Conversations | Interview with Adriana Rios, Grants Program Manager at NALAC

Conversations | Interview with Adriana Rios, Grants Program Manager at NALAC

The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC), one of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the promotion, advancement, development, and cultivation of the Latino arts field, is one of our partners in San Antonio, TX, supporting the Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program.

With over 400 applicants this past year, the NALAC Fund for the Arts (NFA) is the only national grant program investing in Latinx artists and nonprofit arts organizations in the United States.

During the first weekend of IAP San Antonio (meet our newest cohort here!), we had a chance to speak with Adriana Rios, NALAC’s Grants Program Manager, about the application process and other opportunities the organization offers. As an advocate for stronger representation and equity in the arts and a film lover at heart, Rios also gives us insights into the Adán Medrano Legacy Award in Film.

NYFA: Did you see any trends in past applications for The NALAC Fund for the Arts? What are some of the issues/themes that Latinx artists are interested in these days?

Adriana Rios: We were very excited to see the number of applications that came in for this year’s grant cycle! They came from all over the country and Puerto Rico, and it’s always incredible to see what Latinx artists are creating in their communities. In terms of trends, we definitely see an influx of applications coming in from states that have high Latinx demographics such as Texas, California, and New York. However, we’re also starting to notice an increase in applications from other parts of the country—such as the Midwest and the South—which are not always immediately thought of as areas with a high Latinx concentration. For our team, receiving applications from these states allow us to get a glimpse into what Latinx cultural production looks like across different areas and how NALAC can start to build relationships with artists producing important work in those places. We believe Latinx artists are often at the forefront of directly addressing the issues that are taking place in our current social and political climate, so we did see migration, immigration, history and human rights arise as consistent themes in the applications we received this year.

Digital illustration

NYFA: Can you tell us what made some projects stand out during the review process?

AR: Of course! NFA applications are evaluated through the following criteria: Artistic Merit, Funding Impact, and Capability. We find that applications that rise to the top are able to successfully demonstrate how their work addresses each category. On a technical level, we saw that applications that stood out were succinct and clear. We make it a point in our review process to acknowledge that artists start at different places in the grant-writing process, some may have more experience writing grant proposals while others may be first-time grant writers. However, regardless of experience, the applications that always rose to the top were the ones that were able to paint a full picture of what the artist intended to do within the funding period. On an artistic level, we found that project proposals that pushed the envelope of Latinx cultural production were incredibly exciting to panelists. In other words, where there was innovation, reimagination, or artistic approaches that engaged the community in a creative way, there were high levels of enthusiasm and eagerness by the reviewers.

NYFA: Knowing about your love for film, we’d like to ask you some questions about the Adán Medrano Legacy Award in Film [Emerging Filmmakers]. Who should apply for it and how can they prepare in advance for this opportunity?

AR: The Adán Medrano Legacy Award in Film is a grant opportunity offered through the NALAC Fund for the Arts each year. It was developed by the Donor Collaborative of the Adán Medrano Legacy Award with the intention to further impel dynamic, Latinx cinema production by emerging filmmakers that contribute towards a cultural understanding of Latinx expression and identity. It’s currently open to emerging Latinx filmmakers in the U.S. or Puerto Rico, where “emerging filmmaker” is defined as: having less than five years of experience in filmmaking as a writer, director or producer; having completed at least one independent film or video work in one of those roles; and having received basic training in the media arts. Training can be formal (college or university) or informal (production courses, workshops, hands-on experience). So, if you meet that criteria, we encourage you to apply! However, NALAC is currently thinking about what emerging means in the broader context of film and cinematic production, especially since our community is so underrepresented in the industry. Currently, this is one of our most competitive grant categories, so if you are considering applying, my advice is to think hard about what work samples really speak to your experience as a filmmaker. Again, clarity is key in the grant-writing process and since film is so reliant on visual story-telling, it’s important to think about what work allows panelists to understand your capability and artistic ability.

Film still of two women by a body of water

NYFA: We are delighted to see that this year NALAC added an Artist Grant for artists living in Puerto Rico. Can you tell us more about this program?

AR: We’re so thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity for artists living and creating work in Puerto Rico. This grant opportunity came out after we closed the general categories for the NFA. We wanted to make sure that we were building an application that was accessible and relevant to the needs of artists on the island. We partnered with Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, who has been actively involved with artists on the island since Hurricane Maria hit, and their team was incredibly helpful in both the crafting of the application and the outreach process. In its inaugural year, we received over ninety applications for the Puerto Rico Artist Grant. It is our goal to continue offering this grant opportunity in future years as well as develop relationships and networks with artists on the island. NALAC doesn’t simply want to be a funder, we want to support the artists and communities on the ground who have been doing the work to sustain the creative and cultural practices of the island and stand in solidarity with their efforts. Artists are leading the charge in both depicting the political and socioeconomic realities post-Hurricane Maria, as well as demonstrating the vibrant, resilient, and creative expressions that have existed on the island for decades.

Open air art installation

NYFA: The application is now open for the NALAC Leadership Institute. Do you have any advice for people that are thinking about applying?

AR: The NALAC Leadership Institute is a week-long leadership and arts management program that aims to equip Latinx artists and arts administrators with innovative and practical strategies that lead to successful business practices in the arts. My advice would be to think about your professional goals and what you’re hoping to accomplish. Once you’ve defined that for yourself, consider the following: How can the NALAC Leadership Institute be a resource for you in your professional and artistic journey? Knowing your goals and professional aspirations are essential to the application process. You’ll want to be clear and concise in defining what they are in your narrative. Ultimately, it’s our hope that every fellow that passes through any of our leadership programs feel valued and that the commitment to growth is not only your objective, but ours as well.

– Interview Conducted by Alicia Ehni, Program Officer at NYFA Learning

About Adriana Rios
Prior to joining NALAC, Rios worked in the programming departments of a variety of different places, including Geekdom, the Princess Grace Foundation, and the Tribeca Film Institute. Rios is a graduate of New York University where she had the opportunity to study Film and Television Production. During her time at NYU, she got involved with the Fusion Film Festival, a student-run organization that celebrates women in film, television, and new media. Rios is an advocate for stronger representation and equity in the arts. A film lover at heart, she hopes to one day start a production company that provides visibility and resources for underrepresented filmmakers.

About National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC)
The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC), based in San Antonio, TX, gives grants to Latino artists and arts organizations working in all creative disciplines across the United States and Puerto Rico.

This interview is part of the ConEdison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter #113. Subscribe to this free monthly e-mail for artist’s features, opportunities, and events.

Interested in developing your leadership skills? You can apply for our Emerging Leaders Open Call, a free leadership development program for arts administrators within commuting distance to New York City. Deadline is January 30!

Images from top to bottom: Adriana Rios, Photo Credit: Luis Garza; Zeke Peña (2017 – 2018 NFA Artist Grant Recipient), El Puente, ink/digital illustration, Courtesy of the artist; Karina Skvirsky (2017 – 2018 NFA Artist Grant Recipient), The Perilous Journey of María Rosa Palacios, video still, courtesy of the artist; Yancy Villa-Calvo (2017 – 2018 NFA Artist Grant Recipient); Barrier Free: A Socially Engaged Art Installation, Photographer Credit: Brandon Dill

Amy Aronoff
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