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Local Activism   |   Tucson, AZ

Interview with Natalie Brewster Nguyen - Community over Currency: Rethinking Housing & Shared Resources

May 2021​ | Interview by: Raye Winch | Photos by: Rachel Castillo

Natalie Brewster Nguyen; bi-racial Asian, non-binary woman; sits outside of the Splinter Collective Warehouse in Tucson AZ

Natalie Brewster Nguyen (they/she) in Tucson, AZ where they own and operate the Splinter Collective Art Warehouse; a unique space, home to several small art studios, a large commercial yoga/movement studio and an outdoor event space. This is the beginning of a larger vision Natalie has for affordable housing in Tucson. 

Natalie Brewster Nguyen is an artist, activist, and educator. They own and operate the Splinter Collective Arts Warehouse, a community art and activism space they purchased in 2020 that sparked their drive to start an anti-capitalist development company. 

They are co-founder of Justice Movement, a training and educational collective that offers analysis of systemic privilege and oppression and tools to deepen racial equity.

Natalie actively organizes for the rights of sex workers, including leading the Nothing About Us Without Us Campaign that demands that Asian massage workers be centered in the City of Tucson’s  response to the recent violence against Asian female massage parlor workers.


The Splinter Collective - link to website

The Outlaw Project -  link to Go Fund Me

Justice Movement- link to website

Original music produced by Jaime J. Soto

Natalie Brewster Nguyen; sitting outside of the Splnter Warehouse in Tucson, AZ.

Natalie Brewster Nguyen, 40, performance artist, activist, actor, writer, yoga and acro teacher, bodyworker, and educator in various artistic fields. Trainer and educator in the fields of social justice, grassroots organizing, diversity inclusion, privilege and oppression, and community building.

West facing wall of the Splinter Warehouse, located along a rail road right-away, was the site of a large political mural that was mysteriously painted-over, essentially removing the mural from view. 

Transcripts English

Raye Winch : Welcome to Amplifying Voices: People Sparking Change. Today we are speaking with Natalie Brewster Nguyen, who is an activist, an artist, a social justice trainer, and an anti-capitalist developer. Thanks so much for being with us today.

Natalie Brewster Nguyen: Thanks so much for having me.


Raye: Natalie, what are you the most excited about right now?

Natalie: I'm really, really excited, not just in building affordable housing, but being in a position to try to rethink the housing model altogether. I really deeply believe in shared resources and we actually need a lot less space. One shared resource can serve a lot of people. I really want to start a development company with that as a focus. I'm also interested in thinking about the development of affordable housing and tiny homes projects for specific communities--trying to rethink the way that we do renting. So that renting is not just something where you're throwing money away forever, but that you're building some equity that you can take away with you when you move on.


Raye: And you're actually going about making some developments now, what does that look like?

Natalie : So, right now I was able to acquire this Splinter Collective Art Studio Warehouse, which is a historic warehouse that's been in the hands of artists since the sixties. We're taking this resource and trying to make it available to the community--as an event space, for fundraisers. I'd like to take that model and continue to build that, to sort of create these community centers that can anchor spaces and have there be the real genuine shared resource for the community. But as someone who has always valued community over currency by a lot, it was interesting to have to learn how to really make the money happen and how to make a space like this thrive. 

But I was able to do it. And in part I was able to do it because I've invested a lot in my communities over a really long time. And so I was able to pull money from multiple places, to get zero interest loans from people who really believed in the vision of what I was doing. And, you know, hustle hard as well. I really think that we can continue to replicate that model and that it doesn't have to be huge investors with lots of money. It can be a pool of us who are investing smaller amounts of money to make these spaces happen. Because once you have a commercial space, it starts to generate its own income. And it can be something that really supports itself. It's just getting over those hurdles of having a little bit of money to like, make something happen in the first place. The group of people that I was working at when working on this project. But, you know, we're kind of like, okay, we pulled this amount of money and it goes to this project now. And then as soon as we can, we pull it out and it goes into the next project. And we kind of have this like rolling, collective chunk of down payment or financing that we can use.


Raye: I know you’re also working on Justice Movement. Could you share a little bit about that project?


Natalie : Sure. So I've been an anti-racist Diversity, Equity, Inclusion trainer for 20 something years. We have an allyship course that's a month long course and 12 hours. And then we have a three months peer space holder course, where we're trying to really build people's confidence and comfort in discussing these issues and dealing with a lot of the emotional stuff that comes along with it. And we do a lot of really intimate sharing and community building along the way so you have a cohort of people that supports you.


Raye: You've been an activist for a long time. I wonder what advice you have for other artists and activists?


Natalie : The biggest piece I have is don't fall victim to urgency. Have some patience, to listen to the voices that might be slower to speak up or let something develop organically and know that there is enough time. Sometimes things are really urgent and we need to be ready to push really hard when that happens. But the rest of the time, you know, have that patience so that we don't burn out. And so that we don't run out of resources and run out of energy.


Raye: How can people support you in your work?


Natalie : Well, there's a number of different ways. I would really encourage everybody who has an interest to come join us for a Justice Movement course. We also offer consulting for corporations and community organizations and a sort of social justice overhaul. is our website. And you can join our courses there. They're really powerful. And they've been just really wonderful to be doing this whole year. I really believe in shared resources, so I also welcome you to contact me to utilize this space to elevate your own stuff and just keep activating spaces together. And if you're interested in the kind of affordable housing, community-centered development that I'm working on, you can contact me about investing in community affordable housing and arts-centered development projects. One project is a tiny homes project for trans women of color that is founded by, Monica Jones, a black trans activist. It's called the Outlaw project. We are purchasing land in Tucson and we'll be starting those tiny homes. We have a GoFundMe going on. You can find me on social media, Natalie Brewster Nguyen on all the things. You can also find the Outlaw project and I can direct you to our GoFundMe and other things like that.


