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How Candelaria Silva-Collins is Empowering BIPOC Artists

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a consultant, facilitator, and nonprofit professional based in Boston, MA. She has administered an award-winning cultural economic development program that informs her consulting practice, and, for the last seven years, has been a member of the leadership team for the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston’s Creative Entrepreneur Fellowship (CEF) program. CEF is a customized professional development program that is designed to accelerate the careers and practice of a diverse group of artists. Recently, we had the chance to sit down with Candelaria and learn more about her background, passions, and aspirations. 

Candelaria Silva-Collins grew up on the West Side of St. Louis, Missouri in a rich culture and arts scene. Growing up in a predominantly black area, Candelaria was immersed in the rich southern culture with exposure to theater, poetry, literature, gospel music, films, and other forms of art. She developed an intense passion for reading and writing, but also loves all forms of art she can access. During her last two years of high school, Candelaria and her family moved to University City, Missouri—a predominantly white Jewish community. Here, she consistently experienced racism, and participated in strikes and protests with other members of the black community. After reading a book by a black author for the first time in her life, Candelaria realized at a young age that “art is culture and culture is art.” From this point onwards, Candelaria used the overt racism she faced as motivation to continue to advocate and connect arts and culture to predominantly black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities. 

After graduating from Goddard College, Candelaria began working for METCO, a voluntary school desegregation program in Boston, which to this day continues to bus children from the city to the suburbs for education. During her time at METCO, Candelaria began facilitating workshops, publishing children’s stories, and writing reviews for the Bay State Banner, a Black-owned independent newspaper. Candelaria then became the director of ACT Roxbury, a cultural economic development program funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. During her time at ACT Roxbury, Candelaria conceived and developed various arts and cultural programs, including the Roxbury Film Festival: Celebrating People of Color, Roxbury Literary Annual, Roxbury Open Studios, and Roxbury in Motion. 

In 2014, A&BC’s Executive Director Jim Grace approached Candelaria to discuss working with the organization on the Creative Entrepreneur Fellowship program and outreach to Black artists. After a few meetings, Candelaria submitted a proposal to join the A&BC Leadership team for the CEF program and has maintained her role since. 

During her time with the Creative Entrepreneur Fellowship, Candelaria has assisted in developing and evolving the program into a culturally and racially diverse network of practicing artists. Candelaria believes “the biggest thing is to start [a program], and then a program will tell you how it wants to grow,” because it is a “living breathing thing.” CEF searches for a “true practicing artist” who can articulate their goals for their time in the program and take advantage of what it has to offer. 

In Candelaria’s words, her goal is “to encourage and share information I have learned over the years that I wish I would have learned earlier.” She encourages her fellows by mutual learning, teaching them to take chances and accept “the no,” and investing in their passion so that they can “live a life filled with art.” Through nurturing and celebrating talent, Candelaria and the CEF program empower artists to develop and pursue their passions. 

Candelaria’s future aspirations include continuing to publish her children’s books, building the CEF program to include more opportunities for the fellows, continuing to support local Black-owned businesses, advocating for BIPOC artists, and being back in-person to capture and experience artist connections. 

The 2019 Creative Entrepreneur Fellows and A&BC’s team celebrate the completion of the fellowship program. Top row from right to left; Luke Blackadar, Bithyah Israel, Candelaria Silva-Collins, Tim Lorenzo, Alexis Dearborn, Jim Grace, Michelle Evans, Beatrice Greene, Pamela Jones. Bottom row from right to left; Gianna Stewart, Ngoc-Tran Vu, Patricia Thaxton, Vernell Jordan.

Please visit Candelaria-Silva Collins’s website for more information about her work. You can buy her children’s books at https://candelarianormasilva.com/.

Information on the Creative Entrepreneur Fellowship program can be found here. The CEF Program accepts annual applications in September. Application requirements are released in August.

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