Mi Amiga, Isabel Elsa Villar

Westchester County is mourning one of our most devoted community members, Isabel Elsa Villar, who recently passed away after a long battle with ovarian cancer.

Isabel, mostly notably remembered as the founder and Executive Director of El Centro Hispano (El Centro), worked tirelessly to educate and improve the lives of the Latino community in the City of White Plains.  Under her leadership, El Centro Hispano provided educational and social programs for youth and adults, ranging from ESL and computer workshops to housing and college application assistance.

However, with all that El Centro offered, there was a component that Isabel wanted everyone to experience – the arts!

As the County’s go-to for everything art-related, it wasn’t a surprise that ArtsWestchester and El Centro would team up and provide the arts to El Centro’s members.

Ironically, our partnership began during the height of the pandemic as we witnessed the effects of isolation in our community, especially our youth.  We needed to do something.

We began modestly, offering virtual workshops with one of ArtsWestchester’s bilingual teaching artists before graduating to in-person programming when COVID-19 restrictions lessened.

In the summer of 2020, we held our first workshop together at Druss Park and watched as youth poured in, participating in hands-on, art-making workshops led by a familiar face – the same artist who taught the online courses!

From there, the program grew to weekly workshops through early fall. Now, as El Centro Hispano calls a new place home, we look forward to continuing the growth of our already prosperous partnership.

Isabel, no amount of words can truly express what you have done for the Latino community, our community. You were a leader, a teacher and, above all, a friend. My friend. Mi amiga.