The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center was founded by a group of San Antonio artists who were determined to play a critical role in shaping the artistic and cultural experiences of San Antonio’s residents and visitors alike. Nearly thirty-four years ago this band of artists formed a pro-active group called the Performance Artists’ Nucleus (PAN). They represented different organizations that were seeking municipal funds to support their work and to preserve and promote the rich traditions of Latino culture.
PAN’s tireless efforts was an effective force to widen the lens for the general public who began to understand that cultural traditions were disappearing and to realize that vital decisions were being made for the Latino community without their input. PAN’s activism was its strength.
The original artists’ commitment to preserve and promote Chicano culture by securing municipal funding marked the beginning of the Center as it operates today: a multidisciplinary cultural arts center with six disciplines and among the nation’s first Chicano organizations to collaborate with Mexican artists and cultural institutions, commission and present new works and to pioneer in community cultural education. As a result, the Center is one of the City of San Antonio’s five major cultural organizations.
Since its inception, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center has either introduced, showcased or fostered the talents of almost every major Chicano/Latino visual artist, filmmaker, playwright, actor, writer, folkloric dancer/choreographer, or Chicano musician in the United States today. The Center, unique among Latino organizations for its scope of interests, its communlty education classes, and its encompassing humanities and arts programming, was unrivalled in the U.S. Today, inspired by the Guadalupe, other Latino centers have taken root across the nation, however the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center remains a national model, still unequalled in Texas and the Southwest.
Located in the heart of the San Antonio’s historic westside, the center consists of six buildings: the Progreso Drugstore; the Cesar Chavez Building; the Museo Guadalupe, containing exhibition space, educational facilities, dance studios and the GCAC’s administrative office; the 376-seat, historic Guadalupe Theater. With its distinctive neon-encircled spire rising above its cobalt blue and pumpkin orange tiled exterior, the theater has long been a community landmark, and it is now the centerpiece of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Built in 1942, it anchored a thriving entertainment district. Other buildings include La Casita and the Guadalupanita Cafe – a recently acquired Mexican restaurant with historic significance.