Enrique de Jesus Diaz

It is still hard to accept that he is so suddenly gone. Yet, I like to think that each time I look up towards the San Gabriel Mountains, there he is and will be, watching over us, enjoying the legacy of his great work to promote the arts spreading across the Valley through Nuvein in its events, projects, and board members.

– Javier Hernandez, Nuvein Advisory Board Member, April 2, 2011
(Man vs. Art podcast with Raul Aguirre Jr., The Vital Importance of Arts Advocates…)

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Enrique de Jesus Diaz, the late founder and President Emeritus of the Nuvein Foundation for Literature and the Arts was a soul too great to be understood in a single sentence. This is simply because his life was a multi-layered story that continues to tell itself.
Enrique was many different things to many different people. For some, he was a passionate poet, for others, a steadfast friend. He was a dedicated mentor, devoted lover, accomplished dancer, loving husband, an ambitious entrepreneur, a family man, trusted business partner, a naturalized immigrant, a dutiful Navy seaman, an empowering publisher, approachable media personality, an ardent LGBTQ and minority advocate, an ingenious web designer, avid reader and writer, goodwill ambassador, charismatic philanthropist, a storyteller with a striking memory for detail, and a tenacious arts advocate.
Yet, to one and all, he was an open hand, mind, heart, ear, and soul. Enrique‘s life inspired the vision of limitless possibilities for which his organization, Nuvein, would become known.
Born in Tecomatlan, Jalisco, Mexico, Enrique immigrated here as a child with his parents and his four siblings. They lived in various parts of eastern Los Angeles, including City Terrace. A graduate of Roosevelt High School, Class of 1977, Enrique joined the Folklorico dance troupe while at the high school and, after graduating, performed with a professional dance troupe throughout the region. He also taught and choreographed Folklorico dances for youth in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In 1979, Enrique enlisted in the United States Navy, proudly serving on the USS New Jersey (BB-62), where he collaborated with like-minded servicemen to share written stories and essays. This group was the beginning of Nuvein Magazine, which in turn spawned the Nuvein Foundation for Literature and the Arts.
Nuvein Magazine began production in 1982, using a photocopy format and was distributed by hand and through the mail. After an honorable discharge from the US Navy, Enrique returned home to enroll at Cal Poly Pomona, earning his degree in 1992 in English Literature. All the while, Enrique was staying in contact and making new contacts for the relaunch of Nuvein Magazine online. In 1996, Nuvein Magazine made its debut on the web. This was the case up to the Fall of 2004.
During this time, Nuvein Magazine was available online and was also printed in anthology format and was one of the first online literary magazines on the World Wide Web. The writers who were part of Nuvein Magazine came from around the world. The magazine included voices from the community, ranging from entertainment to education.  Enrique made a point of being inclusive, with authors from many backgrounds and experiences – men, women, gay, straight, a vast range of cultural and ethnic diversity. As a Mexican immigrant to the US and a gay man, Enrique had great empathy for marginalized and misunderstood human beings, those considered “outsiders” or “different.”
Enrique was never confined by convention, and often surpassed it in amazing and wonderful ways. This was never more true than with respect to his devotion to the love of his life and husband, Jeffrey Bickel. He and Jeff met in 1986 at KPFK radio in Los Angeles. Jeff was a staff member at KPFK, and Enrique got to know him when they worked together on “IMRU”, an LGBTQ radio magazine. Shortly thereafter, in 1988, he and Jeff made a lifetime commitment to each other. From the beginning, Enrique called Jeff his husband, even though much of the world did not recognize their relationship. Enrique, always a visionary, knew that marriage equality was on the horizon. In 2000, Jeff and Enrique became registered domestic partners and were married on June 21, 2008.
Enrique was a tireless mentor to high school, collegiate, and adult students. His extensive teaching experience includes a 23-year teaching position at Mt San Antonio College. In addition, he taught at United Education Institute, Pasadena City College, El Dorado College, Palladium Technical Acadmemy, and, at his own school, Digital Business and Design College, “DBD”. Enrique and Jeff founded DBD in El Monte as a private, vocational college providing degrees in computer technology. DBD served students and business professionals from the Greater Los Angeles area, and provided a technical education for careers in web design, information technology, networking, and graphic design.
With his educational projects, technical school, and Nuvein magazine so well-received, Enrique was encouraged to organize a non-profit arts organization, the Nuvein Foundation for Literature and the Arts. He believed that the foundation could offer literature and arts programs and performances to young people and adults who lived in the San Gabriel Valley region and in communities throughout Southern California. The goal was to increase exposure to arts and literature for those communities that had been overlooked and underserved. This process began in 2004 through a series of collaborations with local schools, libraries, community centers, and chambers of commerce throughout the San Gabriel Valley. From 2004 to the present, Nuvein has continued to offer arts and cultural programming throughout the communities of the region. In 2007, Nuvein became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, with the help of the community and business leaders from various San Gabriel Valley cities, and established its home in El Monte, California.
Prior to his unexpected passing in March of 2011, Enrique led Nuvein to launch a series of workshops and arts education programs out of  DBD, LA County Libraries, and local recreation centers in the region. His leadership also helped unite and support  groups such as the SGV Cartoonistas, as well as award arts scholarships to students pursuing digital/graphic design, animation, dance and other disciplines. Additionally, he supported the establishment of two of Nuvein’s biggest annual events – Dia de Los Muertos in El Monte and the San Gabriel Valley Comic Book Expo. This as well as countless other arts and cultural events that provided lasting connections between communities and their resident creative individuals.
Forever remembered as “our storyteller”, Enrique is sorely missed by the countless lives he enriched through his mentoring, entrepreneurship, artist collectives, scholarships, fundraising, and leadership in community service.  Despite his loss, Enrique ensured a lasting legacy that is carried on through the members of the Nuvein Foundation and through the important connections that are made to individuals and communities throughout the San Gabriel Valley and beyond as Nuvein’s mission continues on into the future.

