Mission & History

Founded in 1989 as the result of a broad community mobilization in the City of San José and nationwide on behalf of multicultural arts, MACLA has promoted since its inception a vision of arts programming as a vehicle for civic dialogue and social equity.

A hybrid urban arts space located in downtown San José and rooted in the Chicano/Latino experience, MACLA intersects many communities, cultures, and aesthetic approaches. The participation of Latino and non-Latino audiences has been a distinctive feature of MACLA since its inception. Our patrons, audiences, and participants are 70% Latino and 30% non-Latino.

From this genesis in advocacy and activism, MACLA has evolved into a community-based arts organization identified in 2003 by Cultural Initiatives Silicon Valley as Santa Clara County’s “most practiced and mature site of cultural-citizenship-building through participatory arts.” More than 30,000 children, youth, young adults, families and community residents participate in the 50 programs MACLA produces each year in four core program tracts: visual arts; performance and literary arts; youth arts education; and community development through the arts. 

MACLA is committed to emerging Latino artists and audiences. Further, MACLA has an exemplary record of collaboration with other nonprofit organizations and community partners. Many of these collaborations go beyond arts programming to promote the well-being of the Latino community as a vital force in society. The most significant example was MACLA’s participation in incubating and organizing the first charter school in San José, Downtown College Prep, which serves primarily Latino youth without a family history of college attendance. In 2010, MACLA was honored to be the only San José organization to be named by Philanthropedia as one of the 21 most effective arts and culture organizations in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. 

Message from the Executive Director

Since 1989, MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana has become a nationally recognized, contemporary arts space known throughout the Bay Area for our unique and innovative vision of using the arts as a catalyst for social change.

A cornerstone of the vibrant SoFA (South First Area) arts and entertainment district, we offer groundbreaking and risk-taking programs in the visual, performing and literary arts that intentionally bridge cultural divides. Our work challenges notions about contemporary Latino arts and culture, celebrates all cultures, engages urban youth and confronts urgent themes in today’s society. Our work reflects the dynamic, creative, technological and community-oriented currents of Silicon Valley —yearly we explore key issues such as immigration; privacy in the age of social networking; hybrid “Latino-“ and “-American” identities; the changing nature of cities; transnational culture; and, the ongoing impact of globalization on local cultures. In doing so, we bring our local sensibility to the global dialogue. Ours is a space and a place.

We have always been at the forefront of arts programming, featuring a mix of innovative and groundbreaking art and performances that both circumscribe and defy the traditions from which they have come. We believe that cultural citizenship-building can come from an inclusive mix of past and present, the classic and the new, supported by the rigorous curatorial approaches of our experienced staff.

MACLA’s inclusiveness and unique approach extends to our large community, which includes over 30,000 participants per year. Artists mingle with audiences in the form of workshops and post-performance talkbacks; young students are mentored by professional artists in our award-winning Peapod Adobe Youth Voices Academy program; and, donors and new art collectors are at the forefront of arts and culture in the gallery talks with our curators. For us, art is education, participation, activism, and a multi-part dialogue that keeps expanding its citizenship and members.

You are already part of our community, even before you come see our shows or happen to stumble upon us during the popular South First Friday walks. But we hope that you will make yourself officially a part of our family, by attending, donating, creating, and engaging. Welcome to MACLA.

-Anjee Helstrup-Alvarez

Skip to content