Editor’s note: Startland News is showcasing six Kansas City changemakers from five local organizations in its inaugural Community Builders to Watch list. The following highlights one of the 2021 honorees, selected from more than 100 initial nominees by a panel of judges. Click here to view the full list of Community Builders to Watch — presented by Fishtech Group and supporting sponsors Plexpod, Google Fiber and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Inspired by the creative world of art and entrepreneurship, Deanna Munoz founded the Latino Arts Foundation in 2018 as a way to spread her passion with the Latino and broader Kansas City communities. Munoz shared her story with millions when she was honored and featured on Netflix’s reality show “Queer Eye.” Since then, Munoz has worked in and out of a pandemic to strengthen and diversify Kansas City’s art ecosystem.
Keep reading to learn how Munoz’s passion turned to action and inspiration.
QUESTION: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
ANSWER: My name is Deanna Munoz, and I am the CEO and founder of the Latino Arts Foundation. We are an organization that supports the aspiring artists in Kansas City by providing no-cost art mentorship in all genres of art. We also host a Latino Arts Festival — where our artists can sell and show their work.
In 2020, I lost my mom and brother, and this [organization] gave me the opportunity to get back into art through art therapy. It was the most therapeutic, amazing experience ever.
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Q: When did you first realize your work was building community in Kansas City?
A: I started realizing that there was this need for artists and aspiring artists, and somebody needed to help fulfill that need. We had our first art mentorship program — which at that time was called the Scribblers Company — and about 40 parents showed up with their children. They said, ‘Help us. My child is an artist and we don’t know the next steps. We want to learn more about what it’s like to be an artist.’
Because especially in our culture, being an artist isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a career. So the Latino Arts Foundation works to show people that art can be a career and you can be an entrepreneur in this field.
There is so much creativity happening in Kansas City that nobody knows about, and we want to help these kids be a part of our art ecosystem.
Q: What is your hope for Kansas City’s tomorrow?
A: I hope that we build a more equitable art ecosystem in Kansas City. I was never able to achieve a career as an artist because of the lack of resources and access when I was growing up. This ecosystem still has so many barriers and challenges, but I feel like more doors are being opened. Our artists, our community, our families — they’re strong; and they’re going to continue doing the work.
Q: How can the community get involved with and support your work?
A: Our website has information on our upcoming workshops and pop-ups. We learned a lot in 2021 and hope to support some more amazing artists in 2022. We are also always looking for mentors to come support our workshops. We also want to know what aspiring artists need, so that we can bring that to them.
Click here to read more about a pop-up event the Latino Arts Foundation organized earlier this year.
Q: What do you want your legacy to be?
A: The idea of a legacy comes up so much in the Latino community because there are many people in our community who have done the work to get us to where we are today.
For me, all I would want is for our community to know that there are people out there who want to support them. Being a community builder is about laying the foundation for future generations. … Rather than people knowing what happened with the Latino Arts Foundation, I want people to know why it was created. It’s because of our community that we built this. I want them to know that; it’s about our Latino legacy.
Community Builders to Watch is presented by