Downtown Pomona's Artwalk January 12, 2019

Downtown Pomona kicks off the New Year with a mixture of the old and the new, offering residents and visitors the chance to catch shows from December that they missed while immersed in holiday frenzy, as well as experience new exhibitions that offer fresh and powerful perspectives on our humanity for 2019.

Metro Gallery opens with “Superior Animals,” a series of paintings and sculptures from Kai Ma that seek to find the animality within the human form through exaggerated expressions that reveal the noble and elegant nature of the Earth’s most domineering mammal. An internationally acclaimed artist and recent transplant to Los Angeles, Mao believes that every animal represents a human attribute or human character, with special emphasis placed on pride, beauty and elegance.

Kai Mao, Mr. Deer, 2016 Oil On Linen ,90x60 cm

Kai Mao, Mr. Deer, 2016 Oil On Linen ,90x60 cm

Kai Mao. 2016, The Pipa and Women of Superior Animals, Oil on Linen 90x60

Kai Mao. 2016, The Pipa and Women of Superior Animals, Oil on Linen 90x60

Progress Gallery presents “Of Gods and Other Flawed Creatures,” a  solo exhibition from Mark Thomas Bunner, a faculty member of the School of Art and Enterprise in downtown Pomona, uses form, line and texture to tell stories that explore time and motion. From majestic depictions of the female form floating through atmospheres meant for winged creatures to subtle observances of petals of a flower that often elude our gaze, Bunner asks for a deeper empathy from “a world that rejoices in the image of its blurred lines” in hopes of rejoining us to the small moments in life that we often fail to grasp in our flurry of living.

The Alley Gallery greets 2019 with an invitation to rumble in “The Roller Derby and Art Exhibition,” an evening celebrating the sport of roller derby in the modern era featuring work from HitSquadTV, Michael Wise II, Tristan King, The Angry Artist and others – so lace up your quads and roll on over to honor deliciously dangerous derby dames!

Mark Thomas Bunner, The Progress Gallery

Mark Thomas Bunner, The Progress Gallery

Alley Gallery flyer.jpg

For January, The School of Arts and Enterprise (SAE) continues “The 2018 Creative Arts Year in Review,” a collection of the best student art from last year chosen from more than 1000 student artwork entries by a jury of arts teachers and educators. Thirteen of these winners will be featured in the upcoming “The Art of the SAE” calendar, debuting this year.

Stephanie Burgess, SAE

Stephanie Burgess, SAE

The Latino Art Museum also continues its December shows “Jambalaya,” a solo show by Mati Russo, featuring “thought-provoking” works that “champion the truth,” as well as the duo show from Rigo Rivas and Juan Carlos Boxler in the Main Salon.

Mati Russo, Latino Art Museum

Mati Russo, Latino Art Museum

Juan Carlos Boxer, Latino Art Museum

Juan Carlos Boxer, Latino Art Museum

Rigo Rivas, Latino Art Museum

Rigo Rivas, Latino Art Museum

Lastly, don’t forget to stop by and show your support for the dA Center for the Arts fundraiser for Inland Empire Harm Reduction (IEHR), hosted by the Alternative Gathering Collective (AGC) and friends. This local, community-based public health project works to improve the health and well-being of people affected by drug abuse in the Inland Empire region of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. $5 donation.
-Stacy Davies

2nd Saturday Artwalk & The Pomona Christmas Parade Saturday, December 8

The Holiday Season is upon us, as evidenced by the torturous mainstream radio and Muzack resurrections of pop earworms such as Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time,” but fear not – Downtown Pomona plans to put some shake, rattle and roll back into the Yuletide!

Once again, the Downtown Pomona Owners Association invites one and all their annual holiday parade, this year titled “the Sounds of Christmas.” Featuring school marching bands and drill teams, boom boom car clubs, service organizations, local dignitaries, and spectacular floats, even  more holiday festivities await at the Shaun Diamond Plaza – including Santa Claus, snow, crafts, and music you can actually groove to. The parade’s Grand Marshall this year is Harold Ray Brown, Pomona resident and founder of the funk band War, which topped the charts in the 1970s with songs such as “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” There’s no good reason why we can’t, of course, so roll on into the Downtown and inspire a little peace on Earth! 

The Downtown galleries will also be celebrating the holidays in spirit, and the Latino Art Museum opens two new shows: “Jambalaya,” a solo show by Mati Russo, features “thought-provoking” works that “champion the truth,” and a duo show from Rigo Rivas and Juan Carlos Boxler take center stage in the Main Salon.

