distribution.
A digital presence, he says, will ensure the center’s ability to continue its mission with the younger generations of Latinos, artists and the community.
Thanks to Reyes, some of that video distribution is now reaching art outlets in Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Berkeley and Monterey. He even caught the attention of Stanford and San Francisco State, which have used videos for lectures. One such video is a panel discussion with Librotraficante’s Tony Diaz, local Bay Area professors and authors to discuss Arizona’s banning of Hispanic history books. The discussion included readings by the authors and how banned books were later smuggled into Arizona.
Another shared recording was of a performance by Raices Negras, a traditional Afro-Peruvian music group in the Bay Area.
“It’s about promoting all of our work — the past, the present and what’s coming up,” Reyes said.
For now, he is focused on working backwards, starting with digitally archiving present-day material before taking on historical archives, though that’s the ultimate goal. “We have all this [historical] content we want to digitally archive and put online,” Reyes said, adding that the material included recordings of performances by Grammy-nominated percussionist John Santos when he was a student at the center and Sacramento’s poet laureate José Montoya, who died last month. In August, Santos revisited the center for a recent recording.
Another, recorded years ago, is of Director Luis Valdez when he, along with some of the actors, presented a screening of his film, “La Bamba” at the center. These “treasures” of the Chicano movement as Reyes calls them, are important to resurrect for today’s audience.
One of the center’s biggest partnerships is with Bay Area Video Coalition, which owns Channel 29.
A newly developed show, “MCCLA Presents” airs every second Friday of the month to Channel 29′s national audience. On weekends, the show is rerun. The hour-long segment features exhibit, dance and music performances recorded at the center. Last month, for example, the segment included a discussion with artists Paz de la Calzada, Carina Lomeli and Adrian Arias on migration, documentation and visual thinking.
Camera equipment loaned by the video coalition — and stored at the center — is used for recordings as well as to teach drop-in students or volunteers how to shoot and edit. The video group uses the same equipment to broadcast its own shows from the center.
In addition to the coalition’s contributions, the center offers digital teaching programs as iMovie, Final Cut Pro and Pro Tools.
This year, “MCCLA Presents” has already broadcast eight shows. The performance-based segment also streams online via BAVC.org and MCCLA’s Ustream account.
“One of the best things that has happened is our collaboration with the Bay Area Video Coalition,” said Adrian Arias, the center’s director for multimedia arts, who works with Reyes. “We are teaching the community to use the cameras and how to edit, so our young people learn how to communicate better in modern life.”
Reyes said that another hour-long spot is in the works. “This segment would focus on collaborators and what they’re doing in the community,” he said.
Another broadcast-focused development based on a partnership with the Bay Area Video Coalition is the Video Literacy Project, which involves creating minute-long Public Service Announcement (PSA) videos on upcoming classes and volunteering. As in “MCCLA Presents,” volunteers and community members can drop in to learn how to use the equipment, set up the equipment or edit.
The PSA videos are streamed on YouTube and work as an alternative to traditional promotional flyers.
“We’d like to start promoting our classes through PSAs,” said Reyes, who ultimately wants to develop a 24-hour digital stream of the center’s exhibits, performances, projects, interviews and event promotion.
On the Air with KPFA
Getting underway is a KPFA-MCCLA’s biweekly radio program, “Flashpoints Radio on Pacifica Radio,” a political, news magazine show. MCCLA airs every other Friday as a special edition on Dennis Bernstein’s “Flashpoints Radio on Pacifica Radio” show.
Reyes spent nearly 15 years as a volunteer teaching digital storytelling and radio broadcast at the center. For the past five years, he’s also hosted his own redeye show at KPFA, “Setting the Standard with Pedro Reyes.”
In the last three months, “Flashpoints” has aired seven remote broadcastings from the center, including interviews with San Francisco poet laureate and MCCLA co-founder Alejandro Murguía and Richard Montoya (son of José Montoya) of the Chicano performance group, Culture Clash. During the show, Montoya discussed his new film, “The Other Barrio.” The radio segments are also streamed online at KPFA.org.
Reyes said the new direction has helped enrollment in the center’s classes.
Beatshop, a music workshop, had its highest enrollment yet. “Students were standing in the room,” Reyes said.
More eyes are also viewing the center’s programming, he continued.
Some 30,000 viewers a month go online to watch their streamed video or public television programming. That number, Reyes adds, will only grow.
Many Chicanos don’t think there are as many opportunities to see themselves or their culture in the media, according to Reyes. The Cultural Center is trying to change that.
“In the end, we’re building a stage for those to present Chicano culture, arts and social issues and have folks be witness to that, and know that it exists in their community.”