Kiara Nguyen, Founder of Artistas de Color Unidos
What´s the story behind Artistas de Color Unidos?
Artistas de Color Unidos was born my freshman year of college. I was taking this Race & Social Justice course and had to do an “arts as activism” piece for my final. So, I wrote a poem and asked my friend to write a supplemental piano piece. When I performed the piece for my final, my professor pulled me aside a few days later and recommended that I publish it. I searched and searched for websites that accepted multimedia pieces but I couldn’t find any. So I decided to create my own.
As I was working through the idea in my mind, I realized that there was something else about the platforms I did find: they were often White-dominated. And as a woman of color myself, I know that sometimes there are conversations you don’t want to have with White artists. Conversations that only artists of color can truly understand. I decided to create the platform specifically for artists of color. We initially started out as a platform for young artists of color but then I felt like that was kind of ageist so we moved over to being for emerging artists of color.
What was your calling and gave you the confidence that you could do this?
Honestly, I have no idea. I guess a great support system? My mom and my friends have been a great support for me and all my endeavors. But really it was just the thought of “hey what if I did this.” And then I just…did it. I guess transferring to USC helped a lot. When I first got here, people kept telling me that their second major was Non-Governmental Organizations & Social Change. So I asked my advisor if it was possible to add that on and she said yes, there was plenty of room. In May of 2022 I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in NGOs & Social Change. Through the major, I’ve learned a lot about running NGOs and nonprofits.
At USC you are constantly surrounded by people with big dreams who have created these great organizations. So even though I established the organization in July 2019 (I started at ‘SC in August of 2019), I think being surrounded by people like that helped me maintain my faith in growing the organization.
In a city like Los Angeles, where diversity is part of the culture, we often hear that there is still a big lack of support in multiple areas. How are you experiencing this as an artist?
Being an artist is not my primary identity or job so I am not affected the same way the artists who submit to my platform are. However, I can speak about the lack of support for arts organizations specifically. While I tried to apply for grants for ADCU, I noticed that many of the art grants required you to have 501(c)3 status. Without funding, an organization is extremely limited in what you can do unless you have the familial or spousal financial support to help you out. Obtaining 501(c)3 status can be a long process, and as a college student, that has barred me from many financial opportunities and support that ADCU could have had if not for that tiny requirement. As a woman of color whose mother is self-employed and runs a small business, I do not have the means to always pull money out of my own pockets to support the organization’s endeavors. I think the requirement of arts organizations applying to grants needing to be 501(c)3’s is a big limit. Additionally, there’s not a lot of support for people wanting to open a nonprofit. I am lucky that I majored in something that deals directly with teaching people how to run nonprofits or NGOs, and I also worked at a nonprofit theatre during my last year at USC. Providing coaching to people interested in running nonprofits is another area of support that’s lacking. Funding is a competitive business.
What kind of artists are you supporting and how does that look like?
We support artists of all mediums. We currently have visual artists, literary artists, one musical artist, and one short film featured on our website. But we accept multimedia artists and dance as well. We just started a bimonthly newsletter in March where we provide our artists with resources such as funding. Our last newsletter highlighted grant opportunities for artists who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also plan to reinstate Artist of the Week where artists can post to their Instagram with the tag #ADCUXFeaturePage to be featured on our own Instagram platform.
Can artists sell their art through your online gallery?
Not through the gallery website specifically, but I do plan on starting to highlight artists and their projects that they’d like to sell into the monthly newsletter we send to our subscribers (so, our general audience).
How can artists be a part of your project? Is there an admission committee or can any artist be a part of this?
To be featured on our website, artists simply have to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and CC email@example.com with the following information: their Name (First & Last/Last Initial), Age, Pronouns, Hometown, Ethnic/Racial Background, Titles of the pieces you’re submitting, and Social Media Contact (username and platform). For Literary/Multimedia (if the multimedia has a writing component) artists it’s a little bit different. Literary/Multimedia Artists have to email us at the same emails above with this information: their Name (First & Last/Last Initial), Ethnic/Racial Background, and the email they’d like to use to contribute to our “blog” (the Literary Arts section of our website is formatted like a blog).
What are your future plans with Artistas de Color Unidos? Are you currently working on something specific?
We’ve got a lot going on behind the scenes that I can’t really talk about yet but I can tell you we are looking to expand our team. We plan to eventually hire these positions: Partnership Coordinator, Grantwriter, Finance Director, Event Organizer, Education Director, and a second Marketing/Social Media Assistant. Currently we are specifically looking to hire a second Marketing/Social Media Assistant to help out with expanding our online presence. It is a volunteer-only position with the opportunity to move into a paid part-time or full-time position once we receive funding.
What are your plans for the future? Could you imagine stepping up full-time with this project?
I plan on taking a gap year before pursuing my Masters in Education and combined California Teaching Credential. Teaching is my calling and there are also so many other things I want to do in my life so at the moment, I don’t see myself working full-time for ADCU. However, that’s a very big reason I want to expand our team. The operations of our organization will be primarily handled by the rest of the team while I oversee things. I will always remain the Founder and be somewhat involved in the process but day-to-day operations will be handled by the rest of the team.
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