The mission of Ayudando Latinos A Soñar (ALAS) in Halfmoon Bay, Calif., is to support and uplift the coastal Latino community. The non-profit accomplishes this by offering educational opportunities, social services, mental health care, immigration advocacy, and much more. ALAS is also very well known for its cultural arts programs, which the organization says is the heart of its program offerings.
ALAS brings the Halfmoon Bay community together with regular cultural events and free arts classes offered to youth, including mariachi, dance, drumming and singing, and visual arts. The ALAS visual arts program, led by artist and instructor Ignacio “Nacho” Moya of Moya Art Gallery, is now meeting in-person once a week through funding from Dragonfly Community Arts.
During the Covid pandemic and the shelter-in-place order in 2020, ALAS and Moya began offering virtual art classes twice a month to area youth. The idea was to help bring some fun and creativity to young people who were sheltering at home. The organization created art kits for each student and their families, complete with canvases, mixed paints, and brushes. These kits were delivered to each student before their virtual class. All the students had to do was logon to the virtual class and paint along with Moya's instruction.
Moya’s online classes were a huge success. His enthusiasm and energy for teaching fueled students to log on for every virtual class. In 2022, with ALAS beginning to shift back to in-person events, students were enthusiastic about taking in-person classes with Moya. And since the twice-monthly virtual classes were such a success, ALAS began exploring the idea of offering weekly in-person classes for their young students. That is where Dragonfly Community Arts came in to offer assistance.
Through ongoing funding from Dragonfly, ALAS has been able to expand its painting and visual arts to a weekly program. Ten-week classes are now being offered to groups of 20 students. The new weekly format got started in the summer of 2022.
“The art program is so amazing,” said Belinda Arriaga, executive director and founder of ALAS. “The kids love it and it has brought so much joy!”
Much of the joy comes from Moya’s caring and personal approach to teaching. His motto, which he has had printed on shirts for his students, says “Relax, don’t stress, and do your best.”
That is all Moya and ALAS ask of their students, to explore all the joy and healing that art can bring and to do their best. Dragonfly is excited to see so many youth in Halfmoon Bay enjoying free art classes in an inspiring and caring environment.