Ask Alejandra Tobar Alatriz what it is she does and you may be surprised to hear her turn the question to you first. In order for her to describe to you the work she does, she needs to understand where you are coming from. Her first goal is meeting new people in establishing a relationship.
“It really depends on where you’re starting from,” she said. In the most general terms, she describes herself as a healing justice practitioner, theatre maker and storyteller.
Tobar Alatriz is a founding member of the People’s Movement Center in Minneapolis. And now, a founding member of Indigenous Roots in St. Paul’s East Side. In the past few years, Tobar Alatriz’s work has become more centered on the East Side. So much so, in fact, that she and her partner have been house hunting in the area.
“We literally can’t wait to uproot our lives and move here and grow deeper roots,” she said. “Gentrification has been an issue in our community for some time. Particularly limited access for artists to have working space has been an issue. Placemaking has been a term in community development for some time; creative placemaking was an evolution in the field that identified equity in regards to using art. We know that art is an equalizer, an incredibly powerful community engagement tool.”
Her work, done under the name Embody, is centered around bodywork, which includes touch based work, movement, energy and sound, with “art and creativity as a through line in all of it.” Every session is considered a “co-created moment”, where she works with her clients to identify the activities they do. She does mostly one-on-one work, but has (and plans to continue) group classes, including pilates. She also leads workshops throughout the community through theater and arts organizations.
Still not sure what she does? Just imagine her as a jack of many trades, consulting in organizational development, an active thespian in all senses (writing, directing, acting), and a mind/body/soul practitioner.
“We build enough relationship, trust and rapport to dive deeper into these meta systems of oppression,” she said. For example, “I'll come in and do a performance piece and we’ll do a dialogue around it. Or I’ll come in tell a story and then create processes for other people to tell stories, we’re telling stories together. Or I’ll do workshop around media and femme identity with middle schoolers then work with their mothers to do a fashion show.”
Tobar Alatriz anticipates to expand the work of Embody. She envisions being able to mentor emerging practitioners and have a team work under her. She’s also looking forward to meeting the needs from the community Indigenous Roots is located in.
“This is where I feel my immigrant-ness is seen as a brilliant thing, an aspect of who I am that is an asset versus a thing I need to translate, which, in other working environments have been harder,” Tobar Alatriz who came to the US from Chile in 1989, said. “The neighborhood is brilliant and beautiful and whole and not supported institutionally. We're excited to do this work along side and integrated with [the neighborhood]. I am just so ready to be blown away by what can happen when we have the right ingredients in the soil and what can grow here. Already, we have a garden and it’s in spite of a lot of things.”
Although Tobar Alatriz wears many hats, that of healer, theater performer, spoken word artist, entrepreneur and community organizer, she always identifies herself as an artist.
“I am an artist. If you work with me there are things that come with me, that texture is always going to be there. These things are so interconnected.”