“We serve artists, performers, cultural advocates, arts and cultural organizations, art supporters, and the general public seeking to preserve, develop, and promote the cultures, heritage and artistic expressions of the diverse Latino/Hispanic communities in North Carolina.”

- Lizette Cruz Watko, Founder and Executive Director, Diamante Arts and Cultural Center

Lizette Cruz Watko founded North Carolina’s first Spanish language newspaper in 1993, and in 1996 the affiliated Latino Diamante Awards to recognize accomplishments and contributions of the Latino community. When she eventually decided to sell the newspaper, there was great interest in keeping the awards program intact, which sparked the creation of Diamante Arts and Cultural Center.

Always Advocating for Artists

Diamante nurtures artists and performers by sharing their work, developing skills, compensating them, and creating equal access to resources, opportunities, and leadership. The organization invests a large sum of its budget to compensate artists and performers, and one way they do this is through the Artist-in-Residence Program, a four-month residency where artists produce work on a stipend and in a studio. The artist’s work is then displayed in the gallery for a one-month exhibition. “The art we exhibit comes in all forms – our artists have been music producers, poets, writers, photographers, you name it,” Lizette explains. Patricia, the most recent artist in residence, specializes in fiber art.

The Diamante Arts Leadership Institute (DALI) is another way the organization is developing artists. DALI is a one-year intensive program with the opportunity to create an exhibit or program with full creative freedom. Diamante provides tuition expenses and professional development such as budgeting information, sales pitch and public speaking training, legal training that artists must know in order to sell their work, and other business skills. Antonio Alanis, a member of DALI’s first cohort, is an impactful example of how art and culture can change lives. A Durham native, Antonio was an educator at a nonprofit wishing to venture into the arts full time. As a result of his participation in the DALI program, Antonio is now in Mexico for a one-year arts and cultural program, displaying how artists are not only expanding their horizons, but their capabilities, too.

Advancing Cross-Cultural Understanding and Appreciation

Partnerships with organizations like North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA), who uses Diamante’s space as an auxiliary classroom from time to time, help expose diverse audiences to the many art forms on display. The diversity was on full display at the beginning of 2023 when Diamante hosted a reception with over 100 attendees, a vast majority of whom did not identify as Latino/Hispanic. “It was rewarding to see so many different types of people in the room, all simply because they appreciate art.”

One of the biggest challenges for the organization is addressing the many gaps persisting in services offered at Latino/Hispanic organizations and just how many folks sometimes struggle to comprehend the many unique cultures. “The Latino/Hispanic community is not a monolith, and Latino/Hispanic arts isn’t, either,” Lizette says. “Sometimes from the outside, people think Latino and Hispanic people are all the same, but every country has its own nuances and different folklore, political, organizational, and municipality structures.” She explains how funding is even more necessary when the community is so segmented. Programming becomes more complex when catering to so many different types of people. “The Latino/Hispanic community is very in tune with their own culture, their ancestral traditions, and their music and food, perhaps more so than a lot of other cultures, and we take pride in serving as an access point in honoring the uniqueness of each.”

What’s Next: Challenges and Opportunities to Get Involved

Another distinct challenge for Diamante is staffing. With just two part-time individuals on staff (one of whom is Lizette), there are many obstacles the organization faces. “We are technically part-time, but I’m working full-time to try and make up for three roles,” she explains. Though fundraising has been the top priority, Diamante needs to make $30,000 to keep their budget intact, and that doesn’t include much needed marketing support.

While thankful they do have a space to call home, capacity is quickly being reached, as the need for a space dedicated solely to classes is growing. Diamante moved into their current space back in November 2021, and the space next door was quickly leased to include six studios, a smaller gallery space, and an area for a retail store, which opened in time for this year’s Bara Bara Community Art Exhibition and Sale, a spring fundraiser for any Triangle artist wishing to sell their work for $500 or less.

Lizette is hopeful that Diamante can expand even further in the future, as an organization and within specific programs. She explains the desperate need for strategic planning to continue moving forward, as current goals have been fulfilled. One goal is to expand the Artist-in-Residence program and reach more artists outside of the Triangle, as the commute to the studio can be a barrier. Lizette dreams of one day having housing available for artists located outside of the Triangle to live in during the residency program. “This would help the organization grow and connect many more artists in the region. The arts are the glue that keeps our communities together.”



Diamante Arts and Cultural Center–the oldest Latino/Hispanic Arts and Culture organization in North Carolina– is dedicated to the preservation, development, and promotion of the culture, heritage, and artistic expressions of the diverse Latino/Hispanic community of North Carolina. Through its programs and activities, it reaches more than 16,000 people per year.

To learn more about how you can get involved with Diamante, click the button below.