2013: A Nuvein Retrospective (Part II)

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2013 was a year of fulfillment.

Already entering the midway point of the year, the Nuvein Foundation for Literature and the Arts (Nuvein) had created momentum towards creating opportunities for artists and communities to connect. Adopting a hectic and fast paced approach, Nuvein continued its work in promoting and cultivating a arts culture across the San Gabriel Valley region of Southern California.

For a detailed look at Nuvein‘s work and achievements earlier in 2013, see details here.

JUNE

Photographic Art Exhibition at the Gallery at ViP (photo courtesy of Heyzen Contreras/La Puente Artwalk)

June began with the collective energy and momentum of Nuvein and its partners, the Old Town Puente Business Association, the City of La Puente, the RiT Gallery and Center, and the community of artists, community organizers, educators, and families culminating in yet another successful edition of the La Puente Artwalk.

The June 2013 edition of the La Puente Artwalk boasted over 7 different artistic and creative spaces that served to feature the area’s finest local creative talent. Once more, this was accomplished by partnering local business, community artists, and involved citizens in the development of the event. In the continuing tradition of prior events, the Artwalk would also feature local students, arts and crafts vendors, community art workshops, and many more attractions  just as Memorial Day weekend had recently heralded the start of summer in Southern California.

The event took place on Saturday, June 15th, 2013 from 4pm to 11pm.

Kimberly Cobian performs “Veiled Vanity” with musical arrangements by Richard Torres as part of the “Poetry with a Side of Show” venue at the June 2013 La Puente Artwalk (photo courtesy of Alex Rodarte/La Puente Artwalk)

 

As in prior editions, Nuvein member and artist Kimberly Cobian curated the celebrated “Poet’s Corner” series, rebranding it “Poetry with a SIDE of SHOW”, featuring poets, musical performances, dancers, and sidewalk performers in the tradition of the Venice Boardwalk. The event engaged people of all ages in its carnivalesque environment with performances including collaborations from artists of different performance mediums. As in prior editions, the performances took place along Main Street in Old Town La Puente.

Other such artistic events included exhibitions that covered (recovered) classic and contemporary rock album covers, a photography art exhibition, a car culture art show, a student art gallery, a graffiti art showcase, and many others. All events added to the kaleidoscope tapestry that was evolving each time to become the next edition of the La Puente Artwalk.

