Art & Culture

CANTA offers art education and collaboration

New Hollister music and culture studio opens in the former location of Mr. O’s Academy.

Hollister has a new arts center, the California Academy of Novel and Traditional Arts (CANTA), which opened on Feb 15. CANTA plans to offer music lessons, along with a recording studio, art instruction, access to creative tools, and a chance to collaborate with other local artists and musicians.

Jose Chuy Hernandez and Rosalinda Hernandez Sanchez. Photo courtesy of CANTA
Jose Chuy Hernandez and Rosalinda Hernandez Sanchez opened CANTA in Hollister on Feb. 15. Photo courtesy of CANTA.

“We are interested in teaching our students how they can speak their minds with their own voices and opinions through the arts,” said Rosalinda Hernandez Sanchez. “We want to help them become leaders in the community.”

Sanchez and her husband Jose Chuy Hernandez opened CANTA at 350 Sixth Street, Suite 102 in Hollister, the previous location of Mr. O’s Academy. Both Sanchez and Hernandez are long-time associates of the Schools of Art and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza and hope to bring their years of experience to local youth. 

“I have been a musician since I was eight years old,” said Hernandez, who has a background in mariachi, choir, opera and classical music. 

“I began by singing in a children’s choir, which was a community program,” he continued. “So CANTA is, with all intentions, my effort to give back. We hope to be able to provide a central space for art education rather than have it spread out in a thousand different locations.” 

Hernandez started working on this project a year ago with Curtis Williams and Kevin Klein, owners of KayCal Music in Hollister. Hernandez had been using part of their shop as a place to give music lessons and they became friends.

“We started KayCal Music with an interest in becoming involved with various community groups,” Williams said. “We would talk to Chuy about how there had been something missing, a way to tie together music and the arts in Hollister. There is quite a bit of it out there, more than most people realize, but it is very disjointed. We started talking about bringing together the creative people in the community and listening to their vision.”

Rosalinda Hernandez Sanchez. Photo courtesy of CANTA.
Rosalinda Hernandez Sanchez. Photo courtesy of CANTA.

KayCal became the first to collaborate with CANTA in their new space, and is looking forward to helping make the project successful.

“We can offer up ourselves as musicians, whether we instruct or we play,” Klein said. “There are so many different facets to this project and we want to serve the members of this community by welcoming as many young people as we can to music. I see CANTA becoming an absolute force in San Benito County for music education.”

CANTA’s space consists of a large central room which will eventually have a stage for performances, along with smaller, connected spaces that contain musical instruments, recording equipment and computers with advanced music and stage production software.

“We are focusing on the intersection of art and technology,” Sanchez said. “We are grounded in the traditional arts and the ‘Novel Arts’ in our name are grounded in technological abilities like ‘how do you record a song?’ or ‘how does lighting work?’ But we’ll also be helping show how different technologies can be applied to a project.”

Sanchez and Hernandez see CANTA as a place open for collaboration to diverse artists with the goal of teaching different artistic disciplines.

Animation Dance Community. Photo by Lisa Morales
Animation Dance Community. Photo courtesy of Lisa Malzone Morales.

“We have a lot of things planned that we will be rolling out, but we are kind of limited now as to what is possible,” Sanchez said. “My hope is that we can partner with the entire artistic community in San Benito County. We want to reach out to as many people as possible. But we are also working with whatever the COVID guidelines allow and we will evolve as the restrictions lift.”

CANTA has also begun working with Lisa Malzone Morales, director of Animation Dance Community in Hollister.

“We met Rosalina and Chuy through their son, who came to dance with us,” Morales said. “We became mutually supportive of each other’s projects. This is going to give Hollister something that it does not have yet—a place for creativity that is not looking for its own fame or notoriety and has no other foundation than the enrichment of the artist.”

Morales is personally interested in the possibilities offered by the sound studio as a way of recording her own spoken-word pieces and presentations, but also sees it as a great tool for young people to access.  

“They are going to have the tools and the technology there so kids can bring their ideas to life,” Morales said. “It is going to be a space where a lot of different things can happen and we are going to be working with the kids to help them discover their creativity.”

Jose Chuy Hernandez. Photo by Robert Eliason
Jose Chuy Hernandez. Photo by Robert Eliason.

CANTA is open to everyone, from beginners to advanced musicians and creators. And for children who are unsure about what they want to do, Hernandez will start them the way he got started: singing.

“We want to teach in a very organic way, so we begin with the instrument we were born with, our bodies,” Hernandez said. “We are going to begin with singing, which will give them musicality. Once we develop their ears, then we start thinking about what external instrument they can focus on. Our mentality is that we do not want to create virtuosos, we want to create people who will explore their emotions and their connections with other people through the arts.”

Hernandez looks forward to bringing the healing power of art and music to a pandemic-weary community.

“I think a lot of people have forgotten how to socialize,” Hernandez said. “After 11 months of COVID and shelter in place, I don’t think we know what the final bill is going to be yet. We don’t know what people are going to have to go through to get back to normal. We see this as a chance to bring some healing to the community.”


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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink approached me as a photographer by have since encouraged me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.