April 19 Conference Honors Legacy of Tomás Rivera

Leading Latino artists will discuss how the Chicano poet and UCR chancellor inspired their work in celebration that includes workshops, Grammy Award-winning musicians and evening theatrical performance

portrait of Tomas Rivera

Internationally renowned muralist Barbara Carrasco created this portrait image of Tomás Rivera for the 25th anniversary conference on April 19.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Award-winning artists Luis Alfaro, Josefina Lopez and Barbara Carrasco — two playwrights and a muralist who were inspired by Tomás Rivera — will lead the 25th anniversary conference honoring the legacy of the former UC Riverside chancellor  and Chicano poet on Friday, April 19.

The all-day annual conference — “Literacy & Legacy — A Celebration of the Life and Work of Tomás Rivera” —begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Highlander Union Building at UCR and includes afternoon workshops with prominent Latino artists, musicians, playwrights and screenwriters. It concludes in the evening at University Theatre with the staged reading of “And the Earth Did Not Devour Him,” Rivera’s classic novel adapted into a new play by Tiffany Ana López, professor of theater and the Tomás Rivera Chair in the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. The reading will be directed by award-winning filmmaker and theater director Juliette Carrillo.

Actor Alma Martinez, one of the original cast members of the play and film “Zoot Suit,” will join the post-play conversation with the audience. Her acting career spans 35 years in film, television and theater in the U.S., Mexico and Europe. She has premiered the work of playwrights JoAnne Akalaitis, Luis Alfaro, Cherrie Moraga, Arthur Giron and Milcha Sanchez Scott, and has been a guest artist at the Sundance Institute. Martinez is a longtime artistic associate of Luis Valdez and El Teatro Campesino and has appeared as the lead actress in most of Valdez’s most significant work.

Registration for the conference is required by April 12 and may be made online. The conference is free and open to the public. Parking costs $6 in Lot 30 and $8 in Lot 6 (pay by space). Permits may be purchased at the kiosk on West Campus Drive, near the campus entrance at University Avenue. Registration for Master Class Workshops is limited and priority will be given to those who preregister for all conference events.

The annual conference honors the legacy of Rivera, who was UCR’s chancellor from 1979 until his death after a heart attack in 1984. Rivera was the first Hispanic and first minority chancellor in the UC system. He also was an award-winning writer of poems, short stories and literary essays.

“Tomás Rivera occupies a historic role for his rare combination of talents in creative writing, academic scholarship, and administrative leadership,” said Tiffany López, conference organizer. “In speeches, he invoked the phrase ‘civic morality’ to convey his hope that we never lose sight of serving the community as ambassadors of knowledge. He understood arts and education as particularly important because of their abilities to dramatically transform how people understand themselves and the world. He saw all of us linked together as storytellers, ‘searchers’ on a quest with the spoken word our ‘seed of love in the darkness.’”

The conference will begin with a plenary featuring Luis Alfaro, Josefina Lopez and Barbara Carrasco in a discussion about “Reflections on 25 Years of Making Art to Make a Difference,” followed by lunch and a live musical presentation by Grammy Award winners Martha Gonzalez and the Quetzal Flores.

Afternoon Master Class Workshops will include:

  • Luis Alfaro, “Playwriting and Performance from/for the Community.” Alfaro works in theater, performance, poetry, short fiction, and journalism. He is the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, popularly known as a “genius grant,” and is the only playwright to receive two Kennedy Center Fund for New American Play awards in the same year. A former resident artist at the Mark Taper Forum for 10 years, his plays and performances have been seen throughout the Americas and Europe. He won an Emmy for his short film, “Chicanismo,” and his first screenplay, “From Prada to Nada,” was produced and released by Lionsgate in 2011.
  • Josefina López, “Finding Your Voice – How to Get in Tune with Your Soul’s Mission & Message.” López works across the genres of theater, film, poetry, novels and essays. She is the founding artistic director of Casa 0101, a cultural center in Boyle Heights that nurtures a new generation of Latino artists. López is best known for authoring the play and co-authoring the film “Real Women Have Curves,” winner of a Sundance Audience Award. She is the recipient of an Artist-in-Residency Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group; a screenwriting fellowship from the California Arts Council; and the Humanitas Prize for Screenwriting (with co-author George LaVoo).
  • Barbara Carrasco, “Visual Narrative – The Art of Mural Making.” Carrasco is an internationally recognized artist and muralist who has been involved in community arts and outreach programming for The Getty Museum, Self-Help Graphics, and the Center for Political Graphics. Her works have been exhibited throughout the U.S., Europe, and Latin America, and have been featured in numerous publications such as Ms. Magazine, Los Angeles Times, New York Times and FlashArt. In 2008, The Girl Scouts of America created a merit patch in community leadership based on her iconographic image of Dolores Huerta, which has also become the signature logo of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, for which Carrasco is a founding board member.
  • Miguel Garcia, “Brown and Out – Creating Queer Plays & Theater Festivals.” Garcia is a playwright who in 2011 produced “Brown & Out,” Casa 0101’s first play festival celebrating the Latino/a LGBTQ experience.  He also produced Casa 0101’s “Occupy the Heart,” a play festival that explored the Occupy Wall Street movement and featured his short play “Unoccupied Spaces.” In 2012, he produced “Brown & Out 2” at the new Casa 0101 Theater, and facilitated a writing workshop for residents of Jovenes Inc., a homeless shelter in Boyle Heights for transitional age youth.  “Brown & Out” was accepted into the 10th International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, with performances scheduled in May.
  • Martha Gonzalez and Quetzal Flores, “Collective Songwriting – Testimonio, Healing, Knowledge Production as Community.” Gonzalez is the recipient of a Fulbright Garcia-Robles fellowship (2007-2008) for her research on transnational musical social movements across the Americas and Europe. She is also a Ford Dissertation Fellow ( 2012-2013), as well as a recipient of the Doman Award for Excellence in Teaching (2011) from the University of Washington, Seattle. Her academic interests in music have been fueled by her musicianship as a singer and percussionist for East L.A’s Quetzal for 17 years. She has collaborated, and/or toured with artists such as Los Lobos, Jackson Brown, iCubanismo!, Taj Mahal, Tom Waits, The B-side Players, Teatro Campesino, and Laura Rebolloso. Quetzal Flores is the founder of the band Quetzal, which won both a Grammy and a Latin Grammy for its 2012 album “Imaginaries.” The group has had considerable impact on the Los Angeles music scene. The relevance of Quetzal’s work has been noted in a range of publications from dissertations to scholarly books, resulting in invitations from the U.S. Library of Congress and Kennedy Center to perform and speak in September 2011 as a part of the “Homegrown” music series. The traveling exhibit “American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music,” sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute, featured Quetzal as leaders and innovators of Chicano music.
  • Mujeres de Maiz, Felicia “Fe” Montes and Joanna Mixpe Ley, “Harvesting Hope and Healing Through Poetry.” Mujeres de Maiz is a grassroots, multimedia women’s activist art network based in Los Angeles. The organization’s mission is to unite and empower women of all ages, colors and sexualities by creative safe community spaces that provide art education, mentorship, art exhibition, and publishing opportunities.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-7847
E-mail: bettye.miller@ucr.edu
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Tiffany López
Tel: (951) 827-1929
E-mail: tiffany.lopez@ucr.edu

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