 

Artwork and Sketchwork inside the RiT Gallery’s “RE-Covered Oddities” Exhibition (photo courtesy of Sal Gomez/La Puente Artwalk)

 

Aside of the many artistic, musical, performance, and creative experiences to be had at the artwalk, the community was offered a showcase of its local and nearby community car culture enthusiasts and their incredible restored vehicles. over 15 different car clubs from across the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire Region participated, lining Main Street with classic cars from the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. The vehicles were on proud display by their owners as many attendees took advantage of posing next to the vehicles, including in one instance, a new bride and groom. Additionally, the car club’s families were treated to the local flavor of Old Town’s many eateries, and the sights and sounds of the Artwalk.

The result was an event that offered a greater connection between the local community, business, families, artists, and car culture enthusiasts that brought over 1,200 attendees to Old Town La Puente.

 

Chrome, Cars, and Culture on proud display at the June 2013 LP Artwalk (photo courtesy of Sal Gomez/La Puente Artwalk)

 

If one massive event in a single month was enough, Nuvein took on relaunching the long awaited San Gabriel Valley Comic Book Festival. The event, established in 2008 by Nuvein Board Member Javier Hernandez, was rebranded as the SGV Comic Book Expo and Comic Art Exhibition. (For additional information on the SGV Comic Book Festival and its history, click here.)

 

SGV Comic Book Expo logo (design by Javier Hernandez/Nuvein)

 

The rebranded and relaunched 2013 edition of the San Gabriel Valley Comic Book Expo was a joint venture between Nuvein and the Arts and Recreation Center of Baldwin Park or Baldwin Park ARC. The Baldwin Park ARC, no stranger to successful community events and art exhibitions, only added to the success enjoyed by this event in co-producing the event’s programming, promotion, and logistic organization. The event was supported by the City of Baldwin Park in every facet of its development.

 

The 2013 SGV Comic Book Expo invades the Baldwin Park ARC (photo courtesy of Grasiela Rodriguez/SGV Comic Book Expo)

 

The event itself was chaired by Nuvein members Javier Hernandez, creator of the event, and Nuvein President, Chris Trevilla, in cooperation with Helen Hernandez, Program Director at the Baldwin Park ARC, and her staff. Nuvein also recruited the assistance and guidance of successful curator, arts program developer, and Nuvein advisory board member Grasiela Rodriguez. Other partners in the event included the Last Minute Arts Collective, a Baldwin Park based arts group, who organized a children’s outdoor chalk arts program. Together, the event was organized to incorporate various program elements including a curated art exhibition, story telling, children’s arts & crafts, outdoor chalk art, and much more. (For additional information on event programming, go here.)

 

Comic Art Exhibition at the Baldwin Park ARC (photo courtesy of the ARC Baldwin Park)

 

The event took place on Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 from 11am to 6pm at the Baldwin Park ARC grounds, and included usage of the West Covina City Hall Chambers for the panels and animation screening held there. The in house Comic Art Exhibition featured comic book inspired works of art by artists across Southern California. The exhibition ran from June 10th to August 10th, with an opening reception on Friday, June 21st.  Among the artists showcased were Grasiela RodriguezJavier Hernandez, and Jose Cabrera, whose artwork was used in the design of all promotional work for the event. In the end over 20 artists contributed works of art to showcase as part of the exhibition.  (For more information on artists exhibiting as part of the 2013 Comic Art Exhibition, click here.)

 

SGV Comic Book Expo – Exhibitors Hall inside the Baldwin Park ARC (Photo courtesy of Grasiela Rodriguez/SGV Comic Book Expo)

 

The Expo enjoyed a diverse crowd of families and children drawn by the free family friendly comic book themed programming and arts and crafts, teen and youth comic fans interested in exploring the works of independent comic book creatives, art collectors and enthusiasts, cosplayers, and many others drawn to the interactive panels, workshops, and animation showcase offered as part of the event.

All in all, the event was a huge success, boasting an attendance of 1400 plus people throughout the day’s programming. The hard work of Nuvein, the Baldwin Park ARC, Last Minute Arts Collective, the City of Baldwin Park,  and all other event supporters, partners, and participants ensured a great family friendly event that showcased the thriving comic book culture and connected it to its fans.

Nuvein members assemble at the SGV Comic Book Expo at the Baldwin Park ARC (photo courtesy of ARC Baldwin Park)

 

Thus, with the summer just beginning, Nuvein spent little time building momentum across the Mid Valley region of the San Gabriel Valley with the continuance of promoting local culture, building community, and showcasing artistic and creative talent in all its forms.

