Former dance studio on Main Street transformed into community art space
Apr 23, 2020 03:18PM
By Sarah Morton Taggart
Itzel Nava poses at Xochikalli near a mural she created with Ruby Chacon and other artists. (Sarah Morton Taggart/City Journals)
By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]
On a Saturday night in February, artists and performers came from all over Utah to participate in an art show at the Xochikalli Collective on Midvale’s Main Street. The art on display included paintings, illustrations, zines, stickers and T-shirts with many of the artists displaying their work for the first time.
“I haven’t been able to show my art since high school,” said Meg Gonzales, one of the artists. “They do a lot of cool things here. I’m glad to have this space.”
More than 70 people visited the show over the course of the evening. “We were pretty surprised,” said Patricia Campos, one of the founders of the Xochikalli Collective. “For now, we only market events through Instagram and Twitter.”
Since it opened in January, the Xochikalli Collective has hosted classes, workshops, movie nights and dance parties at 7677 S. Main St.
Xochikalli (pronounced “so-CHEE-cal-ee”) is the result of a partnership between two grassroots organizations, Existimos and Wanderlust Sex. Both groups work to bring together QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, People of Color) in Salt Lake County.
“Xochikalli is Nahuatl word and it’s literal translation means flower house,” said Jennifer Salazar, another founder. “It also means cultural and spiritual center. We created this collective and community space because we believe in healing through art and community.”
Salazar and Esther Aboussou formed Wanderlust Sex as an educational organization committed to creating healing spaces. They work to create a dialogue that grapples with the intersections of sexual orientation, gender identity and race.
Existimos was founded by sisters Graciela and Patricia Campos to produce inclusive and diverse events that focus on art, community and healing.
“We overlap,” Salazar said. “Both groups focus on the queer community. We make space for every individual.”
For many years, Salazar’s mother operated the Hispanic Center for the Arts and the Utah Hispanic Dance Alliance at the storefront on Main Street. “My mom couldn’t keep up with it and wanted to sell (the building),” Salazar said. “I told her that’s not an option.”
“We were doing the same things, so Jennifer reached out to us,” Campos said. “We made the rental agreement in October and opened in January.”
“I grew up here. This is my home,” Salazar said. “I’ve seen lots of changes in 20 years of being here. It used to have a cool vibe with bodegas and taco carts, but now it’s in a process of gentrification and things are changing so fast. Lots of little microaggressions. But we’re planting our stake and holding our space.”
Xochikalli clearly fills a demand. Harrison Delgado and his friends drove up from St. George to perform at the art show in February. “There’s no space like this down there,” Delgado said. “We’re trying to put something together, but it’s hard.”
“We rent out the space for parties and workshops, but we hold free events as much as we can for the queer community,” Salazar said. “We want people to feel like it’s their home, too. It’s hard to have spaces that are predominantly for people of color.”
The collective has started a GoFundMe page to help make the space available for more groups to use for free. A link to the fundraiser and more information can be found at www.xochikalli.com.
“It’s stressful, but we’ve been so happy with the turnout,” Campos said. “People always come through.”
What’s next for Xochikalli?
“I want to do more education classes and include more youth. The dream is to have this open during the day, maybe have it be a co-working space. We just need to get Wi-Fi,” said Campos with a laugh.
“Right now I’m going to school, I have a full-time job, and I’m doing this,” Salazar said. “We would like to make this our full-time job.”