Salem entrepreneur specializes in multicultural arts programming
Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Cojuelos’ Productions founder and principal Rosario Ubiera-Minaya was always surrounded by art. Her brother Ruben Ubiera is a muralist based in Miami, frequently featured at Wynwood Walls, and there were always sounds of bachata and merengue musicians playing throughout the streets of Santo Domingo.
As an adult, she is still surrounded by art. Her company, Cojuelos’ Productions, launched nearly two years ago, is a for-profit enterprise specializing in diverse and culturally-oriented programming and high-end special events within the arts.
When Ubiera-Minaya was 16 years old, her family immigrated to Salem, Massachusetts. She attended Salem State University for her bachelor’s degree and received her master’s in museum education from the Bank Street College of Education in New York City.
Ubiera-Minaya noticed that public exposure to art in Salem was not as accessible as she was accustomed to it being in DR, especially in her immigrant neighborhood. “I noticed my community in Salem didn’t have that privilege,” she says. “My career started out of interest of giving back and sharing what I learned.”
For several years, Ubiera-Minaya served as the director of fellowships and internships at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. “It was a way of bringing in a new audience into the museum, by exposing high school and college students of color into the cultural sector,” she says.
Soon, she began partnering with curators, leading exhibits and creating programs targeting minority patrons of the arts.
But she felt she could do more. “[My work] was changing the narrative of some of the stories and the way organizations think about different populations,” she says, “[but] I felt like I wasn’t making as big of an impact just working with one organization.”
Launching Cojuelos’ Productions gave Ubiera-Minaya the freedom to branch out and work with different groups of organizations and artists across the North Shore and metro Boston.
The name of her company is based on El Diablo Cojuelo, or The Devil Cojuelo, a mythological character often referenced in Dominican culture. Cojuelo happens to be the patron of arts, culture and literature, according to legend.
Starting her own arts consulting and events production company was an organic transition for Ubiera-Minaya, as she has been an active member of various cultural and artistic organizations in the North Shore area for a number of years.
As she was getting ready to launch her business, she had just finished a large-scale project called PUNTO Urban Arts Museum in Salem, alongside her brother. PUNTO Urban Arts Museum is an annual outdoor museum featuring 60 large-scale murals and other works of art throughout predominantly immigrant neighborhoods in Salem.
For Ubiera-Minaya, PUNTO was a continuation of a mural project she had worked on at age 21. “Those murals had been on display for over 20 years, and when my brother become a well-known muralist, we decided to go back to the neighborhood and re-launch them,” she says.
Now, most of the entrepreneur’s day-to-day activity consists of consulting and behind-the-scenes work in launching programs to engage creators and audiences of color. Recently, she worked as a consultant for the Beyond Walls mural festival in Lynn, and partnered with ArtsEmerson to bring the play “Mr. Joy” to North Shore audiences.
To help put on various events, programs and projects, Ubiera-Minaya actively seeks out diverse vendors such as sound technicians, light and stage experts, DJs, caterers and bartenders.
“I consider all of my vendors part of the creative economy and I make a strong effort in providing opportunities to minority vendors and women-owned businesses,” she says.
Another part of Ubiera-Minaya’s mission is to provide access for the artists she represents — spoken word performers, musicians, singers, bands, and visual artists — to bigger platforms, stages, auditoriums and exhibits.
And for Cojuelos’ Productions, it’s not only about providing access, but also providing fair compensation to artists who may not typically earn as much as their mainstream counterparts.
“I make sure for any project I take on, there is a sufficient budget to cover the number of artists and creators we bring on and they are paid at the same rate as [artists who are not of color] for the same or comparable gigs,” says Ubiera-Minaya.
Usually she is able to set these fair rates through industry knowledge and word-of-mouth, but there are no guidelines within the creative industry for compensation. “I would love to have something to follow statewide,” she adds.
As for running the company itself, for now it’s solely Ubiera-Minaya, who typically juggles three or four projects at once, but always in the spirit of collaboration.
“Even though it’s a business I launched, it’s something I cannot do alone,” says Ubiera-Minaya. “It’s a collaboration and a movement of creators in the area coming together and supporting one another.”