 

JULY-AUGUST

Javier Hernandez, co-founder of the Latino Comics Expo, recognized by the LA County Board of Supervisors Office of Don Knabe (photo couirtesy of Javier Hernandez/Latino Comics Expo)

 

July was a bittersweet month for Nuvein, for as time passes, more than just the seasons change. Following the successful relaunch of the SGV Comic Book Expo in Baldwin Park, Nuvein Executive Board Member Javier Hernandez, made a decision to step down from his role as Executive Board Member at Nuvein following the SGV Comic Book Expo.

Javier Hernandez and Enrique Diaz pose at Nuvein school outreach event (photo courtesy of Javier Hernandez/Nuvein)

During his tenure at Nuvein dating back to early days of the Foundation, Javier had taken part and developed projects such as Planet Comic Book Radio (an online podcast on comics), Nuvein Television,  the SGV Cartoonistas art collective (video here) as well as founded both the SGV Comic Book Festival (now the SGV Comic Book Expo) and the Dia de Los Muertos/Day of the Dead celebration in El Monte. This in addition to countless live art performances, library comic book workshops. and other education arts engagements in association with the Foundation.

Javier Hernandez at a live art event supported by Nuvein. (photo courtesy of Nuvein)

For over 6 years, Javier had been a tireless advocate and supporter of all things Nuvein, and continues to do so, but on a much more limited scale. This is chiefly due to time needed for further pursuits of his personal artistic projects,  including creation of new comics, but also in large part to his involvement in the founding and development of the Latino Comics Expo. While his presence on the Board would be missed, his remaining on the Nuvein Advisory Board allowed for future avenues of collaboration and partnership. Thus with every change a new direction full of opportunities is what remained.

 

PoetryPalooza 2013 promotional logo (courtesy of ZZyZx WriterZ/PoetryPalooza)

 

Summer 2013 also brought Nuvein the opportunity to promote arts and culture through supporting and sponsoring the highly successful PoetryPalooza 2o13 Tour. The tour is organized by the ZZyZx WriterZ, a multi-disciplinary arts group out of Alhambra/El Serreno who created the event in the Summer of 2011. Under the leadership of Kimberly Cobian, both President of the ZZyZx WriterZ and Executive Board member at Nuvein, the tour has garnered a large support following for blending poetry, dance, music, visual art, and performance at one night events across Southern California. (Click here for interview of Kimberly Cobian with Univision about PoetryPalooza)

 

Poet Angela Moore of Moms Write SGV recites poetry at PoetryPalooza 2012 – Friend’s Cafe in Monrovia (photo courtesy of Nuvein/PoetryPalooza)

 

Nuvein had previously fully sponsored the PoetryPalooza 2012 tour to ensure its continuing promotion of arts and culture from neighborhoods as diverse as Venice Beach, Monrovia, Whittier, Lincoln Heights, and many others. Though on a more limited basis, nevertheless, Nuvein made the decision to sponsor the tour which spanned 12 different communities across Southern California.

 

The ZZyZx WriterZ Group pose for a celebratory picture at the end of the 2013 PoetryPalooza Tour (photo courtesy of ZZyZx WriterZ/PoetryPalooza)

 

The tour was a success in every way as it traveled to Alhambra, Venice Beach, North Hollywood, Long Beach, Pomona, Historic Filipinotown, Whittier, Claremont, Highland Park, La Puente, Downey, and Downtown Los Angeles during the month of August.

 

Peer Poet Program logo (courtesy of Nuvein)

 

Another event took place at the very end of August involving poetry and educational outreach which Nuvein took part of was part of the “Peer Poet Program’ Series. This poetry workshop series is aimed at partnering local SGV youth and students with established authors, poets, and spoken word performers in order to examine poetic composition and performance.  The Peer Poet Program took place at the LA County Regional Branch Library in Montebello.

 

Coffee House Writer Board Member and poet Rick Stepp-Bolling and Whittier Poetry Group President and poet Gary Imperial partner up with Montebello HS students at Peer Poet Program (photo courtesy of Nuvein)

 

The Peer Poet Program “Improv Poetics” program was facilitated by Chris Trevilla, with assistance from poets from the Whittier Poetry Group, poets and writers from the Coffee House Writers Group, and the Pasadena Saturday Afternoon Poetry group. The interactive workshop explored every day situations, current issues, and personal revelations in a fast paced and casual format. Participants in the event were students from nearby Montebello High School. The program was a success, leaving students and youth inspired and motivated to explore further creative writing.

