Fuerte Arts Movement Q&A
Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the rich culture and history of Hispanic and Latin Americans. As we reflect on the work of so many great historical trailblazers, we wanted to highlight fellow CO+HOOTS members who are making strides in their community today. Meet Xenia and Dominic, founders of the Fuerte Arts Movement, a non-profit that creates space for creatives of all backgrounds to share their stories and educate the local community on pressing social issues.
What motivated you to start Fuerte?
D: We started Fuerte as a community organization, art, and advocacy non-profit last year because we, as creatives and artists, saw that we were missing a little bit of that creative edge in our progressive advocacy organizing.
Where do you fall in the creative category?
X: I am a painter and, over the years, I have learned how to be a videographer, photographer, audio editor, and web developer.
D: Starting from an early age, I was surrounded by music. And even before I could play it, I was pretending like I could play music. Like, I used to lie to my friends and say I had a band, and then at some point, that became real and I did have a band in high school at some point. I majored in vocal performance for one semester before I got sick, and I couldn’t continue being a vocal major. But after that, once I went back to school, I focused on recording music. Then I got into making videos, which led me to create websites. Performing arts and creativity has always been my sort of strength. So using that for my progressive values was just sort of a natural transition.
What kind of artists and creatives do you currently work with?
X: We have a mix of young, up-and-coming artists and a couple of established artists who are part of our movement. The best part about working with both of those populations is that they’re able to bounce ideas back and forth in a kind of synthesis of young and inexperienced, meeting old and wise, coming together with their different ideas, feeding off of each other’s energy and learning from one another.
D: Because we started during the pandemic, we’ve mostly worked with digital artists, a lot of video makers, and graphics creators. But recently, since we’ve become vaccinated we started to work with performance artists. We worked with a couple of choreographers. We put together a performance art where a lot of people that are involved with our movement organizations came down to participate. They all learned choreography with music and we worked with a songwriter from New York who helped put together some songs. It turned out to be this cool performance art thing. But we love working with our videographers. We just also love that we’re getting to diversify into our different mediums of art. And we’re looking forward to growing into as many creative spaces and see how all the different creative mediums can be used for activism.
What is the most fun thing about what you do?
D: I think the best part about what we’re doing with Fuerte is getting to work with young artists and show them not only how to use their creativity as a career, but a career where they get to help their community and address the pressing issues of the moment and how to guide those issues to be the least harmful it can be or stop it if we can.
Was it scary to work for yourself and not someone else??
X: Oh, hell yeah. I mean, every day we’re learning something new. We need to follow this rule and make sure that we don’t get in trouble or that there’s a better way of doing a thing that we were doing before. Like, every day is a different challenge. Sometimes. It’s like, oh, no, we got to handle this now, and other days it’s like, oh, okay. I didn’t know that. Let’s make this change.
D: So we were running a for-profit for a while and just never felt like we were getting better at being business owners. There’s no free community to show you how to do it or tell you you’re doing it wrong. And it’s like, you know, running a for-profit business is very much about getting sold things and selling things. Where this nonprofit, we get to be part of a community that helps us grow and gives us mentorship.
X: Right now, what we’re hoping to pay forward is to take what we’ve learned and passed it on to the next generation of artists, no matter what age they are. That, I think, is going to make a big change, I think in Arizona as a whole, but also, in our community.
That brings me to my next question: what impact do you want to have through your business?
X: We want to give people the space to have big and bold conversations. Art is one of the spaces where it’s easier or it’s more acceptable to be a little wild with your thinking. So we are hoping that folks can explore some of the wilder ideas through creating art, collaborating, and partnering with others that will turn into lifetime relationships.
D: We want to help the people affected by the different issues in Arizona share their stories and creatively educate our community in an irresistible way. We want to hold up a mirror to the people on the fence so they can see themselves in this movement. Creativity and art do that in a way that just trying to explain to them will never do.
What’s one challenge that you’ve faced that you were able to get through and learn from?
X: There isn’t a road map that was accessible to us. It’s been a learn as you go, sort of thing. So I think that’s been our biggest challenge, that we’re feeling it out along the way. And I want to do as much as possible to do it right and also have the space to screw up. Now that we’re a little bit more legit, it seems like most people are willing to hold our hands a bit and guide us through pieces of the stickier processes that we didn’t even know that we were missing.
What advice would you give to your younger self before starting your business?
X: Silence your inner critic. Imposter Syndrome is particularly bad if you don’t have your role model. If you can’t already see your role model you’re going to second guess yourself a lot more along the way, and it’s just going to slow you down. So, the sooner that you can just accept that you’re gonna mess it up a couple of times before you get it right and not guilt yourself over it, that’s going to make your journey one a lot more enjoyable and two a lot easier for you to accept.
D: Yeah, I think to add to what Xenia said is, you’re not ever going to know enough to do something you’ve never done before perfectly. So don’t wait to try it, keep trying and keep failing. Also, be smart about it and don’t screw yourself over. The first time you do something is going to be the first time you do it. No matter what.