Mati Russo, Latino Art Museum

Mati Russo, Latino Art Museum

Juan Carlos Boxer, Latino Art Museum

Juan Carlos Boxer, Latino Art Museum

Rigo Rivas, Latino Art Museum

Rigo Rivas, Latino Art Museum

The Progress Gallery dips into history with “Millard Sheets: Coming Home,” a retrospective of the iconic artist’s work sponsored in part by the Claremont Heritage association. Presenting recently acquired murals originally produced by the Millard Sheets Studio for Buffum’s department store that anchored the east end of the Pomona Mall, these paint on wood panels depict the history and glory of Pomona. Also included in the exhibition are mosaics and sculpture, and a short film comprised of interviews with Sheets and other Pomona Valley artists. Books, artwork and DVDs on Sheets will also be available.


The School of Arts and Enterprise (SAE) presents “The 2018 Creative Arts Year in Review,” a collection of the best student art of the year as selected by a jury of arts teachers and educators. From more than 1000 student artworks over the course of 2018, 50 unique and original works have been selected for the exhibition, and of those, 13 will be chosen by popular vote to be featured in the upcoming “The Art of the SAE” calendar, debuting this year. Due to the parade activities, the DTC gallery will open early this weekend at 11am.

Last but not least, Metro Gallery continues its exhibition “1928,” a collection of works in acrylic and recycled/found wood by Lancaster painter and muralist Julius Eastman.

-Stacy Davies

Julies Eastman, “December 1928”

Julies Eastman, “December 1928”

Founding member of musical group war named grand marshal of Pomona Christmas parade

The Garey High School Marching Band entertains the crowd in the Pomona Christmas Parade, themed The Pomona Express, Saturday, Dec. 9, in downtown Pomona. (Courtesy photo)

The Garey High School Marching Band entertains the crowd in the Pomona Christmas Parade, themed The Pomona Express, Saturday, Dec. 9, in downtown Pomona. (Courtesy photo)

By LISET MÁRQUEZ | | Inland Valley Daily BulletinPUBLISHED: November 30, 2018 at 2:28 pm | UPDATED: November 30, 2018 at 2:30 pm

Thousands are expected to flock to downtown Pomona on Dec. 8 for the annual Christmas parade.

The Pomona Christmas Parade, themed “Sounds of Christmas,” will be from 6 to 8 p.m.

Harold Ray Brown, a founding member of War and a Pomona resident, will serve as the grand marshal, the Downtown Pomona Owners Association announced in a news release.

The parade is expected to feature more than 100 entries, including floats, bands and drill teams. It will begin at East Second and Gibbs streets and continue west on Second then turning south on Park Avenue to Mission Boulevard.At Mission, the parade will turn east and then head north on Garey Avenue before turning east on East Third Street, south on Locust Street, and east on Fourth and ending at Gibbs.

A free family event prior to the parade will run from 4 to 9 p.m. at Shaun Diamond Plaza.

For more information, visit

12th Annual Chalk Art Festival

On Saturday, November 10, 2018, the City of Pomona's Cultural Arts Commission hosted the 2018 Chalk Art Festival in Shaun Diamond Plaza in Downtown Pomona.  The dull gray concrete sidewalks and plaza tiles were transformed into colorful, pastel pathways. Pomona’s elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as families and professional artists joined together to create temporary chalk masterpieces. This years theme was Route 66 or Favorite Book.

2nd Saturday Artwalk November 10, 2018

The holiday season is officially upon us, and that means it’s time for the Annual Pomona Chalk Art Festival. Hosted by the City of Pomona Cultural Arts Commission, the festival is in its 12th year – and still totally free! 

A variety of artists will be on hands and knees drawing, coloring and shading whimsical, wacky, and wistful street art creations – and all artists are welcome. The festival begins with a free breakfast and check-in, and then it’s straight on to dressing up the Downtown streets in thematic artwork – with free a box of pastel chalk provided to each participant. (Yes, more free stuff!)

Students from Pomona Unified School District, School of Arts & Enterprise, City of Knowledge School, Pomona Catholic, home schools and multi-age families all compete in the student category theme of “Route 66 or My Favorite Book.” Professional artists choose their own themes, and prizes for both groups include art supplies, gift cards, gift certificates, and $100 for the best contribution from an artist at the professional level.

Winners are announced at the recognition ceremony mid-afternoon, and every participant, receives a festival T-shirt. For additional information, contact the Pomona Planning Division at (909) 620-2191.

Later that evening, the Downtown galleries invite you to explore the works of mid-career artists and new voices. Metro Gallery presents painter and muralist Julius Eastman for “1928,” a collection of pieces by this self-taught artist from Lancaster who works in acrylic and experiments with recycled/found wood, and The Alley Gallery launches into a “One Day Nintendo Pop-up” shop, so jump back in time and relive your favorite childhood moments through artworks, murals and stickers. Yes, another yet another chance to cringe over Toad from Mario Kart! Yay?

