You don’t have to listen too carefully to hear the strong and vibrant Spanish accent in Downtown Phoenix this week at First Friday.

By Juan Chawuk

Not only does September 2 dovetail with the kick-off of the CALA (Celebración Artística de las Américas) Festival–a three-month, multi-component showcase for Latino arts and culture–but it is also the first of the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center’s (ALAC) bi-national artist series, featuring award-winning painter Juan Chawuk this month. ALAC’s First Friday festivities take place at the Center, located at 147 E. Adams in Downtown Phoenix.

“This is exactly what the Center’s group of founders envisioned when we dreamed of what a Latino cultural center in Phoenix would do for the Latino community,” said Ruben Hernandez, ALAC board member.
“These prestigious artists from Mexico will be points of pride for Arizona Mexicans and Mexican Americans. And the bi-national exchange will enrich the cultural lives of all residents of Arizona, and visiting tourists.”

Juan Chawuk, a Tojolobal Maya painter, sculptor, photographer and installation artist, will be at ALAC Friday 6 to 10 p.m. Chawuk has had solo exhibitions at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Latino Arts in Milwaukee, Prospectus Gallery in Chicago, and the Coyoacan Cultural Center. He was named the best painter in Chiapas in 2009.

“Latino arts and culture is quite ‘in’ today,” affirmed Linda Torres, ALAC’s founding president, who said that partnerships such as the one they’ve forged with Artlink, have helped get the word out. “People are understanding that it’s not just Latino art—we also represent Chicano and indigenous art.”

The three-month visiting artist series is co-sponsored by the CALA Alliance and the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago.

ALAC also will premiere the artwork of Phoenix artist Carlos Navarrete, who is originally from Lagunillas, Oaxaca. Maria Rodriguez will be reciting her poetry and Ballet Folklorica will be dancing. In addition, Teatro Bravo will be performing a scene from “Frida.”

Marcelino Quiñonez, ALAC First Friday coordinator and a Arizona State University theater instructor, will be the Master of Ceremonies for this Friday’s night of Latino art and culture.

Also sponsoring the ALAC CALA Festival and First Friday events are Salt River Project, The Consulate of Mexico in Phoenix, Latino Perpectives Magazine () and La Voz, Arizona.