ABOUT: “This is a culturally rich neighborhood, but there are so many sub-communities that have their own dynamics,” states Julia Gutierrez, director of programs for Los Pleneros de la 21. LP21 has been part of the neighborhood’s music scene for thirty years, and as the daughter of the band’s founder, Juan Gutierrez, Julia has literally grown up beside it. “I’ve been working in official capacity since 2007,” she laughs. “I manage [the band's] different community-based programs and fundraising.” Asked to explain the programs further, she lists the three main “buckets” of LP21’s programmatic concept: their touring and residency project, which spans everything from performances at local weddings to international tours; the cultural legacy initiative, which brings people together to celebrate and preserve “cultural expression in a community setting”; and the arts education component, which includes a series of residencies, masterclasses, and professional development courses for students of all grades. The band also holds community workshops for bomba y plena and Puerto Rican/Taino culture. "The community has been in a constant state of flux and change over the past 15 years," notes Gutierrez-Rivera. Through it all, Los Pleneros has played an integral role in keeping El Barrio's cultural scene alive and well.
COMMUNITY VISIONS: “First and foremost, we need space,” claims Guterriez, noting that “even though there’s a lot of artists and a lot of organizations” in the neighborhood, “it’s a constant challenge http://artiguity.wordpress.com/photography/ to find [an accessible] place to present your artwork.” This is especially true for musicians and performing artists, who need access to “studios to rehearse and record... [and] theaters that aren’t $5,000 or $10,000 to rent.” So, in order to "support the creative capital in the community," there must be more spaces that are "accessible and give priority in some way to [local] artists."