It was a day of celebration!
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures hosted their second annual Community Celebration with approximately 1,400 guests in attendance on July 24. The event, designed to engage with diverse communities, gave guests an opportunity to explore the museum's exhibitions and experience gallery tours. There were art-making activities, dance sessions, a film screening of Gregory Nava's 1997 Selena Quintanilla biopic, Selena, and much more.
"Museums are most meaningful to people when they serve as truly welcoming gathering spaces for learning and exchange," Jacqueline Stewart, Director and President of the Academy Museum, told A.frame. "The Community Celebration is an opportunity not only for us to welcome a diverse range of visitors to enjoy our exhibitions and programs, but also for these visitors to speak to us and each other about how our museum can best serve them."
The celebration had something for the whole family, including Wolfgang Puck Catering, complimentary food and beverages from LA-based restaurants, and vendedores offering tamales, fruit and aguas frescas. Members of the Chulita Vinyl Club (CVC) were on hand to teach guests how to match, scratch and mix turntables, as well as a Selena sign-and-singalong with the Deaf West Theatre. Also in attendance were Las Fotos Project offering portraits as part of their Esta Soy Yo class, 4C Lab offering a dance class with co-founder Marissa Herrera and KG Superstar spinning all the best tunes.
"At its core, the Community Celebration is an initiative that focuses on fostering and strengthening a sense of belonging and connection, focused on reaching and serving historically excluded communities," said Marty Preciado, Director of Community and Impact at the Academy Museum, adding that the event, with its numerous activities, reimagined "how a museum can best maximize its space and resources, and ultimately position itself as a community resource."
For this year's event, the Academy Museum partnered with the Latino Film Institute (LFI) for a special screening of Selena. Before screening the film, guests were treated to two short films (Kimberly Mendiola Leon's Eldest Daughter and Michelle Santana's Will She Get It Done?) as part of LFI's Youth Cinema Project.
Nava was also in attendance to pay tribute to Selena and her contributions to the Latinx community.
"Events like this, where everybody feels included, are very important," Rafael Agustin, LFI's CEO, told A.frame. "As members of marginalized communities, historically, I feel like we've always been excluded from Hollywood. And I'm very proud to see that the Academy Museum is truly trying to rectify that."
LFI helps creatives break into the industry with three programs — Youth Cinema Project, the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, and LatinX in Animation — all empowering storytellers with the opportunity to share their work with a large audience. "We hope to serve as the kind of pipeline and launching pad from our community into the entertainment industry," Agustin added.
For Nava, it is vital that the museum have a Latinx presence and an outreach to the Latinx community. "The diversification and internationalization of the Academy has been really great. They really worked hard," Nava told A.frame, noting that, while the Academy doesn’t fund movies, the organization and museum are "bringing focus and attention" to the Latinx community.
I really believe that if you tell the story of your village, you tell the story of the world.
Nava, who earned a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination for his 1983 drama El Norte, participated in a discussion with Anything for Selena podcast creator Maria Garcia. The discussion focused on his work on Selena and how the late singer's music continues to resonate with audiences of all different races and generations.
"I really believe that if you tell the story of your village, you tell the story of the world. So, the films that I make, I try to speak to the universality of the human experience," Nava said. "The story of Selena, she speaks to the world just as any other great person and great story does." Her story, he added, continues to be an inspiring one because she was "somebody who crossed through barriers that no one had been able to cross through."
"A lot of our feelings and a lot of who we feel we are, talking about breaking us out of the ghetto, and of how we perceive ourselves, and seeing who we are, just resonated with the community," Nava explained. "But it was Selena's story that allowed that to happen because that's what she did."
Nava and Agustin both agreed that community events highlighting the contributions of historically excluded communities are absolutely key.
"Look at the students that we brought in. When they come into the Academy Museum and see the history and legacy of film and entertainment, they see it as something that is attainable for them," Agustin said. "And they can imagine this reality for themselves. Once you get exposed to this, once you see this, you can't unsee it. That's why it's so important."
Nava stressed the need to "get rid of the chains that are in your mind."
"See yourself as being beautiful and wonderful as who you are. And go forward not trying to be somebody else, not trying to pretend you're somebody, but being exactly who you really are," he emphasized. "And, if you do that, people will embrace you and accept you. And that's a lesson that our community needs. And Selena teaches us that."
Preciado noted that the activities held during the Community Celebration were an extension "of the on-going work happening in the museum throughout the year."
"The Community Celebration is more than a day, but a year-round initiative to center community and cultural equity throughout the museum’s programming, exhibitions, screenings, and experiences," she said, stressing how the museum works towards building meaningful programs and engaging impactful experiences.
With the museum's one-year anniversary right around the corner (the Museum opened last year in September), Stewart added that the Academy Museum "is deeply grateful to the community members who are joining us to celebrate and have critical conversations about the art and power of cinema."
Academy Museum inclusion initiatives are made possible in part by the Ruderman Family Foundation. This program is also supported in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.