‘A matter of unity:’ Latina artists launch LUNA, a ‘support group and platform’ in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- A group in Milwaukee’s art scene is carving out a new platform.  It all began when two women realized the lack of representation of Latina artists in the area. 

“Not being from here, I turned to (Gabriela) and asked, 'Are you and I the only Latina artists?'” explained Katie Avila Loughmiller, founder of LUNA.

Katie Avila Loughmiller, Gabriele Riveros

Katie Avila Loughmiller, Gabriela Riveros

Avila Loughmiller told FOX6 she was working on a project and realized there was a lack of representation of Latina artists in the region. Soon, her burning question carved a new group for the city's art scene.

“What if we just got everyone together and kind of created a support group and a platform for ourselves,” added Gabriela Riveros, founder of LUNA.

Together with Riveros, Avila Loughmiller launched "Latinas Unidas En Las Artes" or LUNA.

“I literally asked (Gabriela), 'Name all the Latina artists you know,'” said Avila Loughmiller.

"Latinas Unidas En Las Artes" or LUNA

The group quickly grew, as Latina artists craving a support system to practice their talents were recruited.

Debbie Sajnani

Debbie Sajnani

"They definitely helped me gain confidence in myself, 1,000%,” explained Debbie Sajnani, LUNA member. “Prior to that, I would do art for myself, but I wouldn't show anybody.”

“It was an amazing experience,” said Esthefanie Lupo, LUNA member. “I got to be more active with my creativity.”

Dissolving the shadows of doubt, LUNA now consists of nearly three dozen artists.

“We have abstract painters," explained Riveros. "We have illustrators, photographers, and sculptors, as well."

But LUNA is more than just an artistic platform. There's a shared desire from each member to connect with their cultural roots. Riveros, for example, is from Paraguay, a country in South America near Argentina and Brazil.

“I was born and raised here, but my family is from Paraguay,” Riveros said. “People are always like, 'Are you Mexican or Puerto Rican,' and I'm like, 'Neither.'"

Avila Loughmiller is from Colombia.

“I'm adopted from Colombia, so my whole life has been trying to figure out what is my culture, and how do I get connected with my culture?” said Avilla Loughmiller explained.

That's why the group also tackles social issues faced by new generations of Latinos.

“Even in the community, or at large, there's that, 'Are you Latina enough?'" said Avila Loughmiller. "You know, like, for myself, I am not fluent in Spanish, and I didn't grow up with the culture. Does that make me less Latina? No. I want to celebrate it."

"Latinas Unidas En Las Artes" or LUNA

That celebration can be seen through their art shows like "Hoops," on display at the Urban Ecology Center in the Menomonee Valley through November. The show centers around the significance of hoop earrings for Latinas.

“A lot of us wear them almost as a uniform," said Riveros. "We all agreed there is a lot of power in hoop earrings, so that's how the show hatched."

As their presence continues to grow, so has public support for the group’s individual art.

“I think the energy we are creating here is needed, both in the art world and in the community,” said Avila Loughmiller.

"Latinas Unidas En Las Artes" or LUNA

LUNA has also been selected into the Pop-Up MKE program. They will have a temporary space on Cesar Chavez Drive on Milwaukee’s south side starting Oct. 9!

The group launched a Go FundMe.com account to raise funds, so they can properly run their future space.

“It's a matter of unity, and it's also a matter of carving out our own space,” Riveros added.

With each brushstroke, they are creating a true masterpiece.

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