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A Letter from the Founder: Where we’ve been, where we’re going

By Sarah Rafael García


Dear Comunidad,

The old crew at the tiny bookstore in the alley.

This letter should have been written last month for the new year, but we had a lot going on at the beginning of 2022. When I say “we,” it is the collective: we as in Marilynn, Yvonne, Erin, Elias, Molly, and now Ruthie and Brenda too.

Sometimes it also includes Dr. Manny, Gabriel, David, Santa Ana Literary Association, Yuri, local and retired librarians, Gustavos (yes, there are two of them), Logan and The Frida, Bookman in Orange, Alta Baja Market and countless poets and writers that provide extended support to our free literary arts programming. Other times it’s Albert, Gloria, Tristan, Roger, Nancy, Marias (yes, there are two of them too), Octavio, mis suegros, mi madrina, mi maestra, and all who accompany our efforts to make sure Crear Studio is ready for the next exhibition.

Delilah Snell & Gustavo Arellano visiting the new location & featured on our local authors wall.

Plenty of you reading this may know our humble beginning in 2016; we started with a gardening cart donated by Delilah Snell. If you haven’t heard me tell the story, listen to MPR/NPR with Kerri Miller. I am featured with renowned authors and bookstore owners Ann Patchett and Louise Erdrich — something I never imagined in my wildest book world dreams. You may also know we revamped our mission statement in 2021, launched the OC Poet Laureates program, and as a hybrid nonprofit we have hosted an annual literary arts festival to celebrate our first brick-and-mortar space that opened on La Calle Cuatro back in 2018. You can read about it on our website, visit our Instagram to see it in our IGTV, and hear from Dwayne “BH” Shipp with OC Heritage Council, our 2022 Modesta Avila Award recipient.

BH giving his keynote address at Heritage Museum on January 15th, 2022.

But by now, you also know we moved our tiny bookstore away from La Cuatro due to downtown politics and various events that drowned us out. However, all that being said, you may also know we opened Crear Studio off 5th and Broadway last summer and moved the bookstore to the Bristol Swap Mall Plaza early this year.

When I installed the AntenaMóvil at the Bristol Swap Mall food court after the June 2020 re-opening (shout out to Jen and Rob), I didn’t foresee moving the bookstore. But a metaphorical push became a shove, a literal angry rant became a sad cry, and as a result we were invited to our new location by a very giving and caring new landlord. So, over the last two months we have focused on creating the beautiful, joyful bookstore gallery you all deserve – Gustavo Arellano (one of the Gus’s) even wrote about it in his newsletter, along with Sarah Mosqueda at the LA Times.

I started a conga line at the festival, I told you it was all joyful!

We continued to plan and host our 4th Anniversary LibroMobile Literary Arts Festival at a new location too — and with our new community partner, the Heritage Museum of Orange County (shout out to Jamie and her crew). Amidst masks, smiling eyes, and a cleansing rain, it was a wonderful and triumphant collaboration. I even danced till 7:30pm. How could I not, when Lovers Sónicos ended the night with cumbia! All of it was supported by book sales, donations by some of you, and in part by the City of Santa Ana. Not only did it provide small honorariums for our guest writers and performers, but we were also able to partner with Kilson Street and host DJ Nickyboi, along with providing free space to local vendors.

Archival exhibition at Crear Studio.

Plus, I am now writing a series on artists of color in OC for KCET, on the advisory board for Citric Acid, and we are hosting the OC Black History Parade Archival Exhibition at Crear Studio from January 29th through the end of February. The first exhibition I curated myself. Yes, that’s my SanTanera pride you’re feeling.

So, like I said, WE’ve been busy. What’s next? Our grand opening for our LMAC Bookstore Gallery is on March 19th. It will take place between 2-4pm and start with a blessing by a local womyn/mom/queer Danza group and continue with poetry readings by Jesus Cortez and Gustavo Hernandez (remember, I said there are two Gustavos) and possibly a few more cameos by local authors.

Since I’ve told you where we’ve been, now I get to tell you where we’re going.

We are establishing our Digital Archives room to educate and advocate historical preservation for and by our community. We will launch a two-year capital campaign in March as well. We are collaborating with Maria the Hot Tortilla, PapaLoDown Agency, and Raina J. Leon’s students to make it a success. Our next goal is to establish our LMAC Museum and Cultural Center in Orange County. Because you all deserve even more, our spaces deserve to be under one roof, and WE all deserve more places dedicated to our local and BIPOC community.

¡Como dicen nuestrxs comadrxs Lilia Rosas with Red Salmon Arts y Yaya Porras with MA Series (our nonprofit fiscal agents), AJUA!


Sarah Rafael García is an award-winning author and multimedia artist, community educator, curator, and performance ethnographer born in Brownsville, Tejas and raised in Santa Ana, California. She has over 13 years of experience as an Arts Leader and is founder of Barrio Writers, LibroMobile, and Crear Studio — all art programs initiated as a response to build cultural relevance and equity for BIPOC folks in Orange County.

To learn more about LMAC, visit the Our Story page. To donate, click here.


#OffThePage is taking pitches via email and paying contributing writers. Our Arts & Culture column was initially founded by local journalist Gabriel San Román, who is now a featured writer at Times OC and a former OC Weekly staff writer. Subscribe to his weekly Slingshot! Newsletter. And in case anyone is wondering, he's still the tallest Mexican in OC.


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