All in all, the Summer of 2013 was a season of change and excitement for Nuvein, which would surely follow in the months ahead.

 

SEPTEMBER

 

Artwork on display at “Feed Your Eyes” exhibition at RiT Gallery (photo courtesy of Sal Gomez/La Puente Artwalk)

 

September 2013 brought Nuvein back to Old Town La Puente for the final edition of the La Puente Artwalk for the year.  The event marked the two year anniversary of Nuvein’s efforts in fostering the growth of a thriving arts culture in the Historic Old Town La Puente district. The event boasted over a dozen unique art experiences for attendees along Main Street, 1st Street, and 2nd Street.

 

 

Artwork of Baldomero Perez on display at Fairy Tales Boutique (photo courtesy of Grasiela Rodriguez/La Puente Artwalk)

 

The Artwalk featured over 75 artists from across the San Gabriel region and Southern California in 9 different art galleries with themes ranging from Food, Los Angeles, Glamour Photography, Vintage models and cars, 40s-50s Hollywood and Mexican Cinema, Mexican Independence propaganda posters, solo art exhibitions, and a student art exhibition. (For additional information on the event, click here.)

 

Kandy Yanez poses with models after Vintage Fashion Show as part of “Squaresville” exhibit at Kandy’s Vintage. (photo courtesy of Heyzen Conteras/La Puente Artwalk)

 

The event also boasted unique performances and guest appearances. Among the attractions was the popular “Poet’s Corner” Series rebranded the ‘Sabor Factory’ which was coordinated by Efrain Oquendo and The Art Movement, an El Monte based collective of artists, musicians, activists, and performers.  Also present, was a unique vintage fashion show, photo shoot, and photography show entitled ‘Squaresville’, which took place at the newly established Kandy’s Vintage in Old Town La Puente.

 

JC’s Latin Ensemble Band performs at Mid Valley Radio Stage at “A Taste of Bridgetown” event at J&B’s Burgers (photo courtesy of Nuvein)

 

Additionally, a special showcase of Disney Legends and Imagineers who graced the event with their participation. Lastly, as a special treat, Mid Valley Radio, a division of Mid Valley News, sponsored a special performance stage event titled ‘A Taste of Bridgetown’ at J&B’s Burgers. The stage housed several performances from local musical groups, including  a latin jazz ensemble, a latin rock cover band, among others.

Ultimately, the final 2013 edition of the La Puente Artwalk was an immense success, gathering over 1,000 attendees throughout the evening.

 

SGV Fall Candidate Survey promotional logo (courtesy of Nuvein/Arts for LA)

 

During September, Nuvein was also a proud partner of the Fall Candidate Survey on Arts & Culture process with Arts for LA. The survey was for school board candidates ahead of the Fall elections to weigh in on their thoughts on the role of art in education as well as share their memories of how the arts impacted their educational experience. Arts for LA, an arts advocacy organization. recruited several area partners to help reach across the many school districts in Southern California having elections. Nuvein was invited to participate in the process with connecting with school board candidates in the the Mid Valley Region of the San Gabriel Valley. The experience was rewarding and a great opportunity to make arts an important issue in the elections as well as articulate the need for continued arts support in all communities.

 

President of Nuvein, Chris Trevilla, and President of the Old Town Puente Association, Bob Berdin, receive recognition from Ian Calderon at La Puente City Council Meeting (photo courtesy of Nuvein)

 

Through events like the Artwalk and others like it, Nuvein continued to demonstrate its commitment to connecting communities through the Arts. For its work on the La Puente Artwalk, the Nuvein Foundation was the proud recipient of a Certificate of Recognition from Assemblymember Ian Calderon of the 57th District for their efforts in cultivating Community, Culture, and the Arts in the Historic Old Town La Puente District. Encouraged by this and other developments, Nuvein moved forward with its charitable mission.

