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Painting a broader picture of Latino talent one artshow at a time

By Mariana Llamas-Cendon

Veronica Valadez has been recognized as an Emerging Artist of the City of Ventura 2009 Mayor’s Arts Awards, but to her this distinction has many meanings…

LatinaLista — Art has many faces; one of them is named Veronica Valadez. A Latina visual artist, Aztec dancer, gallery owner, teacher and community activist, among other roles, Veronica Valadez was nominated under the Emerging Artist category to the City of Ventura 2009 Mayor’s Arts Awards.

“Some time had passed and then I saw online that they had really sent out the letters and I didn’t receive anything so I was bummed out,” said Veronica Valadez, owner of Under the Sun Gallery at Bell Arts Factory in Ventura. “Then I found that I did get it”.


To Valadez such recognition means more than just an award; it signifies an honor to represent the community she belongs to.

“I was honored more than anything because I don’t think that very many Latinos have gotten this award. I was happy to be able to represent my community,” Valadez said.

This award also means for Valadez that her efforts to make sure that Latinos, their art, and talents are properly represented haven’t been in vain. But most of all, she appreciated that there is a place for their culture and history in Ventura that as Latinos they didn’t have before.

“For me this is just what this award means, that Ventura is accepting of that and it is appreciating and validating our culture,” Valadez said.

Award-winning artist Veronica Valadez poses in front of one of her artworks. (Photo: Carlos J. Licea/

But this is not an individual distinction, according to Valadez, who is always working towards exposing what she calls her “compañeros” (partners) and her artists’ friends.

“I am always putting up art shows of other people’s artwork and my dance group is a work group, I may be one of the leaders but a leader can’t be a leader without a group of people so you know I feel it is more an award for our community than just for me,” Valadez said. “There is no way I could do this by myself”.

The familiar face of Valadez

For Valadez, this award also represents years of hard work and sacrifices that she and her family had to make.

“It can be from the time I had to take away from my children and from my husband. I don’t get to paint as often as I would like to because I have my family and when I do, is a sacrifice,” Valadez said.

Her husband and children have been very supportive of her career. For instance, when Veronica is working on a deadline for her gallery show, her husband takes care of dinner, makes sure the kids have done their chores and homework, among other things. For Valadez running Under the Sun gallery has also been a family effort, since all of them participate whether it is by setting everything up for an exhibition, cleaning the place, and putting in fixtures.

“My son, who just turned 18, he had to come after school and open up the shop, and work there until I got there from work, every time we had an event it was him and my husband up and down turning stuff and setting stuff up for hours,” Valadez said. “It was hard but I think at the same time it was very enriching, it brought us closer together.”

Valadez’s artist face

Veronica Valadez is so immerse in her community that one of her main challenges has been to find enough time to develop her own art.

“I have been so focused in the community and bringing other artists to the forefront and make sure we are exhibiting so many of the talented people in Ventura County, and so for me the hardest thing has been to take time just for me,” she said.

Nevertheless, Veronica is not completely satisfied regarding herself as an artist, because she hasn’t reached where she would want to be.

“I haven’t really had the chance to develop myself as much as I want to as an artist,” she said. “My work as a community activist is to make sure that our artwork is out there for Latinos and the public at large”.

Facing the community

For Valadez is very important that families get exposed to art, and that people instill unto their children the pride of their own culture and history no matter what background they belong to.

“How beautifully we can understand each other as human beings regardless of race, color, economic background, gender,” Valadez said. “That is why I have always done this because it brings us closer as a community”.

Mariana Llamas-Cendon is a founding editor at


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