On Saturday, May 24th, local artists, entrepreneurs, vendors, and art enthusiasts alike gathered at Sol Collective downtown for the Collective’s 4th annual Piñata Festival. This event illustrated the organization’s dedication to their mission of  art, culture, activism, and empowering the community. A group of directors, staff, advisory boards, and volunteers make up the Collective who advocate for the arts and youth, giving them a means of  expressing themselves in a positive way. Together, they make the festival possible.

“For us, it was a perfect way to teach the arts, and teach about culture, because the piñata is actually a Chinese invention and it went through a cultural evolution and made its way to Mexico today,” said Estella Sanchez, Director of Sol Collective. Colorful handmade piñatas along with the various piñata making workshops are keeping  old traditions alive here in U.S.  According to Sanchez, the goal was to “teach piñata making to the new generations to build a community around celebration.”  

The atmosphere was celebratory and had all the characteristics of a fiesta. Vibrant colors and art were splashed on every inch of the street, people cooled off with drinks and sweet paletas, and the DJ made sure the ear was never left without a feel-good tune.Local artist Randy works on an airbrush art piece at the Piñata Festival.

Opening and closing the event were Aztec dancers who gave thanks to their culture and ancestors through rhythm and music. Their elaborate ensembles along with the powerful beat of the drums provided attendees with a unique experience, taking them back for a moment to Mexico’s roots.

“I saw the way the girls were looking, giggling at the way the men were dressed,” says Sanchez. “It gave me a chance to talk to them about the cultural significance.  We often will laugh at things we don’t understand. It was such a teachable moment.”

In addition to this performance, a social entrepreneur known to the public as Dre-T, took the stage with a reciting of spoken word poetry. An excited crowd rallied around him and were especially anxious to hear his piece titled “No Religion” which was in sharp contrast with the very spiritual performance of the Aztec dancers. This is the perfect example of how Sol Collective is unifying a variety of different thoughts and opinions in the community through the arts.

The diversity at the festival was immense from the food to the music to the people, there was always something new to experience and this is what the organization is all about.

What began as Sanchez’s Masters thesis project manifested into the Sol Collective seen today.

“I was looking at ways to provide arts and cultural programming in the community at no cost,” said Sanchez. “Sol Collective was born out of that research.” Three years ago, they partnered with  Spanglish Arte and Gavina Remezela to begin the annual celebration.

Sanchez also praised the California Endowment and BHC for their support and “seeing our vision of creating a healthier community through the arts, culture, and activism.”

For more information about Sol Collective, visit www.solcollective. org.

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