Julius Eastman, December 1928, Metro Gallery

Julius Eastman, December 1928, Metro Gallery

Julius Eastman, Scarab and Birds, Metro Gallery

Julius Eastman, Scarab and Birds, Metro Gallery

The Latino Art Museum opens “Imagination,” a group show featuring work from Geoffrey Levitt, Charisse Abellana, Cherie Redlinger, Sonia Talukder, Rigo Rivas, Mati Russo, Juan Carlos Boxler, Carla Chavez-Keller, and Alma Moctezuma, and the School of Arts & Enterprise (SAE) continues its “Horror” exhibition of work from over 50 of the school’s digital and visual arts majors – with additional works added to celebrate Dia de los Muertos.

The Progress Gallery opens two shows in their East and West locations. On the Westside, Pomona native Domonique Brown presents her illustrative drawings and paintings in “To Color America: Blurring the Boundaries Between Traditional and Contemporary Modes of Representation,” and on the Eastside, noted printmaker Denise Kraemer has brought together the best works from her printmaking students in “The Shape of Things.” Kraemer’s hot off several Inland Empire shows and still manages time to whisk anyone interested into a magical world of printmaking – go find out if this is your new calling!

-Stacy Davies

Chicano Chefs are writing the next chapter of mexican-american cuisine in LA

Dia de los Puercos in Pomona with a lowrider outside        Wonho Frank Lee

Dia de los Puercos in Pomona with a lowrider outside Wonho Frank Lee

Dia de Los Puercos and San Diego’s Salud! blends history and culture with tacos and burritos

by Bill Esparaza Octover 18, 2018 1:53 pm PDT photos by Wonho Frank Lee

Pomona could be considered the gateway to the Inland Empire’s explodingMexican food scene and Rick Garcia, owner and el chefe at Dia de Los Puercos stands squarely in the center of the movement. On a bright Sunday at his restaurant, it’s friends and family day, Chicano-style. Garcia greets a customer dressed in an immaculately pressed black Dickies button up with baggy jeans. The customer says, “I knew it was a formal occasion so I dressed up.”

Tonight is a special occasion, and almost everyone is wearing lowrider apparel featuring young Chicano designers (some of the fashion designers are even present), the same way many here have been dressing since they were teenagers. Pendletons, Charlie Brown shirts, and millennial Chicana couture, with brands like Bella DoñaRaggedy Tiff, and Hija de Tu Madre, hold their trendy appeal in the Mexican-American community, and represent Chicano pride.

In places like Pomona, San Diego’s Barrio Logan, and East Los Angeles, pochos, the name for Mexicans who were raised in the United States, have grown up. They’ve started families and have become entrepreneurs, but their dedication to street fashion, Chevrolets, Oldies, and pocho cuisine define a lifestyle that’s been a constant. They are spawning a new generation of Chicano restaurants: places like Salud! in Barrio Logan neighborhood, and now Dia de Los Puercos in Pomona, which moved to a new location in mid-September.

“We still love our cars, the neighborhood, the clothes, and the music, but now we have responsibilities,” a customer waiting in line at Salud! explains. In a similar vein, Garcia’s new restaurant in Pomona is a shrine to Chicanismo, or Mexican-American street cultureStreet lamps light the booths, while Nike Cortez sneakers dangle from mock power lines on the ceiling, indicating where to snag tacos. Sneakers on power lines have often been a signal for where to score drugs.

There’s a wall of fame for car clubs who donate one of their chrome plaques. And all around the restaurant there’s photography and art by local Mexican-American artists like Art MezaMichael RiosCarlos Ponce, and Germizm. Grey, white, and black serapes line the backs of tables in the front bar, covered in plastic as a tribute to all the thrifty abuelas that wouldn’t let the kids sit on the couch without the covers.

The new Dia de Los Puercos oozes nostalgia from the red roses on the tables, to beers served in paper bags, to the quixotic list of oldies spray painted on the back wall while Debra Hurd’s When a Boy Meets a Girl pops on the DJ’s turntable. The soft, breathy soprano riffs take you back to your middle school crush, as funky guitar licks and staccato synthesizer bass lines take you back to the sounds of the Eastside of Garcia’s youth. Cheladas, micheladas, and sangria flow just in time for the firme hour, Dia de Los Puerco’s Chicanofied happy hour.

There’s been a shift in how Mexican-Americans cook the food of their upbringing, with chefs like Ray Garcia of Broken Spanish, Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria, and Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos elevating childhood dishes into a new genre dubbed “Alta California.”