 

OCTOBER

 

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4th Annual Dia de Los Muertos – El Monte promotional logo design by Cultura y Mas (image courtesy of CYM/Nuvein)

 

October 2013 brought Nuvein back to its home of El Monte to once again produce the annual artistic and cultural celebration known as the Dia de Los Muertos – El Monte. The 2013 edition of the event was the 4th Annual Dia de Los Muertos event, which took place along the Valley Mall main avenue on Saturday, October 19th, 2013 from 1pm to 6pm. (For information on the history of the event, click here)

 

Aztec Danzantes en route to perform at Main Stage on Valley Mall at DDLM 2013 (photo courtesy of Nuvein)

 

Dia de Los Muertos – El Monte 2013 was the collaborative effort of the Nuvein Foundation, and its primary event sponsor, the Downtown El Monte Business Association (DEMBA).

The event, which began in 2010, has been sponsored each year by DEMBA, and supported by organizations such as the Crystal C. Chavez Foundation, the Ms. Friendly El Monte/South El Monte, the Bobby Salcedo Memorial Foundation, the SGV Conservation Corps, , the El Monte La Historia Society, the Sisters Cities Association, the El Monte Cultural Commission, as well as the City of El Monte and its many departments.

 

Traditional Ballet Folklorico dancers perform on Main Stage on Valley Mall at DDLM El Monte 2013. (Photo courtesy of Nuvein)

 

The 4th Annual Dia de Los Muertos – El Monte event featured Danzantes Aztecas, Ballet Folklorico, Spoken Word and Poetry Performances, a Mariachi musical performance, and a Latin Rock ensemble group. Entertainment for the event spanned across the duration of the festival. The stage and video production of the event was assisted by dual media sponsors and partners  Mid Valley Radio as well as the El Monte Channel 3El Monte Tonight program, who both supplied a guest host to participate on the main event stage.

 

Mariachi performance at Main Stage on Valley Mall at DDLM El Monte 2013. (photo courtesy of Nuvein)

 

The event also featured over 65 vendors of unique artisan craftworks from across Southern California. Custom made jewelry, hats, clothing, artisan dolls and figurines, calaca and luchador masks, churros, art work, and much more was available for the crowds to immerse themselves in an outdoor tianguis (swapmeet) experience with items for sale themed around Dia de Los Muertos.

An event of such magnitude would not have gone through without the supporrt from other local organizations, DEMBA, El Monte City departments, and a sizeable volunteer group from El Monte High School AVID program.

 

Crowds of thousands attend DDLM El Monte 2013 (photo courtesy of Nuvein)

 

Lastly, the event housed a set of memorial altars to local heroes and leaders Bobby Salcedo, an educator and educational reformer who spent his life in service of the students in El Monte and was taken too soon due to tragedy. Also honored was Nuvein founder and arts advocate Enrique Diaz, who spent his life promoting arts and culture in all its forms across El Monte and the San Gabriel Valley.

 

Commemorative altar for Enrique at DDLM El Monte 2013 (photo courtesy of Nuvein)

Thus, with offering up an event immersed in the cultural traditions of Day of the Dead, as well as incorporating the participation of various community and civic organizations and groups, the event was a huge success and served as a proud testament to the celebration of culture, traditions, and history of the Mexican-American experience in El Monte across the years. The event, as always, was dedicated to the memory of the late Enrique Diaz.

 

NOVEMBER-DECEMBER

 

Mountain View HS Students engage in group discussions about community projects that can help improve daily life in El Monte (photo courtesy of KCET Departures)

 

As the year began winding down, Nuvein began to reevaluate its role in promoting arts and culture in the San Gabriel Valley and look to future reorganization of the foundation via the annual Nomination Season. An open invitation stands to any individual interested in promoting arts and culture in the San Gabriel Valley.

Nuvein was also invited to participate in the Youth Voices program at Mountain View High School coordinated by KCET Departures. Nuvein President Chris Trevilla had the opportunity to engage students as to the role of public art in communities as well as the history, mission, and projects of the Nuvein Foundation. The experience was a rewarding one, as students engaged and discussed their ideas on how to use art to improve daily life in their communities.

Having thus reached the end of 2013, Nuvein and its members look to 2014 as a year full of promise, and to be like 2013 was, a year of growth, discovery, change, and fulfillment.

 

Quote from Nuvein founder, Enrique Diaz (courtesy of Nuvein)