Creativity and inclusion are the strong ties that bind Culturas Music & Arts, a community-driven organization in Eastern Coachella Valley dedicated to promoting the arts. Working with a variety of artists, musicians, and local entities, the organization has made a noticeable impact in outreach since its inception back in 2012.
“We’ve been around for a while now and we’re excited to make a difference in the future,” says Oralia Ortiz, co-founder and board member of Culturas Music & Arts.
Like many arts organizations, this group sprang from humble beginnings. One day, Ortiz and her friends realized something was missing in the Eastern Valley cultural landscape. “Were just a bunch of friends hanging out and I said, ‘You know what? Nothing is happening here in Coachella,’” she says. “’ There’s no public art. There’s nothing.’”
That quickly changed when the intrepid souls turned their focus to revitalizing a black wall located on Shady Lane. Ortiz organized a mural painting, which would feature Chicano-Mexican history.
“The mural depicts different eras in our culture that were significant,” Ortiz explains. “Volunteer artists and first-time muralists were involved. Most of them were graffiti artists and taggers, and when they researched that period, they learned a little bit of history and a lot about the culture.”
Ortiz goes on to say that the mural, which is more than a thousand feet long, is one of the longest murals in the state. It also served as a springboard for the Synergy Music and Arts Festival, which now takes place annually in the region.
All of it seemed to fuel a greater destiny for the organization, whose work revolves around forming strong, positive community values through cultural understanding and artistic awareness. Offering safe, healthy, and educational environments that promote the arts is key.
Recently, Culturas Music & Arts received a Creative Corps Inland SoCal Grant through the Inland Empire Community Foundation (IECF). Creative Corps Inland SoCal is a unique collaboration between IECF, the California Arts Council, Riverside Arts Council, California Desert Arts Council, Arts Connection, and the California Desert Arts Council. Its work greatly impacts Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
“The grant will help us develop more programs,” Ortiz says of the recent funding, pointing out the group’s Criselie Project, which began three years ago when an old FedEx truck was donated to Culturas Music & Arts. The truck will be revamped and used for mobile outreach in the Eastern Valley.
“We’re going to take art into the community daily, Ortiz is quick to note, “Whether it’s painting or ceramics or anything that the kids will be interested in. We will eventually hire artists to take their mobile art unit into the Eastern Valley, and all the disadvantaged communities like Mecca, Oasis, Thermal, and even the Salton Sea.”
All this ties into the group’s commitment to providing programs where self-expression, creativity, and diversity are valued and appreciated. To that end, Ortiz and her creative posse extend an invitation to residents of the entire region to come forward and share their stories, talents, and aspirations creatively.
Up next for the organization is yet another ambitious endeavor.
“About three years ago, the City of Coachella allocated the old corporate yard, which is located on the corner of Vine Street and Second Street and that will be transformed into a culture and arts center,” Ortiz says of the project. “We’re working on that now. We’ll build a ceramic studio, and woodworking, metal, and dance studios. There will be culinary arts, a café, and a gallery where kids can learn how to cook, but at the same time, learn how to run a business.
“Hopefully the first phase of that is going to be done by the end of this following year,” she adds.
Learn more about Culturas Music & Arts at culturasmusicartscv.com.
Visit IECF at iegives.org.
This story originally appeared in the Desert Sun January 2024.
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