About the Author
Chad Swiatecki is a 20-year journalist who relocated to Austin from his home state of Michigan in 2008. He most enjoys covering the intersection of arts, business and local/state politics. He has written for Rolling Stone, Spin, New York Daily News, Texas Monthly, Austin American-Statesman and many other regional and national outlets.
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Oyervides passes arts program concerns to his MACC board replacement
One of the longest-serving members of the advisory board for the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center – and a frequent critic of city staff and programs affecting the Latino community – says he plans to stay vocal even after recently leaving his seat.
Chief among the concerns is the ongoing push by the Parks and Recreation Department to implement a new program that could eventually open up the cultural center to arts groups outside the Latino-focused groups who have been the almost exclusive artistic presence on its stages.
Juan Oyervides, a 10-year member of the MACC board and the appointee of District 1 Council Member Ora Houston when she was elected to City Council, resigned his seat in June over what he called increasing complaints from staff and some community leaders of his outspoken views. At Council’s June 28 meeting a new appointee – longtime District 1 resident Angelica Erazo – was approved to fill the seat, which could come up for appointment again in January since Houston has decided to not seek re-election.
Oyervides said Houston “wanted to make a change. … She’d gotten a steady stream of complaints about me on the MACC board.”
“I had a target on my back for a long time, and never dreamed that the biggest obstacle to the MACC would be city staff not being transparent and not allowing input from the board,” he said. “I’ve tried to keep them accountable because when you shine the light of truth on them, they run and hide like cockroaches. Council Member Houston decided she’d heard enough, and I know she already has a lot to worry about.”
Representatives in Houston’s office declined comment on Oyervides’ resignation and the appointment of Erazo, who works as a coordinator of diversity and inclusion programs at Oracle.
In recent months, Oyervides had become the loudest voice in a group of MACC board members who objected to the city’s forthcoming Artist Access Program, which seeks to give local arts groups a chance to use the city’s four cultural centers for rehearsal and performance space when those facilities have openings in their calendars.
That program, which had 15 early applicant groups and was put on pause this spring amid protest, would have gradually absorbed the Latino Arts Residency Program at MACC that gives an assortment of Latino theater groups use of the facility.
The board’s objections stemmed from concern that Latino groups could eventually be displaced at the MACC through the course of the Artist Access Program’s evaluation process to mete out stage time. Members of the MACC board have argued they weren’t informed of the new program early enough to weigh in on its structure and its possible effect on LARP groups.
The new program would encompass the MACC, Dougherty Arts Center, George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, and Asian American Resource Center. PARD held the final in a new series of public comment sessions on the program this week and will soon submit its recommendations for the program’s eventual implementation.
Oyervides said he plans to remain a regular presence at future MACC board meetings so he can urge remaining members to withdraw from the program, a move that could result in the loss of some city funding.
“I’ll probably be there through the life of the Artist Access issue because I need to convince them to opt out of the program,” he said. “I need to start getting them thinking independently because there’s a tendency there to follow what the staff is recommending. But when things are not being done transparently, you’ve got to say so.”
Erazo and Oyervides have met to discuss an assortment of issues facing the board in the coming months, and she said she’s already hearing from other community members about their concerns for the facility, which could also receive money for an expansion if the November bond election passes.
“There are certain things (Oyervides and I) disagree on, but the Artist Access Program concerns me, and it seems that (other board members) do not like this program,” she said. “I come with an open mind and want to be respectful, but I also don’t want to be shy. I want to learn what the people in D1 want and with possibly just a few months on the board, this is a good opportunity to be vocal.”
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