Tricia Creason-Valencia outside MACLA, a Latinx arts center in San Jose.
Tricia Creason-Valencia outside MACLA, a Latinx arts center in San Jose.

Q&A: She’s helping Latino kids in San Jose find a voice in media arts

Tricia Creason-Valencia, 51, teaches digital filmmaking at the university level, likes to serve on panel discussions about relevant issues such as feminist filmmaking, and enjoys engaging in “community conversations,” she says, such as interviewing Israeli author Edgar Keret for the Addison-Penzak JCC last fall. But her true dream job, which she has held since August, is head of studio at the nonprofit arts space MACLA, Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, in San Jose. There, she is able to combine her video production skills, creativity and, most important, her passion for social justice and desire to mentor young people to open new horizons for them.

J.: What is the MACLA studio?

Creason-Valencia: We are an open, free production center for neighborhood youth ages 12 to 18. The area is low-income and mostly Latino. We got a big grant to remodel the youth media center, and the media production studio is brand new. We’re waiting for some equipment but expect to be fully operational within the next two months. This month we began a pod with eight kids — we’re beginning to make media.

You also do production work for the nonprofit.

I’ve been working on projects with clients, doing video editing, putting together videos … We will be collaborating with the county on Covid education, along with six other organizations. This is kind of a dream job for me. I’ve been a filmmaker for social justice issues and I love working with youth. I was allowed to sort of create this position at MACLA.

Your documentaries have screened at film festivals, aired on public television and streamed online. “Stable Life,” about undocumented immigrants living and working at the former Bay Meadows racetrack in Belmont, won several awards and focused on one family in particular that was eventually deported to Mexico.

I am Mexican American, speak Spanish and was brought on to help with the film. My role just grew to creative producer. We were pretty embedded in their lives … we got to be very close to the family. We were committed and invested in their stories. When they were deported we tried to help them. They were left in Tijuana and set up in a shantytown. We stayed in touch via phone and social media, but it got harder and harder.

What is your family background?

I grew up in Southern California — my family is from New Mexico. I didn’t grow up with any religion; my parents had been Catholic but left the religion around the time I was born. I went to UC Berkeley at 17 and was very drawn to community in my early 20s, to the sense of people coming together. I was committed to social justice and tikkun olam. Judaism was a religion that made sense. It fit.

You also met your future husband, Rabbi Hugh Seid-Valencia, around that time?

I lived in Mexico after college and was back in the Bay Area, working at Marin Abused Women’s Services as a community organizer. He was living in a house with some friends of mine. The first year we were married, we lived in Israel.

Eventually you converted to Judaism.

I was pretty close to converting before we were married. I converted before we adopted our daughter. She is now 17. Our son is 13.

Are you active in the local Jewish community?

We are very, very involved in the Jewish community. Both of our children went to the APJCC preschool. We formed a havurah out of the JCC — we wouldn’t have found one another if it weren’t for the preschool. All of our kids consider themselves cousins. Our family belongs to Congregation Shir Hadash. My husband ran Jewish studies at Kehillah Jewish High School and is now back at the JCC. [Seid-Valencia was director of community engagement at the APJCC and is now director of collaborative leadership and Jewish engagement at Jewish Silicon Valley, a merger of Federation and APJCC.]

Besides MACLA studio closing to the public until recently, how else has the pandemic impacted your life?

Our daughter goes to a small arts school in Santa Cruz. Our son — whose bar mitzvah was sidelined by Covid — was in public school. He is a performer, dancer, actor, singer, guitarist, and his world disappeared. But with school online, he was sitting in front of the computer eight hours a day. Now I’m homeschooling him. My goal for both of my children is getting back to normal life. This has been hard.

Any other goals on the back burner?

No. For me, it is the launch of the studio. I’m shooting again, editing again. I’m really excited about building up this apprenticeship program. My dream is to build that out.

Liz Harris

Liz Harris is a J. contributor. She was J.'s culture editor from 2012-2018.