Alberto Paul Pizano
Founder and President (1999-2015)
Born and raised in East Los Angeles, Mr. Pizano was involved in many civic and cultural activities and organizations related to Latino issues in the Los Angeles area throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Prior to the formation of the cultural arts center Plaza de la Raza in Los Angeles’ Lincoln Park, he helped organize the community effort to clean up the park’s lake. Mr. Pizano then went on to become Plaza de la Raza’s second Chairman of the Board of Directors. He also participated in efforts to incorporate East Los Angeles as an independent city.
Mr. Pizano was very involved with the Democratic Central Committee, and was President of the Monterey Park Democratic Club. He took major responsibility for local activities related to Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Because of his involvement, he and his wife Lillian attended the events at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968.
In the late 1970s, Mr. Pizano moved his family to Santa Barbara, where he was the district manager for The Gas Company for Santa Barbara County for 26 years. He immediately founded the Santa Barbara Hispanic Achievement Council (HAC) that recognized local Latinos for their extraordinary contributions and achievements in the community. He also co-founded the Santa Barbara Mariachi Festival, was El Presidente for Old Spanish Days Fiesta in 1987 (photo above left), and co-founded the Flamenco Arts Festival where he served as the President for 16 years.
Founder and President (1999-Present)
Vibiana was introduced to Spanish dance and Mexican Folklórico at the age of four when her parents, during the mid-fifties, enrolled her in a dance school in West Los Angeles. The trip from East Los Angeles to the dance studio on West 24th Street and Vermont seemed like a long trip, but it proved to be one of the best investments her parents ever made.
At sixteen, in her efforts to refine and expand her dance skills, she developed an interest in flamenco and that interest prompted her to seek the best flamenco teachers working in Los Angeles. She enrolled in classes in Hollywood taught by Luisa Triana, who performed at the Lobero Theatre in 1962, and she also studied with Lola Montes. Though Vibiana little recognized it at the time, flamenco was to become an avocation that was to become part and parcel of who she is.
After moving to Santa Barbara in 1980 she continued her studies and performed in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. In 1994, recognizing that there was a flamenco niche in Santa Barbara, she initiated the practice of inviting flamenco artists to conduct workshops in an effort to expose the local flamenco students to the stars and icons of flamenco. In the same year, during a trip to attend the Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla, where all the flamenco artists of Spain and the world, gather to showcase their work, an idea crystallized in her mind. Sitting in the audience of Teatro de la Maestranza in Sevilla, she wondered if a flamenco festival was possible in Santa Barbara, a city that still maintains many of the legacies and traditions of its Spanish roots and has long been a natural and nurturing environment for the arts and especially flamenco. Thus the concept of the Flamenco Arts Festival was born in that darkened theater in Sevilla.
With the support of her father, Alberto Pizano, the Festival was incorporated in 1999 and staged its first edition in 2000 at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara.
The Flamenco Arts Festival coincides with National Hispanic Heritage Month and presents world-class flamenco performances and educational arts programs. It is an annual event that brings a prominent flamenco company from Spain to Santa Barbara. For 4 days, the visiting guest artists perform, teach, lecture, interact with participants, and represent Spain. Festivities include live concerts, lectures, films and documentaries, award presentations, dance and music workshops, and celebrations.
Vibiana and her father, Alberto Pizano, founded the Festival in 1999. It was Vibiana who sought to create a flamenco festival in Santa Barbara after attending the Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla in 1994. Her father, Alberto Pizano, who co-founded the Santa Barbara Mariachi Festival in 1995, had the know-how and experience to get it off the ground.
For Vibiana and Alberto, Santa Barbara was the perfect location for a flamenco festival. With the beautiful coastline, its courtyards, paseos, and Spanish legacy, there is no better place for a flamenco festival than Santa Barbara, the American Riviera.
Julie McLeod, Mona Nicoll,
Ana Maria Suarez, Elizabeth Crespo,
Estela Zatania (Spain), Colleen Rickman,
Belen Seoane (Spain), Jaclyn Pizano Smith
Cecilia Martini-Muth / graphic designer
May O’Mahoney / freelance writer
Photos: Fritz Olenberger, Paco Lobato, Felix Vázquez, Luis Malibrán, Sari Makki