In contrast, a new Chicano culinary genre has been emerging from Mexican-American communities — one where tacos, nachos, lowrider bikes, oldies, graffiti art, and micheladas reflect this generation’s youth and heritage. An Art Meza photograph of the old 6th Street bridge on the back wall is a bittersweet memory for the Mexican community.

“Our families crossed that bridge to go to work in Downtown LA from Boyle Heights and East LA, and that’s where we’d cruise our rides at, and now it’s gone,” says Garcia.

Back in Barrio Logan, Salud! has become a beacon of Chicano imagery and lifestyle, with murals, bumper-laden walls, lowrider bikes, and Chicana servers. They serve simple delights like tacos, mulitas, and quesadillas — a menu that pulls inspiration from Pocho taco shops, late-night taquerias in Tijuana, and the San Diego stands of the owners’ youth. The kitchen dresses the tacos traditionally with cabbage, cotija cheese, Mexican cream, and even a bit of cheddar. Salud!’s owner, Ernie Becerra, sees lines out the door at his pair of taquerias (Salud recently opened a second location in Midway) with a broader audience embracing their grown-up Chicano identity.

Becerra feels that Chicano culture is more in the public eye these days, but there’s still a struggle to shift broader cultural perceptions. There’s also a tension within: He says Chicanos are often stuck between not being Mexican enough or American enough.

“As a kid though, in the late 80s and early 90s, the gangs, party crews, and tagger crews really gave our culture a bad stigma,” Becerra explains. “It’s a different time now, and although we are still cruising lowriders, repping our sets, bumping the same music, and eating the same food, Chicanos are becoming more business-minded and showcasing our talents to the world.”

Garcia, like many young Latino cooks, went to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, then bounced around kitchens like Mi Piace and Cafe Santorini in Pasadena before landing a gig as corporate chef for Marriott Hotels, where he worked for nine years traveling to various outposts and fixing problems in the chain’s hotel kitchens.

“I never really found my place cooking at restaurants,” says Garcia. “So I took the job at Marriott, but when I got back into cooking Chicano food, that’s when I knew what I needed to do.”

It was the food he was cooking at home and for friends that inspired him to open the Piggy Smalls food truck in 2013, before upgrading to a brick and mortar, the original Dia de Los Puercos in West Covina, two years later.

Chicanos, like their families and friends in Mexico, draw inspiration from their elders.

“I think the roots of Chicano cuisine come from young children watching grandparents and parents who have come from Mexico, but who are now using what they have at their disposal here in the States and mixing the two together,” says Becerra.

Gramma B’s influence is all over the menu, from the sopes and tacos dorados to guisados like rajas con queso and calabasitas. Like many of his Chicano peers, Garcia also looks to notable Baja California chefs like Javier PlascenciaBenito Molina, and Jair Téllez for inspiration. But he spent more formative years eating East LA cuisine at Al & Bea’s, Ciro’s, and the legendary Cielito Lindoin Downtown Los Angeles’s Olvera Street.

Chihuahua-style plates like taquitos de weenie (hot dog taquitos), menudo served with a bolillo (small Mexican roll), and a torta of mochomos (Chihuahua-style shredded pork) get Chicano twists that reflect a Mexican-American aesthetic. The La Mesa torta comes with a pair of fried eggs and mochomos (seasoned beef ), while he serves the taquitos de wennie with ketchup. There’s the Ese Borracho, an LA-style bacon wrapped hot dog like the ones outside every concert and club where Latinos congregate.

Dia de Los Puercos’s Mexicorn, or esquites, comes with bits of bacon while the Flahco taco incorporates Flamin’ Hot Cheetos into the masa for a tinted special tortilla. It’s an ode to the the popular liquor store snack so highly coveted in LA’s Latino enclaves. It’s fine dining for the clika, and a place where raza can feel at home with familiar flavors that reflect Mexican-American culture.

“Chicano cuisine is a thing,” says Silvana Salcido Esparza, who owns Barrio Cafe, widely considered a pioneer of modern Mexican-American cuisine in Phoenix, AZ. “Mexicans born in Mexico can’t began to understand the struggles of growing up Mexican in America,” she adds. Chicanos are immersed in their culture, from their clothing, to their cars, their caló dialect and the food they grew up with. As pocho gastronomy enters the mainstream with restaurants like Dia de Los Puercos and its food hall branch at Food Lab in Riverside, which opened on October 4, the real flavors of home cooking in Los Angeles’s barrios are creating a new narrative. This is the future of Mexican cuisine in America.

