National Conversations

National Conversations


conversations NALAC 20170712 NLI 0627NLI Alumni Class of 2017


Building Latino Leadership, Cultural Equity and Creative Innovation


NALAC has conducted six National Conversations to examine innovations, promote national dialogue and gather information on how demographic shifts and economic conditions are affecting the leadership structures, artistic production, organizational capacity and cultural equity in Latino communities.


The first three conversations were convened in January 2010 in New York, San Antonio and Philadelphia. These historic conversations resulted in the publication of three white papers (now christened by NALAC as brown papers) that were presented to a national audience at NALAC’s 7th National Conference in San Jose, California.


NALAC convened the second iteration of National Conversations in 2011-2012 in San Francisco, Chicago and Miami to gather additional perspectives from the diverse national Latino arts sector. Each conversation was followed by a Town Hall meeting to gather feedback from the arts community in each city.


NALAC invited accomplished Latino artists, leaders, legends, scholars and others from around the country to participate in its groundbreaking National Conversations Project in order to identify solutions to issues of capitalization, next generation leadership development and capacity building.



The 2010 “brown” papers were written by the acclaimed journalist, Elizabeth Mendez Berry, whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Vibe, the Village Voice, Smithsonian, The Nation and Time, among many others. Dr. Maribel Alvarez edited the papers. Charles Rice-González served as the NALAC National Conversations Coordinator. NALAC Board Members, Dr. Alvarez, Ms. Rolón and Abel López, served on the projects advisory committee.


Click here to download printable documents.



The 2010 National Conversations were part of a comprehensive research and assessment of the Latino arts field that NALAC initiated as part of its 20th Anniversary activities. The conversations took place in San Antonio, New York and Philadelphia. After of full day of conversation and documentation, NALAC hosted a local reception for the participants, local artists, leaders, cultural activists and regional NALAC members, grant recipients and graduates of its national leadership institute.


SAN ANTONIO | Leadership, Transitions and Succession in Latino Organizations

The first conversation in San Antonio, Texas held on January 16, 2010 focused on Leadership, Transitions and Succession in Latino Organizations. Dr. Maribel Alvarez, Assistant Research Professor in the English Department and Research Social Scientist at the Southwest Center, University of Arizona, moderated the discussion. This conversation discussed the challenges, benefits and models for the transfer of organizational knowledge and transition of leadership of arts and cultural organizations and artists’ collectives. From succession plans, transitional growth, “founder’s syndrome,” methods of developing new leadership, and sustainability, the discussion examined where Latino arts organizations (given the history and longevity of many) have been, where they are and their future.


NEW YORK CITY | The Evolving American Latino Arts and Culture Landscape

The second conversation in New York City held on January 23, 2010 focused on Latino Arts and Cultural Organizations and their role in the evolving American Latino arts and culture landscape. Rosalba Rolón, Artistic Director and co-founder of the award-winning Pregones Theatre, moderated the discussion. This conversation convened flagship Latino organizations from around the country, cultural leaders and funders to discuss their challenges as they compete against mainstream culture organizations for funds, audiences, etc., and discussed their role in the preservation, development and advancement of Latino art and culture, their place in the overall arts landscape, and their role going into the future.


PHILADELPHIA | Aesthetics and the Making of Art

The third conversation took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and focused on aesthetics and the making of art. Dr. Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, an independent scholar of Latin American and U.S. Latino arts and culture and formally the Associate Director of Creativity and Culture at the Rockefeller Foundation, moderated the conversation. This conversation discussed the aesthetics that have defined Latino art and culture and how those aesthetics have developed and evolved. The conversation looked at contemporary definitions, how new ways in which Latinos define ourselves may play a role in the art that is being created and the many founts of influence that contribute to the Latino art-making aesthetic.


NALAC’s National Conversations Project received support from the National Endowment of the Arts and sponsorship from Southwest Airlines.