The San Jose Multicultural Artists Guild (SJMAG) unites and serves Silicon Valley’s residents by conducting cross-cultural arts programming focused on African American, Women, and Chicanx/Latinx communities and their allies.
SJMAG was founded in 1987 and incorporated as a non-profit in 1990 to collaboratively address the administrative needs of three culturally specific performing arts companies committed to expanding the majority of their revenue on paying artists rather than administrators. The three ensembles established one Board of Directors and developed a centralized administrative structure to provide services such as marketing, grants management, scheduling, and check-writing. In 1997, after SJMAG secured a city contract to conduct arts education programs, they developed several in-school performance processes to develop and implement these programs, which fostered greater interactions among the three companies, their respective Artistic Directors, and the African Americans, Latinos, and women of color comprising their respective staffs. The three founding ensembles (Tabia African American Theatre Ensemble, Maiko Women’s Drum and Poetry Ensemble, and Familia Aztlan) began conducting programs at school assemblies, in after-school and summertime youth programs, and in community venues. In 2002, SJMAG hired a Managing Director to oversee the organization’s administrative tasks.
In 2003, SJMAG began presenting nationally known performance artists of color, such as the contemporary dance ensemble the Urban Bush Women. In 2005, we began staging plays by critically acclaimed African American playwrights such as Samm-Art Williams, Ntozake Shange, and August Wilson. In 2009, we received our first NEA grant to support our production of Daniel Beaty’s critically acclaimed Emergen-see.
In 2011, the Board appointed Managing Director Arlene Sagun as the organization’s first Executive Director, while Tabia’s Artistic Director, Viera Whye, continued to direct SJMAG’s theater programs. Tabia African American Theatre Ensemble and Maiko Women’s Drum and Poetry Ensemble became SJMAG ensembles in residence.
SJMAG now operates three main programs: Tabia African American Theater Ensemble, through which we present at least one major theater production by a leading black author and produce community events in honor of Black history and culture; Community Arts Program through which we produce San Jose’s largest free Dia de Los Muertos festival; and an Arts Education program, where we contract with local artists of color to teach youth in a variety of settings.