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Updated: August 22, 2022 / 40 Under Forty, Class of 2022

40 Under Forty 2022: Vanessa Calixto

Photo | Erika Sidor El Salón Founder and Creative Director Vanessa Calixto
Photo| Erika Sidor From left, 40 Under Forty 2022 winners Katherine Aguilar, Vanessa Calixto, Domenica Perrone, and Kyle Landry pose at the Worcester Walls murals at the Jacob Hiatt Magnet School in Worcester (special thanks to Jessica Walsh and Che Anderson)
Vanessa Calixto, 31
  • Title Founder & creative director
  • Company El Salón, in Worcester
  • Residence Worcester
  • Birthplace Worcester
Click here to read about the other 40 Under Forty, Class of 2022
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Calixto uses her talent and time to ensure that artists from Worcester’s communities of color have space to perform and display their work, as space becomes scarcer.

Calixto founded El Salón in 2019 at The Bridge community center, and it was one of several ousted from the space when it was pegged for a housing development in 2021. Under Calixto’s leadership, El Salón won the first residency at the Worcester PopUp in the Jean McDonough Arts Center in 2021.

The residency, named Take Space, consisted of four events, a gallery showing, a performance night, a film screening, all featuring work from local artists of color, and a block party. The indoor events brought in more than 200 people from all over the Northeast. More than 700 people from Greater Worcester attended the block party, showing the level of success the organization, already successful on its own, could achieve with access to a budget. El Salón organized the spring 2022 season of Worcester Windows, displaying the works from artists of color throughout downtown. 

Who is most responsible for the person you are today? My parents, Sandra Alvarez-Calixto and Saul Calixto. As migrants making the decision to flee from their home country, leaving behind the only things they knew to come to a place promising a better life, is not an easy decision to make, contrary to popular belief. They made sacrifices to ensure a better life, if not for them but for their children. They allowed me to have the opportunity to make my own decisions based on what makes me happy, which is a luxury they did not always have. For that, I am grateful.

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