Published August 13th, 2019 at 4:09 PM
People who know Deanna Muñoz call her una mujer fuerte — a strong woman.
Muñoz, who considers herself “200% Chicana,” works full time at Hallmark Cards as a program leader and is also the founder of the Latino Arts Festival. Now in its 10th year, Muñoz has dreamt of a headquarters for the foundation, which provides youth mentorship in all forms of art – video, creative writing, painting and more.
But then, in early 2018, the dream became a reality when Muñoz was selected to be a participant in the hit Netflix series “Queer Eye.” In the show, the cast members provide a life makeover for nominees. The cast, which includes a hairstylist and a social worker, are called the Fab Five. Muñoz’s son nominated her for season four of the show.
The Fab Five worked with the city of Kansas City, Missouri, to secure new headquarters space for Muñoz across the street from City Hall. The city leased the space for $1.
“I didn’t expect this,” Muñoz said.
She thought the Fab Five would just give her a makeover and revamp her house, not that they would give her the keys to an office for the Latino Arts Foundation. Having a physical space means she can now host free art, writing and video workshops for underserved and underrepresented kids and teens.
Nine years ago, that is what she sought for her daughter Priscilla. Priscilla was 6 and loved to write, but was told she’d have to wait for college programs.
So, Muñoz decided to create a mentorship program herself. The emphasis on “Latino” in her foundation title is important to her cause, which is to provide a creative — and safe — space for Latinx and Chicanx youth.
That’s what she achieved, said Alex Martinez, director of the Kansas/Missouri Dream Alliance and a member of the foundation’s advisory committee. Martinez was astounded by the Mexican food vendors, artists and a lowrider car show when he first attended the festival.
“I saw a lot of our people — a space for people like us,” he said.
That space is for the Hispanic population, which comprises nearly 10% of Kansas City, Missouri, and 30% of Kansas City, Kansas. Muñoz’s goal is to mentor youth in the community who want a career in the arts. She said it teaches them to be proud of their heritage and culture while equipping them with the technical how-tos. And, for the second year, the nonprofit will provide three scholarships to students who want to pursue a career in the arts.
The Latino Arts Festival is Sept. 7 at Bethany Park, 1120 Central Ave., in Kansas City, Kansas, from noon to 6 p.m.
-–Megan Lewer is a summer intern at Kansas City PBS