create / 2015

Poetry is Life Poetry is Story

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural

The arts are a powerful means to heal, transform, and revitalize persons, families, communities, economies, political structures, and environments. We propose to offer 30 poetry/story workshops to multi-generational residents at libraries across L.A.. Within each of the 15 L.A. City Council districts there will be two 2-hour weekly workshops lasting 4 weeks, each culminating in a community open mic. Each district will feature one workshop for English speakers, and another for Spanish speakers.


In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Implement a pilot or new project

How will your proposal improve the following “Create” metrics?

  • Employment in the creative industries
  • Arts establishments per capita
  • Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”) (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to create.

Public libraries are a wonderful social invention, especially when they become dynamic centers for community, learning, reading, and connection. For the general public, and especially for neglected populations, these spaces are important for growing literacy and artistic capacities. Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural is looking forward to conducting poetry workshops that tap into the unique life stories of patrons at as many as 30 of the 72 L.A.-area libraries. We will bring to life the poetic word, the story, the book through a series of workshops, each of which will culminate in Open Mic events.

Tia Chucha’s proceeds from the Native American/Native Mexican philosophies that all people, all animals, the earth and the sky, are inexorably connected. For indigenous peoples everything is the arts (that’s why there is no word for “arts” among most tribes). And all human beings have an inexhaustible, abundant and creative wellspring within that can be tapped into at any time.

Poetry is one of the ecstatic arts for change and is being renewed by young people today through poetry slams, Hip Hop, publishing, and digital technology. This is happening at a time when poetry in the U.S. is being highly marginalized. Even in the world’s poorest countries, poetry is honored and publicly respected. But, in the U.S, the center of culture is mostly for entertainment and commercial value.

Our “Poetry is Life, Poetry is Story” workshops will draw out the storehouse of stories within persons, families, communities to remember who we are, what are our relationships, and where we are going. Poetry means “to make,” to shape, to find beauty, just like the earth does constantly, after one understands the truth (science) and the good (morality)–a morality which is not imposed or for the control of others, but is based on how to properly interact with all beings, all genders, all so-called races, all nations, all tribes.

The artists we will involve in this important work appreciate the need people have to see and be seen, to hear and be heard, and to nurture these experiences to the fullest. Like water and bread, they feed hearts hungry for place and meaning through story and poetry. The workshops will allow our artist facilitators to inspire new artistic voices of all ages, encouraging them to share their stories and gifts with the public. In turn these instructors will be paid for their time and talents. This poetry workshop series is a win-win proposal for everyone.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

For almost fifteen years Tia Chucha’s has been a beacon of cultural and literary inclusion in the NE San Fernando Valley. And while we have had visitors from as far away as Germany and Chile, our day-to-day reach has been primarily the local population. Our programs in Pacoima and occasional offsite booktables, student visits, and seasonal major events have also extended our reach.

The library workshops are an opportunity to take our work to the next level, placing our programming and poet artists in neighborhoods which may have never experienced our unique offerings before. Our evaluations will include how many new people we have introduced to writing poetry, the size of the audiences that come to the culmination open mics at each site, and the poet teachers we are able to employ for these special workshops. All these elements will be part of measuring the impact of our efforts.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support
  • Quality improvement research