By Liz Bellin   Published Dec 21, 2019 at 11:02 AM

This article is in a series by emerging creatives at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) that explores both the apparent and hidden influences of professional art and design in the Milwaukee area.

"If you are not seeing yourself or your kind of work being represented in the community, it is your responsibility to make the space for yourself and to make your voice heard," says Debbie Sajnani, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design alum and professor and a member of Latinas Unidas en las Artes (LUNA).

The Milwaukee-based collective of Latina artists consists of 42 members, about 18 of those members are active in the collective and eight make up the real core. In just eight months, they’ve had eight shows and become an LLC. They always had the goal of being a business.

"Art isn’t free, and it shouldn’t be," says Sajnani. "Every artist should be paid for their work."

Being an LLC also gave them the chance to apply to POP Up MKE and helped them open a pop-up shop on Cezar Chavez Dr., which ran through the first week of December. Many artists in the collective set up work from sculpture and paintings to zines and fun jewelry to sell.

Sajnani says that LUNA doesn’t really fit in the established Milwaukee art scene.

"And that’s why LUNA was created," she says. "We weren’t seeing the representation we wanted in Milwaukee. We were putting on shows together because we were never brought into other shows."

LUNA artists argue that some local galleries have made a big deal about the diversity of their shows, but others have not featured any Latinx artists’ work. 

"I feel like what Milwaukee is lacking is perspective and we aren’t going to gain more perspective until more diverse artists are brought to the forefront," says Sajnani.

But the LUNA artists also say they have a lot of community support, as proven by the large number of people coming to their shows and donating directly.

"Every time a gallery denies us, another person shows up and offers space for a show," says Sajnani.

Quinn Blackshere, another member of LUNA, also emphasizes that artists need to be making their own spaces in the community for their voices to be heard. 

"I feel there is a lot of power in art and in bringing everyone’s voices together," says Blackshere. "So many in Milwaukee have a voice and don’t know where to channel it. Even in LUNA, it’s amazing to see how many different voices come together. We all do different artwork, we have different backgrounds, and our families come from different places, but it’s great to see everyone unite under this collective."

Blackshere states that LUNA has more events in the works for 2020. Watch their social media platforms for announcements.

"It’s all those individual voices that make it so strong," says Blackshere.

LUNA is on Facebook and Instagram as @LUNAMke.