We recently sat down with the founding curator of Boyle Height's own: Barrio De Artes hosted at Primera Taza. This monthly open mic provides local artist with a "safe space" to share their talents, crafts, food, voices and experiences and has the vibe of your abuelita's backyard pachangas. We love vending here so much that we wanted to dive in to the background of the event and the man behind it:
Rebecca: Introduce yourself. Who are you, how old are you, where are you from?
Angel: My name is Angel Nathan Aguilar. I'm 23 years old, and I'm from East Los Angeles, California.
Rebecca: You are kinda a man of many hats, tell me a little bit about that.
Angel: Yes definitely, many hats. And one of the hats I wear is "Latinx AF"
Rebecca: Right! Thank you!
Angel: One of my main hats is definitely lead barista here at Primera Taza, which is also where Barrio de Artes happens, which I am one of the curators of, the other curators are Nazarely Martinez and Jose Perez, their Instagrams are @flor_healing and @djfoist, and my Instagram is just my name. Also singer/songwriter. On the side I play at the local brewery here in Boyle Heights every Friday, just try to get any gigs around LA.
Rebecca: How do you incorporate your love of music into Barrio de Artes?
Angel: My love of music and my love of art and artists together is kind of where that all stems from and also I envision what my favorite things to do in LA and try to put them all together in one single space, which is where Barrio de Artes kinda came out of. Yea, I like going to spots where they have vendors, and then, I like open mics, but sometimes it's a little too intimate- that if I wasn't feeling it too much that day, or didn't feel too pressured to perform. And then also having live art and things like that... just trying to put together as many fun things you can do in LA in one place, and that's kinda where that stems from.
Rebecca: How long have you been doing Barrio de Artes and what inspired you to do it?
Angel: Barrio de Artes started in January 2017, the inspiration for putting it together was I guess in a sense of what I can do for the community and something that just hasn't happened here in Boyle Heights and kinda LA in general, and my motto is not that "oh, that Barrio de Artes idea and the philosophy isn't just mine and no one else should do it," like Barrio de Artes for me is what all the low income communities can kinda produce with just like a space and just trying to find people who are willing to put their foot out there for their art.
Rebecca: You refer to Barrio de Artes as a "safe space." What does that mean?
Angel: A safe space to me represents a place where you can come and kinda break down your wall. Art, whether it be poetry, abstract art, art installations, or just coming and talking to people about things that you've gone through. You know we've had people just come up on the mic and talk about certain shootings here in East LA by cops to young, unarmed kids and things like that and kinda just bringing up conversation in a place where people to not neccessarily have to feel attacked when they speak about these things.
Rebecca: Barrio de Artes feel like a love letter to your Boyle Heights community. Each event that I've been to feels like a family get together. What are some of your favorite components of the event- such as you know, you've got the telescopes out here, you have @flor_healing doing tarot and intuitive readings, you've had the full moon art piece, and food and whatnot. More than typical pop up shops and open mics. What are some of your favorite memories?
Angel: Some of my favorite components, or I guess you could say time is just having the 360 angle, as a host and just looking at all the different things going on, and how in tune people were to each section of Barrio de Artes. You have people at vendors, talking to vendors, and the vendors are sharing their stories of how the art came to be and why they're there and then you have the food pop up people sharing their stories of how they made their food and how being latino or latina kind of inspired those foods, and then just having the people hanging out and feeling like you know, I don't have to go to a bar just to have a good time. Providing a safe sober place for people.
Rebecca: Any favorite memories?
Angel: Definitely I would say the moon themed Barrio de Artes and having people write things they want to release for the full moon, all the different aspects we had at that specific event, and just people sharing what they want to release. It was a very very intimate Barrio de Artes in terms of conversation, and feeling and emotions.
Rebecca: Do you feel like Barrio de Artes has a part in maintaining and holding down a space for local latinxs amid the gentrification of Boyle Heights?
Angel: Definitely. It definitely holds a place for everybody in the community that's either already been displaced, or feeling displaced and just a safe foundation for everybody to build up on, even if they have something already built- it's kinda a reinforcer to what it is they're building and to still show that we still have space in the community for them. And I'm not the only one we also have Espacio right across the street, and a lot of different autonomous spaces around the city of LA, and just you know keeping things like this consistent, and keeping it true to it's nature is important.
Rebecca: Running events is stressful, so what keeps y'all going?
Angel: The support from the community, and the support from all the different people collaborating. People don't understand how far a "thank you" goes, and how a very sincere repost on Instagram goes, that really means a lot. You know, the first three months was kind of the hardest, and kind of trail and error. And when I was just doing it by myself, I had this idea. I always had @djfoist and @florhealing with me for the events, but the first three months it was kinda me just throwing it all together and starting everuthing, but around the three months is when @djfoist was like- ok, this is what I can bring, and @florhealing was like- this is what I can bring, and after that it was just a really beautiful roller coaster of different people in the community saying " I can do this, and I can do that" and that's definitely helped. And that's kinda the goal too- my whole thing is just to collaborate with local people that have really positive philosophies.
Rebecca: What is in store for Barrio de Artes, any next steps?
Angel: Definitely. Even more authenticity. That was a big enforcer for me for Barrio de Artes is it's not just a place to take an Instagram picture, or just a place for the Instagram hype or the Instagram culture that people are very drawn to. It's a place where you can come, and you can take your Instagram picture, but you can also have a really good time, really sincere moments with people, things like that.
Rebecca: I don't know how you do it, but you do it!
Rebecca: You're obviously very passionate about your community here in Boyle Heights so what do you want people who aren't from LA or East LA, or California. Who aren't familiar with Boyle Heights to know about Boyle Heights and your community?
Angel: You know, the name in itself is kind of flipping perspective and redirecting perspective because "barrio" the word itself kinda carries a lot of energy in terms of negative energy, and you know it's been used that way for so long "oh the barrio! and this and that"- and so, that's where the name Barrio de Artes, "Barrio of Arts" cus yes it is the barrio but it's not just negative aspects of what carries that name, we're also full of artists, full of teachers, full of doctors. We have so much going for us that gets neglected- and things like you know, telescopes, and things like spirituality and things that are very foreign to latinos, but now we are really embracing- and artisan things like ceramic making, or making jewelry, it's not things that we haven't done before but it is things that we have kind of lost through the U.S. culture of just working. Just embracing that we all have these little gifts, and if we really hone into them that we can make something special.