Conversations | Kyle Lopez
“You owe it to yourself to entrust your art to those who will advocate for it above and beyond an initial acceptance or feature.“
We are excited to interview Kyle Lopez, a Cuban-American poet who just joined New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) as the REDC Fellow, NYFA Learning. Lopez is also a graduate student who looks forward to growing as an arts administrator while supporting NYFA’s programming. Learn more about Lopez’s (pen name Kyle Carrero Lopez) eclectic professional background.
NYFA: Can you tell us about your connection with Cuba and recent projects there?
Kyle Lopez: I come from a Cuban-American family. My father was born in Cuba, while my mother was born to Cuban parents in North Jersey. Thus, I decided to commit part of my time in college to learn more about my heritage via lenses of political science, literature, and Africana studies. This piqued my interest in U.S.-Cuba relations and Santería, which my mother’s side of the family practices. I first traveled to Cuba in 2017 after applying for a literature-focused fellowship from CubaOne, an organization that provides Cuban-Americans with educational trips to Cuba. This time in and around Havana drove me to continue engaging with Cuba beyond the trip, and in February 2020, after months of mission-building and itinerary preparation, I led CubaOne’s first trip with an entirely Afro-Cuban focus alongside two other CubaOne alumni, Vanessa Navarro and Haidee Suarez. With the help of Beyond Roots, a Cuban-founded venture focused on highlighting Afro-Cuban culture, we and the chosen fellows visited major sites of Black history and culture in Cuba, while also having crucial cross-cultural conversations on racial discrimination in both Cuba and the U.S.
NYFA: You’ve gotten many job opportunities since arriving in New York City. Can you share some of your career strategies with our readers?
KL: The first work opportunity I had upon moving to New York City three years ago was with Studio One Eighty Nine, a sustainable fashion brand based in Ghana and the U.S. I had some background working in fashion before then, so I hoped to keep that going. My strategy was to e-mail brands whose values aligned with mine and see if there might be room for me to get involved. I reached out to One Eighty Nine at the right time, and they got me involved in the production team for their Spring/Summer 2018 presentation at New York Fashion Week. I stayed in contact with them from there on, working pop-up events or writing product descriptions for the site. My other early opportunities, like performing in Tania Bruguera’s Untitled (Havana, 2000) at MoMA and my stint in copywriting at an ad agency, came my way largely because I made it known that I was job-hunting by posting on social media and emailing people in my network. I also asked certain contacts who had experience in the roles I was applying for for feedback on cover letters and resume drafts, which they were happy to advise me on. The main takeaway for me has been that people want to help you as much as they can, so though it can feel like a solo task, it definitely isn’t and shouldn’t be.
NYFA: As a literary artist, what advice do you have for artists that want to meet editors and spread the word about their work?
KL: Coming into my MFA program at New York University, I felt some pressure right off the bat to catch up with poets in the program who’d already published work in big places. As time went on, however, I realized that the program’s writers were at a variety of stages in their artistic development, so it didn’t really make sense to compare myself to others. Instead, I shifted my mentality toward being in community with my fellow writers and celebrating their successes just as much as if they were my own, which has really changed the game for me. With less pressure to snag publications as fast as possible, I’ve been able to focus more on ensuring that what I do put out there comes when it’s ready. It’s also become a priority of mine to work with people who go that extra mile in the editorial process, like Madeleine Mori from the Pigeon Pages team, who pushed back on my tendency to sometimes over-edit while explaining why the first version of a poem of mine she chose was working so well. If you encounter a particular artist’s work in a journal or magazine that you really enjoy, don’t be afraid to get in contact with them and ask what their experience of working with the editors was like. You owe it to yourself to entrust your art to those who will advocate for it above and beyond an initial acceptance or feature.
About Kyle Lopez
An experienced writing tutor, copy editor, and program coordinator, Lopez is excited to apply the skills he’s developed over time toward helping artists navigate the challenges of the working artist’s life as the NYFA Learning Team’s Program Fellow. He received a BA degree in English and Interdisciplinary Studies from the College of William & Mary in 2017, and currently attends New York University’s Creative MFA degree program, where he is a Goldwater Fellow. His poetry is published or forthcoming in Hobart, Poetry Magazine, The Cincinnati Review, The Journal, and elsewhere, and he has recently performed at La MaMa Galeria for History/OurStory, at Fahimi in Berlin for the Domicilium reading series, and as featured reader at the Boston Poetry Slam. He lives in Brooklyn.
We’re also excited to welcome Sarah Overton, a former intern who is rejoining NYFA as the REDC Fellow, Development. Overton is currently pursuing her MA degree in Performing Arts Administrationn at New York University. A passionate community collaborator and cellist, Overton has served on boards and committees for the Timucua Arts Foundation, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, and United Arts of Central Florida, and performed as principal cellist for Classern Quartet.
– Interview Conducted by Alicia Ehni, Program Officer
This post is part of the ConEdison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter #127. Subscribe to this free monthly e-mail for artist’s features, opportunities, and events. Learn more about NYFA Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program.
Image from top to bottom: Kyle Lopez, Photo Credit: Leilani Bruce; Jose Corredera Gutierrez and Adriana Heredia of Beyond Roots, with a painting by Gilberto Martinez Gutierrez, Photo Credit: Kyle Lopez; Team involved in Untitled (Havana, 2000) at the MoMA, from left to right: Jonathan González, Jake Sokolov-Gonzalez, Ernesto Manuel López, Victor Rivera, Martha Joseph, Sb Fuller, Laura Pfeffer, Ian Deleón, Kyle Lopez, Stuart Comer, Lizzie Gorfaine, Tania Bruguera, Rudy Gerson, Kate Scherer, Alexis Ruiseco-Lombera, Micki Pellerano; Photo Credit: Micky Lopez