Dia de Los Puercos. 115 W 2nd St, Pomona, CA 
Salud ! 2196 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA

2nd Saturday Artwalk October 2018 by Stacy Davies

Fall rolls into the Downtown this month with a host of new creative works, and celebrations for those who prowl the night in search of innocent souls to damn into the darkness. There will also be Halloween parties.

The Latino Art Museum prefers a bit of daylight, however, and opens two shows, “Faces of Hope and Mind Games” from Ricardo Aguilar, and the group show, “Portraits Retratos,” featuring work from Peruvian artists in the museum’s permanent collection Mati Russo, Juan Carlos Boxler, Victor Ruiz de Somocurcio, Luis Portilla, Manuel Vasquez, Milagros Zuniga, Marlene de la Cruz, Adrianna Anselmo de Oliveira, Akira Chinen, Eduardo Deza, Javier Arriola, Julio Gomez Natalia Bacal, and Maryla Hinostroza.

Metro Gallery embraces the October season by treating us to more eye candy from one of our favorite local artists, RT Pece – who’s decided to get interactive this time around and seeks our assistance in “Name Some Paintings.” Featuring his signature Dr. Seuss on LSD creatures (our description – but still not a name), these untitled images are certain to elicit some creative (and hopefully PG-13) responses. Also, the winners get a free glass of wine! The losers also get a free glass of wine. The wine is free.

R. T. Pece, Metro Gallery

R. T. Pece, Metro Gallery

R. T. Pece, Metro Gallery

R. T. Pece, Metro Gallery

The School of Arts and Enterprise (SAE) carves out a gang of ghoulish goods in “Horror,” a collection of work from over 50 of the school’s digital and visual arts majors, grades 6-12. This ought to enhance their college admissions interviews.

Jenneyda Rojas, The Gallery at the Downtown Center

Jenneyda Rojas, The Gallery at the Downtown Center

Gallery 57 Underground goes way more than six feet under in “Ancestral Recall,” a group show of oddities and devilry that has arrived, according to them, “just in time for the Apocalypse.” Yay! Yay? Curated by Manny Sifuentes and featuring work by Grimm Beatz, Angie Shen, Alex Diedyesterday, Jason LaMotte, Adam Bellhouse, and Michelle Garduno, this festering fiesta promises to snatch you into the seamy dark side via “the splattered mania of six sovereign beasts.”  Yes, basically just another day at the office.

The Alley Gallery knows what to do with you once you fall into that dark side in “Fangoria,” a blood-curdling bash billed as “the ultimate horror art show.” Stifle your screams as Joded lures you through a lair of gruesome mural installations and other horrific arts, and be sure to wear your most demonic duds – Cosplay is welcome and there are prizes for best costume, including the coveted “most disgusting.” Keywords: “vegetable. soup.”   

The California Design Firm joins the shriek-fest with “It's in Our Blood,” an epic showcase sure to tantalize your wicked pleasure with artwork by Bokiso, Crodas, Deadman, Jorge Meza, and Pete Lomas, live art by Reibot, and live music by Come Culo, Colored Houses, Joshua Bloom, King Mala, and NKriot – who’ll weave together your perfect pagan-party soundtrack. 

Progress Gallery continues Professor Conchi Sanford’s “50/50, FIFTY/FIFTY: the Creative Magic of Collaboration,” an exhibition exploring transformation through collaborations between educators and creators via their multisensory, collaborative works of installation, performance, and visual art. 
-by Stacy Davies

The Slummin' Gourmet is now open!

We have a new restaurant in Downtown Pomona and we’re super excited about it! Fig & Ricotta Toast, American Kobe Beef Burgers and Honey Walnut Shrimp Tacos are just a few of the items on The Slummin’ Gourmet’s menu. Located at 224 E. 2nd St. Check them out!

2nd Saturday Artwalk September 8, 2018

Artistic reverie abounds as the Downtown breaks ground on new spaces and engaging exhibitions.

Longtime Pomona art innovator George Cuttress celebrates the grand opening of his most recent art space for The Progress Gallery – the East Gallery – which adds 1400 square feet of display for Progress. For their inaugural show, the gallery welcomes Professor Conchi Sanford’s “50/50, FIFTY/FIFTY: the Creative Magic of Collaboration,” which explores transformation through collaborations between educators and creators through their multisensory, collaborative works of installation, performance, and visual art.

57 Underground presents “The Pulsing Beat” by Jeanne Andersen, featuring vibrant paintings and illustrations of urban street life from today and yesteryear, and the School for Arts and Enterprise (SAE) welcomes the first of its professional guest exhibitions with photographer Angeline Herron in “Inamorata.”

