Community Development with Amanda Cortés

Editor’s note: As the national platform for Springboard for the Arts, Creative Exchange has long been a platform to highlight the artists, resources, and efforts in our national network. In this pandemic, as Springboard for the Arts’ work is increasingly online and accessible nationally, we’ll be turning the spotlight on Springboard staff and our Artist Career Consultants, to share more about who we are, and the work we do. Enjoy!

Amanda Cortés is an activist, cultural producer and creative co-conspirator working at the intersection racial equity, grassroots community development, art and culture. Her theory and practice are informed by her upbringing in working class, immigrant, Latinx communities on Chicago’s south west side, where she still works with the Pilsen Housing Cooperative. Amanda is inspired by connecting artists and cultural workers to resources, helping overcome obstacles in current projects and planning for new possibilities. She holds a B.S. in Speech Communication and a J.D. from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and along with her experience in community development and government, she is a Springboard Artist Career Consultant!

Share a little about your creative practice.
I used to think I didn’t have much of a creative practice because I don’t “make art” in a traditional way. Over the past few years, I realized that I’m deeply motivated by learning, dialogue and community building. My work most concretely manifests as editing, writing, strategic planning and connecting artists whose work moves me with resources. For a long time, I have also wanted to develop my creative writing and audio storytelling practice. I’m in love with both but I’m still figuring out my relationship with them. In my mind I write beautifully, but putting words on a page for others to read can be excruciating-like this, right now! I usually write when I’m inspired or when I need to process heavy things but I’m working on writing as an everyday practice, not letting perfect be the enemy of good and finding joy in the process rather than the outcome.

How did you start working with Springboard for the Arts?
Before I relocated to the Twin Cities, one of my favorite people in the world Abdul-Aziz Hassan, who is an organizer, a writer, ceramic artist and music buff, connected me with Springboard for the Arts. Abdul introduced me to Sam Buffington, Springboard’s Community Organizer. Sam and Abdul are brothers-in-law and it might be easy to wave these connections off as happenstance but lately the idea that we spin the threads we will use to weave our connections has come up again and again for me. I think forces beyond us, like our ancestors, guide us to where we need to be. Also, when I realized that Springboard valued community organizing enough to dedicate a whole staff member’s time to the practice, I knew these were my people.

What are projects that you have going right now or an idea in the making? What’s a project you’d like to see happen?
Emerging artists and artists who are working on new facets of their practice are my favorite folks to dialogue with and especially those doing politicized and decolonizing work. Supporting their growth is my favorite current project. Their vulnerability and determination gives me the energy I need to push through difficult and sticky parts in my own practice and life. I also have (too) many ideas for new projects! They sit on the back burner of my brain simmering away and occasionally bubble over, interrupting my daily work grind until I talk them out with a co-conspirator. A longer term dream project is connecting Twin Cities and Chicago politicized Latinx artists who are embodying the future of our world through their art and personal actions. In this most amazing convening, we would talk decolonization, make art, food, dance and see what manifests from there. I’m also working on the most intense and fulfilling collaborative project with my husband, who is a visual artist. It’s an organic sculpture that has been incubating for almost nine months now. He or She will join us at the end of this October.

What’s something you wish others knew about you?
I believe in the transformative power of art and its ability to inspire a revolution that includes healing and building as well as undoing racism, white supremacy and injustice. My experience as the daughter of Mexican immigrants who had their own politicized and grassroots artistic practices fundamentally shaped why I believe this to be true. At the same time, family can be beautifully complicated, messy and imperfect and that’s all ok. Let’s deconstruct pedestals and use the wood for ceremonial fires that light our way into the future.

Springboard Resources
Artist Career Consultants, available for virtual consultations:
Work of Art: Business Skills for Artists toolkit:
Springboard for the Arts Community Development resources: