“If not now, when?”
This is a statement that community unifier Juan Pablo Santa Luna uses to guide not only his artwork but also his efforts to make change in Orlando.
Juan Pablo Santa Luna was born in Florencia, Colombia, in 1979. He had a happy childhood there. He attended Javeriana University in Cali, Colombia, and eventually went on to study International Business and attended a marketing school in Australia. In 2013, Juan moved to the United States, where he began the second phase of his international corporate career. After almost five years in corporate America, Juan became unhappy with corporate life. He knew he had two passions: art and helping people and communities. So, he decided to quit his corporate job and start a new career. Juan always knew he had a creative side, but he did not have the tools to follow his art. He felt pressured to pursue a “socially acceptable” career, so he did not pursue an art career earlier on. Now, Juan is a mixed media visual artist. He tends to upcycle materials, reshaping them to create a message. Though he does not have formal training or education in art, he loves it and pursues whatever inspires his heart.
A few years ago, Juan had his first solo exhibition. While he enjoyed it, he did not feel like it was enough. Juan felt like he was destined for something more purposeful. As he built his art career, Juan found himself drawn to helping people. Over time, he found more ways to combine his love for art and his dedication to the community. He became a community unifier, or a person who brings communities together based on a desire to help improve the quality of life in a community. To him, being a community unifier goes deeper than just leadership. A community unifier wants to unify people because they care about helping people, they believe that teamwork leads to bigger and better things.
As a community unifier, Juan speaks with the diverse communities that comprise the Orlando arts and culture scene. He speaks with them about what they need, what they hope to do in the future, and what they are willing to give back to the community to see more progress in Orlando. His conversations with those in the arts and culture scene often center around creating something sustainable. Juan volunteered with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra for a year until they decided to create a position for him as Philanthropy and Cultural Ambassador doing work he believes in and continuing to push for the unification of Orlando’s arts and culture scene on the side.
Juan believes Central Florida needs a connection not only between White (Non-Hispanic) American populations and Hispanic populations, but also between all the different Hispanic communities in Orlando. He finds that the power of the country is dependent on the diversity of the people. “My message focuses on [the idea that] together we are more and there is a way to create a positive economic impact here in Orlando, if we get organized,” Juan says. Though he’s starting with Hispanic populations since they are closest to his heart as a Colombian, Juan emphasizes that his message and his dream are not just limited to Hispanics.
By 2033, Juan hopes to have made some disruptive, relevant changes in Orlando. Taking advantage of the new technology and new opportunities, Juan aspires to create a cultural space in Orlando in which to recognize and honor Hispanic art and create a vibrant arts and culture scene in Orlando consisting of new art galleries, new museums, and other cultural centers where the community can come together to be part of something meaningful. Obtaining the endorsement of institutions like the Orlando Opera, the Orlando Ballet, the Orlando City Soccer Club, and others would bolster Juan’s message, giving it the strength to make some change in Orlando.
Ultimately, Juan hopes people know that there are opportunities to make a difference in Orlando for those who are willing to put in work. “I want people to know that somebody is at least attempting to do something big and that we cannot do it by ourselves. We need the support of the community.”
Readers who want to get involved can contact Juan on Instagram (@mr.santaluna) or Facebook at Juan Pablo Santa Luna. Other ways to support these efforts are through the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and Mills Gallery. Through his position as the Philanthropy and Cultural Ambassador, Juan often has the opportunity to talk to people both about what he is doing for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra as well as his other pursuits. Mills Gallery was voted the #1 Gallery in Orlando by Orlando Magazine in 2016. Juan is part of the gallery, which hosts many events involving diverse communities.