As the daughter of parents who immigrated to the United States from Suchitepéquez, Guatemala, UC Santa Cruz recent alumna, Jocelyn Lopez-Anleu, is the youngest of three siblings and the first in her family to graduate from a four-year university.
Focusing her studies on art history via UCSC’s History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC) major with a concentration on curation, heritage and museum studies, she also studied art history at UCLA and at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Her research interests centered on Chicanx and Latinx contemporary art with a focus on queer performance art.
“My parents are both janitors and have demonstrated that our family is a family of hard workers and resilience,” said Lopez-Anleu. “Growing up, my parents made it clear that education was the only tool we had to succeed. A lot of first-generation students from immigrant households can attest to this foundation as our parents made it clear that one of the main reasons they fled from their countries was to be able to provide for their children opportunities they either didn’t have, or had to sacrifice in order to raise a family in a safe environment.”
It wasn’t until starting high school that Lopez-Anleu discovered art. She had really wanted to take history in ninth grade but there wasn’t a class available. Noticing that an art history class was still open, she decided to sign up for it, only to be dissuaded by a teacher who thought the class would be too difficult for her. “The counselors would sometimes discourage students from taking AP courses if they knew we were coming from a ‘hood’ middle school,” said Lopez-Anleu with a resigned smile, who was raised in South Central Los Angeles.
In spite of being repeatedly told how hard the class would be, she persisted. And it turned out to be a major gamechanger. She discovered that she loved what she was learning and excelled in the course, relishing in the books she read and the essays she wrote. “Art came naturally to me,” she says.
Her family continued to encourage her. “I grew up surrounded by a lot of culture, a lot of love, and a lot of food,” she said. “One of my most endearing memories was when my mom, who had just gotten off a 12-hour work shift, made me a cup of coffee, a plate of fried plantains, and stayed up with me all night helping me study for an AP exam that I had the following day.”
The art history class also introduced her to a place she’d never been before: a museum. One of her assignments required her to find an artwork to write about, so she decided to venture into the vast Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) and was blown away.
“I remember I came home and I told my mom, ‘hey, we have to go’ and it’s free on Thursday afternoons…and it’s only two bus stops away!”
That initial encounter led her to eventually apply for an internship there during her senior year in high school, and then to apply to UC Santa Cruz as a HAVC major where, again, she excelled.
“I decided to apply for an internship at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles because I found myself needing a job and the internship was paid,” said Lopez-Anleu. “It ended up changing my life because it exposed me to a field that I knew nothing about prior. It showed me that a job in the arts was possible and, more importantly, I learned how much I enjoyed learning and thinking about art. It was because of this that I decided to study art history in college.”
She was especially drawn to UC Santa Cruz and the HAVC major due to its multi-faceted approach to studying art history and how it affects social contructs and structures. She also is appreciative of the work she did with UCSC’s Institute of Arts and Sciences (IAS) and its director, Rachel Nelson.
One of her favorite projects was taking the lead with the IAS exhibition Solitary Garden, which she cited as a very influential time for her. “It helped radicalize my mind and actions and taught me the beauty in the communities that develop around art projects. I now know the care and patience that comes with developing and assisting with exhibitions, projects, and programs thanks to Rachel. She also had a lot to do with my ability to explore and apply for positions that I, at one point, felt unqualified for. She has always been there to support me and offer words of wisdom that I know I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
Another impactful career-building opportunity also presented itself when Lopez-Anleu applied to be an intern at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, known as LACE. The LACE internship program is highly prestigious and competitive, and she assumed it was a longshot for her to be accepted.
Due to a key contact she had made there – curator Daniela Leija Quintanar – back in 2017 via another summer internship, Lopez-Anleu was encouraged by her to apply for the summer 2020 program where she would be working on the exhibition Intergalactix: against isolation/contra el aislamiento, featuring artists from Mexico, Central America and the United States that examine the violence that is generated from physical and conceptual borders. Being one of the first Latinx curators she’d ever met, Quintanar had become a cherished role model of what was possible.
Lopez-Anleu anxiously sent in her LACE application and recommendations, and was thrilled when she was accepted.
“I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to continue developing my curatorial skills and putting to practice all the traits my community has taught me,” she said.
The exhibition opens on May 15 and runs through August 14, 2021. “I am very excited and thankful that I will get to work on an exhibition that brings to focus artists from Central America. My family is from Guatemala and art from our nation rarely gets exhibited. I not only feel like I am honoring my roots through this internship but making them known.”
With the pandemic still having a significant impact, Lopez-Anleu has had to reconsider her future plans but is still aiming to attend graduate school. One of her personal goals is to greatly increase engagement in the arts to underrepresented communities, as well as to bring artists from these communities to the forefront.
“I do this in hopes that by seeing art that engages with their identity, communities of color will arrive at an understanding that art is not inaccessible to them,” she says.
In addition to the LACE position, Lopez-Anleu is also interning at the Los Angeles Nomadic Division as their Getty Marrow Undergraduate Intern, which is the largest diversity internship program for the visual arts in the U.S, assisting with two high-profile, multi-site public exhibitions: Kahlil Joseph's BLKNWS®, a part of Made in LA 2020, which is co-presented with the Hammer Museum, and Gatherings, a series of newly commissioned installations and performances from female artists as part of the nationwide Feminist Art Coalition.
Lopez-Anleu is looking forward to what lies ahead and graciously attributes much of her success to her teachers and fellow students at UC Santa Cruz and the HAVC department. “The people I have met have been so integral to my development that I cannot imagine being where I am now without any of them.”