Jeanne Andersen, 57 Underground

Jeanne Andersen, 57 Underground

Jeanne Andersen, 57 Underground

Jeanne Andersen, 57 Underground

Metro Gallery opens “Dense Karma,” a solo show by rising printmaking star Denise Kraemer, whose work continues to be more impressive with each passing year. Keep your eye on this artist as she pushes further into complexity and symbolism through her whimsical prints, breaking into new levels of creativity and, most assuredly, heightened regional recognition.

Denise Kraemer, Metro Gallery

Denise Kraemer, Metro Gallery

Latino Art Museum unveils three new shows: “Zoomorphism, Come and Play,” an interactive “playful” exhibition of found, recycled and purchased objects from Jose Angel Hernandez; 


“Tradiciones Mexicanas,” a group show from Mexican artists Naty Medina, Jorge Madero, Laura Rivera, Sergio Cueva, Miguel Mendez, Leticia Martinez, Fernando Arredondo, Dolores Carrillo, Ruth Ramos, Salvador Jaramillo, Uriel Nieto, Manuel Reyes, Gabriel Laris, and Fabricio Gros, and curated by Jorge Madero of Maestros Plastica Mexico; 

and “Hispanic Heritage,” a group show that celebrates Hispanidad (Puerto Rico, Philippines, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Columbia) through the works of Charisse Abellana, Jose Angel Hernandez, Celeste Illaski, Mauricio Cardona, Carla Chavez-Keller, Maria de los Angeles Espinosa, Rosa Elena Osicka, Mati Russo, Danelle Rivas, Yolanda Londono, and Luis Molina.
                                                                                                      -Stacy Davies



Run for a ‘Healthier Pomona’ returns to downtown this October

By LISET MÁRQUEZ | | Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
PUBLISHED: August 24, 2018 at 3:16 pm | UPDATED: August 24, 2018 at 3:17 pm

Runners will once again converge onto the streets of Downtown Pomona this October.

Registration is now available for the second annual Pomona 5k/Walk for a Healthier Pomona, which will be held 8 a.m., Oct. 20 at Shaun Diamond Plaza.

Last year’s inaugural event drew more than 700 participants and organizers are hoping to exceed that figure. The event is meant to encourage residents to be physically active and, along the way, get to know other city residents and possibly become involved in other Pomona community activities.
It is being co-organized by the Pomona Valley Runners — formerly known as We Run Pomona — and Day One, a nonprofit that works on public health education, intervention and policy development.
Organizers are also looking for volunteers to help setup the day before the run as well as Saturday morninng.
Registration for the 5k is $40. To register or volunteer, visit

Runners and walkers warm up before Pomona’s first We Run Pomona 5K Run/Walk at the Shaun Diamond Plaza at Second and Thomas streets in downtown on Saturday, Oct. 21. The run is meant to serve as a community building event, bringing people together in taking part in healthy and physical activity. Photo by James Carbone, Contributing Photographer)

Runners and walkers warm up before Pomona’s first We Run Pomona 5K Run/Walk at the Shaun Diamond Plaza at Second and Thomas streets in downtown on Saturday, Oct. 21. The run is meant to serve as a community building event, bringing people together in taking part in healthy and physical activity. Photo by James Carbone, Contributing Photographer)

Meet Rene Contreras, whose Viva! Pomona Crosses Musical Lines

Rene Contreras is the promoter behind Viva! Pomona, a music festival downtown that mixes local and international bands. (Photo by David Allen)

Rene Contreras is the promoter behind Viva! Pomona, a music festival downtown that mixes local and international bands. (Photo by David Allen)

By DAVID ALLEN | | Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
PUBLISHED: August 14, 2018 at 5:58 pm | UPDATED: August 14, 2018 at 6:02 pm

When the first Viva! Pomona music festival drew 400 paying customers to two downtown restaurants and a club, no one was more surprised than its young promoter – although he didn’t let on.

“I was just faking it. I had no idea what I was doing,” Rene Contreras recalled. His inexperience was clearer the second year, 2013, when the festival moved outdoors to Second Street and many people, rather than pay admission, just watched from the public sidewalk. “I was so angry,” the good-natured Contreras said, laughing at the memory.

Still, with its seventh iteration this weekend, expected to draw 1,400, Viva! Pomona is now a tradition. It attracts up-and-coming rock bands, locally and internationally.

And Contreras is carving out a niche for himself in the indie music industry, bridging the gap between Spanish and English-language rock. Viva led to a job curating the Sonora stage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, where he mixed indie bands with Latin American musicians, and the Chella concert last spring for Indio-area Latinos.

