By Guillermo Yiyo Ornelas
Guillermo “Yiyo” Ornelas is the Arts Education and Outreach Coordinator responsible for programming classes that reflect the cultural experience of all the Latino community, including leading the yearly Multicultural Art Summer Youth Program (MAS), as well as informing the community about the services offered at the MCCLA through outreach.
There was something missing in the Mission district this summer and it was felt by many families across San Francisco. Since 1991, the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts has held their Multicultural Arts Summer Youth program, (M.A.S). However, this year, which would have been number twenty-nine of the M.A.S program was nothing more than an unresponsive email.
Leading up to the summer, I received messages from volunteers, parents, and teaching artists, with questions surrounding the summer classes. The M.A.S youth program has become a staple for many local families and a great place for youth to grow creatively and intellectually. Many youth anticipate the summer break from school and a chance to hang out with their friends and learn capoeira from their instructor, Armando Ibarra, or to finally be old enough to set foot into Mission Grafica and learn how to use the different machines and tools used in the art of printmaking. Unfortunately, this year the MCCLA classrooms had no music, art, dance or youth to fill it’s empty halls. For many people who have grown up with the program, a loss was felt this summer.
Despite the long hopes of youth and parents alike, this year’s M.A.S was knocked out by the global pandemic, which has rocked things more than a California earthquake. The M.A.S youth program was established to support the often underserved youth of the Mission District; the program was unique in offering diverse programming representative of the program’s participants and its teaching artists; courses as unique as juggling, capoeira, and mexican folkloric dance are taught throughout the summer.
The M.A.S program has been a beacon for more than just parents and their youth. Over the past 28 years, M.A.S. has enriched the lives of more than 200 teaching artists and over 3,500 youth participants and countless volunteers. With a history that covers almost three full decades, the M.A.S youth program has seen many of the participants grow and develop: students becoming adults, turning into parents, and in some cases students into teachers.
Proof of the power of M.A.S can be found throughout our long list of alumni who have chosen to make art an essential part of their lives and to give back to their community. In 2018, Melissa San Miguel Quintana made her grand return to the M.A.S program as the arts and crafts teacher. During the late 1990’s early 2000’s, San Miguel Quintana was a student at the M.A.S program, then under the camp direction of Jose Leon, who started the youth program along with other teaching artists. San Miguel Quintana was exposed to theater arts, capoeira, and dance through the classes and programming at MCCLA. However, it was ultimately in the realms of visual arts tha San Miguel Quintana decided to focus her creativity on. While teaching at M.A.S, San Miguel Quintana was an incredible teacher and an example of how a cultural summer program can enrich a person’s life and expand their possibilities. She believes in the transformative power of art and continues her work as an artist and curator in San Francisco.
Unfortunately, this summer’s M.A.S program was cancelled with little or no warning. While there were efforts from the City of San Francisco to open summer camps for youth, the abrupt stay-at-home order left many hanging details unresolved. Despite the setbacks felt this year, there is a full intention to continue M.A.S and improve the quality of an already beloved summer tradition.
Therefore, in an effort to strive for excellence, the MCCLA will be holding an online fundraising campaign in late fall. “M.A.S Stories” will allow past participants to share their stories, from funny to thought provoking, via social media. The MCCLA ultimately wants to hear from our community to know how M.A.S has been impactful. Summer’s are meant to learn, live, and create memories with family and friends. The MCCLA is working on ensuring this enriching summer tradition continues for years to come. As poet and writer Michael Dana Gioia, points out, “The purpose of an arts education is not to produce more artists, though that is a byproduct. The real purpose of an arts education is to create complete human beings capable of leading successful and productive lives in a free society.”