Rene Contreras is the promoter behind Viva! Pomona, a music festival downtown. One site is Shaun Diamond Plaza, where this Pomona-themed mural is seen. (Photo by David Allen)

I’d heard of Viva but hadn’t known of Contreras until reading about the Sonora stage. A story notedthat when Contreras got a text from Coachella’s Paul Tollett inviting him to talk, Contreras had to beg off because he was at Cal Poly Pomona in an economics class. (He’s since been hired by Tollett’s company, Goldenvoice, after completing his degree – at fellow Bronco Tollett’s insistence.)

I met Contreras last fall at the LA County Fair, where he booked bands to perform in an area named Mi Poco, aimed at drawing young Latinos for music, food and coffee. The curly haired, personable Contreras and I talked at length and I resolved to write about him when his annual festival rolled around. So we met up last week for a more formal conversation.

He didn’t start Viva to make money – it does little more than break even – or to make a name for himself.

“It comes from sincerity,” Contreras said. “We were just trying to have an affordable music festival in Pomona.”

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Proudly born and raised in Pomona, the first-generation Mexican-American grew up on the south side in what he describes as lower-middle class comfort. He played Little League at Ralph Welch Park, skateboarded around town, made art projects with his friends and volunteered in the Pomona Teen Values Council, which sounds like something out of the 1950s.

Every year his family made a road trip to visit relatives in Michoacan. But he associated Mexico and the Spanish language with aunts and grandparents, not with his life as a young American, where he was handing out flyers for concerts at the Glass House and organizing backyard concerts.

That is, until he got a Facebook message from someone in Tijuana offering him $800 if he could book three bands and haul them south of the border for the All My Friends Music Festival. Somehow, he made it work, even though, as he put it, “I was 20 years old and looked 15.”

More significantly, he found young Mexicans with whom he could converse about shared interests. “To talk to them about food or Radiohead or art,” he said, “it was a mind-blowing experience.”

He opened up to Latin culture in Pomona and Southern California, learning that there were underground bands with the punk vibe he liked who were fellow Latin Americans. Because they might sing in Spanish, acts were pigeonholed by promoters as if they were playing banda music.

Perry Tollett, Paul’s brother and the owner of the Glass House, was already backing Contreras’ ventures, including Viva! Pomona. Tollett encouraged him to add Spanish music to Viva if that’s what he liked.

The second year, he booked a Mexican-American band from San Ysidro, a move that “opened this enormous portal I never knew existed,” Contreras said. Via Facebook, a band from Mexico City, Los Blenders, contacted him asking to play in Pomona.

“They probably thought Viva! was like Woodstock or something,” Contreras said sheepishly. “It was billed as ‘three stages of music!’”

An early champion of Chicano Batman, booking them for shows after its Rialto-based guitarist handed him a CD at the Glass House Record Store while mumbling, “You don’t have to listen to it if you don’t want,” Contreras began branching out from the Inland Empire and L.A. He attended international festivals for emerging bands, like Hermosa Rudio in Colombia and Epicentro in Costa Rica, to listen to music and chat up musicians.

“He’s just a very likable guy,” Perry Tollett told me. “He met bands and would get invited to visit other cities and see other shows. He’s very interested in music and doing music from an indie point of view, not a corporate point of view.”

Bands from Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Spain have performed at Viva. For many, it was their first time playing in America. If L.A. wasn’t interested, well, Pomona looked close enough.

“These bands wanted to make it in the United States,” Contreras explained. After getting a foot in the door at Viva, “promoters from L.A. see they played Pomona and give them a shot. Dumb as it sounds, it gives them credibility.”

When we met last year, he had just returned from Colombia, where he’d sat on a music panel. The shy Contreras was surprised at all the attention he got, with girls being extra nice to him or touching his shoulder. Later he learned that some were under the impression that he owned Coachella and was rich.

In fact, the budget for Viva is small, and headliners don’t return because they’re on to bigger and better things. Sometimes much bigger.

Cuco, a Hawthorne dream-pop singer whose real name is Omar Banos, and who headlined Viva in 2017, has since played Coachella and is touring Europe. Contreras showed me a recent photo of a promotion for Cuco’s new album. “He’s on a Times Square billboard,” Contreras said, delighted, “and he played his first festival in Pomona. It’s crazy.”

Viva’s audience is mostly aged 16 to 25, with many performers in the same range. At 28, Contreras said, he’s having to work a little to relate to a demographic he’s aging out of. “I’m used to being the young kid,” he marveled. The days when he organized street teams to hand out concert flyers at high schools must seem prehistoric to today’s teen bands.

Viva takes place Saturday and Sunday, starting at 4 p.m. at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St. Tickets are $25. Of the 49 bands on the bill, about half are Latin. Some switch back and forth effortlessly between Spanish and English. The Marias, for one: The bilingual singer is from Puerto Rico and the rest of the band is from the San Fernando Valley.

Contreras still lives in his parents’ home. He began Viva! Pomona to promote hometown pride and do something for local bands and fans who got the cold shoulder in L.A. The increasingly Latin tinge, he said, simply reflects life today, in which young people move fluidly between those worlds.

“It’s not a Latino festival or a Latinx festival, where everybody speaks Spanish,” Contreras said. “I’m not about banging down the door or closing people out. It’s about bringing people together.”

David Allen writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, pulling people apart. Email, phone 909-483-9339, visit, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook, follow @davidallen909 on Twitter and buy “Getting Started” and “Pomona A to Z.”

2nd Saturday Artwalk August 11, Along With A Few Other Things

The scorching, sizzling hand of Mother Nature may still be whacking us down, but resistance is not futile! Dodge the diabolical dame by heading downtown for some refreshing multicultural art experiences, and a plethora of delectable cuisine and thirst-quenching beverages!

First, swing by the Latino Art Museum for “Breaking Silence: Puerto Rico Responds with Art,” billed as Southern California’s first Puerto Rican collective art show. Filled with vibrant paintings, ceramic sculptures, enamel, digital pigments, and resin on steel plate mixed media, these works from international artists such as sculptor/painter Julia Rivera, ceramicist Diana Davila, and mixed media creator Eduardo Cabrer, focus our attention on the complex and enigmatic sociopolitical reality of Puerto Ricans as American citizens. Proceeds from the exhibition, curated by Carmen Flores, directly aid the artists in the island territory who lost their homes during Hurricane Maria through CERF+ Responds to Disasters.  

The Museum also presents “Neglected Assumptions,” a solo show by Steven Rushingwind-Ruiz, and he'll also be joining the High Spirits Flute performance during the opening reception.

Next, stop off at the Metro Gallery, where longtime Pomona artist Denis Thorp presents his solo photography show of Aztec/Mexica dancers engaging in spiritual expressions of history, culture, and communion with the planet. 

Now, round off the evening at one of Downtown’s many New or Improved unique eateries – where you can find something for everyone! 

The famous Rookery Ale House and Grill recently moved to a new location – just a few doors down from the original spot – and not only still offers its mouthwatering appetizers (from IPA battered asparagus and pickles to spicy fried potatoes) and burgers (try the “El Iron Tummy” jalapeno, “The Gunslinger” ale reduction and pepperjack, or “The Vegetarian” with garlic alioi, among others) – but now they even have an intimate back patio filled with woodlands ambiance! Don’t forget to try the craft beer, of course, since that’s the Rookery’s specialty, and on a day like today, we’d definitely say the “Beachwood Blendery Dia De Los Mangos” and “North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout” already have our mouths watering. 

For some International fare and groovin’ nightlife, check out Fuego Cocina and Cantina for a wild Cuban/Mexican experience, and try their experimental delicacies, as well as traditional cuisine with a twist. The Cantina also offers a wide variety of specialty drinks and entertainment, including a dance floor!  


Every Gen Xer and older Millennial (we know you’re really Gen Y!) can find a bit of digital Heaven on Earth retro style at Paradox Arcade + Bar, a wild blast from the past of 1980’s and 90’s classic arcade games merged with craft beer, wine, sake – the perfect spot to toss back a few and get your Galaga or Donkey Kong on!

Fan-favorite Big D's Burgers is opening a new location at 183 W. 3rd St., bringing their famous organic, grass-fed angus burgers and monolithic milkshakes to the Downtown – and for the party crowd, they’re even adding an underground dance bar called The Basement!

The Slumming Gourmet is opening just across Garey St. on Antique Row, which is fantastic news for anyone who wants the “Fancy, without the Schmancy.” Yes, your ballcaps and short shorts are welcome at this posh-light eatery that offers snooty-tooty food without the rudey-rudey waiter dude, including walnut shrimp tacos and kobe beef sliders, which were top faves on the Slumming Gourmet food truck. That’s right, the food truck isn’t going away, but it is getting a home when the TSG opens its first brick and mortar location – that also means you don’t have to hunt them down anymore!

Also coming the Downtown is Dia De Los Puercos, another a food truck and catering business, this time arriving from Covina and featuring an LA Street Culture scene. The bangin’ cuisine features such hits as Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Tacos, the Homie Burrito, Los 5150’s Nachos, Ese Borracho (LA-Style Hot Dog with bacon), and a phat line of unique drinks such as the Agua-Net made with fresh agua de pepino, the OG Flacho y Sas, and the Horchake – an horchata with a kick!

                                                                                     -Stacy Davies