Raye: Thanks so much for being here today.


Natalie: It's been my pleasure.

Natalie playfully shows off the entrance of the Splinter Collective Artist Warehouse and Event Space. Natalie uses performance art and acro-yoga as a platform for political activism. 

Transcripciones Español

Raye Winch: Bienvenides a Amplificando Voces: Personas Impulsando Cambio. Hoy hablamos con Natalie Brewster Nguyen, quien es activista, artista, entrenadore de justicia social y desarrolladore anticapitalista. Muchas gracias por estar con nosotros hoy.


Natalie Brewster Nguyen: Muchas gracias por invitarme.


Raye: Natalie, ¿qué es lo que más te emociona en este momento?


Natalie: Estoy muy, muy emocionade, no solo por la construcción de viviendas asequibles, sino por estar en condiciones de intentar repensar el modelo de vivienda por completo. Realmente creo profundamente en los recursos compartidos y que de hecho necesitamos mucho menos espacio. Un recurso compartido puede servir a mucha gente. Realmente quiero comenzar una empresa de desarrollo con eso como enfoque. También estoy interesade en pensar en el desarrollo de proyectos de viviendas asequibles y casas pequeñas para comunidades específicas, tratando de repensar la forma en que alquilamos. Para que así  alquilar no  sea solo algo en lo que se desperdicia  dinero para siempre, sino que se vaya acumulando algo de capital que pueda llevarse consigo cuando te mudes.


Raye: Y ahora estás haciendo algunos desarrollos, ¿cómo se ve eso?


Natalie:  Ahora mismo pude adquirir este Splinter Collective Art Studio Warehouse, que es un almacén histórico que ha estado en manos de artistas desde los años sesenta. Estamos tomando este recurso y tratando de ponerlo a disposición de la comunidad, como un espacio para eventos, para recaudaciones de fondos. Me gustaría tomar ese modelo y continuar construyéndolo, para crear estos centros comunitarios que puedan anclar espacios y ser un verdadero recurso compartido genuino para la comunidad. Pero como alguien que siempre ha valorado la comunidad por mucho más que al dinero, fue interesante tener que aprender cómo realmente generar dinero y cómo hacer que un espacio como este prospere. 


Pero pude hacerlo. Y en parte pude hacerlo porque he invertido mucho en mis comunidades durante mucho tiempo. Y así pude juntar dinero de varios lugares,  obtuve préstamos sin interés de personas que realmente creían en la visión de lo que estaba haciendo. Y, ya sabes, me esforcé para sacar dinero  también. Realmente creo que podemos seguir replicando ese modelo y no tenemos que ser grandes inversionistas con mucho dinero. Puede ser un grupo de nosotres que estamos invirtiendo cantidades más pequeñas de dinero para hacer que estos espacios sucedan. Porque una vez que tienes un local comercial, empieza a generar sus propios ingresos. Y puede ser algo que realmente se mantenga a sí mismo. Es solo cuestión de superar esos obstáculos de tener un poco de dinero para hacer que algo pueda suceder en primer lugar. El grupo de personas con en el que estoy trabajando en este proyecto hemos juntado esta cantidad de dinero con la finalidad de reinvertirlo en otros proyectos. Y de esa manera tenemos esto como algo continuo, colectivo que podemos usar como pago inicial o financiamiento.


Raye: Sé que también estás trabajando en una organización se llama Justice Movement. ¿Podrías compartir un poco sobre ese proyecto?


Natalie: Claro.  He sido entrenadore antirracista en diversidad, equidad e inclusión durante 20 años. Tenemos un curso de aliados que es un curso de 12 horas a lo largo de un mes. Y luego tenemos un curso de tres meses, donde estamos tratando de construir realmente la confianza y la comodidad de las personas al hablar sobre estos temas y lidiar con muchas de las emociones que conllevan esas conversaciones. Y compartimos mucho de manera íntima y construimos una comunidad a lo largo del camino para que tengas un grupo de personas que te apoyen.


Raye: Has sido activista durante mucho tiempo. Qué consejo le darías a otres artistas y activistas.


Natalie: La pieza más importante es no ser víctima de la urgencia y  tener algo de paciencia, escuchar las voces que podrían ser más lentas para hablar o dejar que algo se desarrolle orgánicamente y saber que hay suficiente tiempo. A veces las cosas son realmente urgentes y debemos estar preparades para presionar mucho cuando eso suceda. Pero el resto del tiempo, ya sabes, ten paciencia para que no nos cansemos. Y para que no nos quedémos sin recursos y sin energía.


Raye: ¿Cómo puede la gente apoyarte en tu trabajo?


Natalie: Bueno, hay varias formas. Realmente animaría a todes les que tengan interés a unirse a nosotres en un curso de Movimiento por la Justicia. También ofrecemos asesoría a   corporaciones y organizaciones comunitarias y ayudamos a reestructurar les de manera que se centra la justicia social. Y puedes unirte a nuestros cursos en Son realmente poderosos. Y ha sido realmente maravilloso hacerlos todo este año. Realmente creo en los recursos compartidos. Así que también les animo a que se pongan en contacto conmigo para utilizar este espacio, para elevar sus propias causas y seguir activando espacios juntes. Y si estás interesade en el tipo de desarrollo inmobiliario centrado en la comunidad de viviendas asequibles en el que estoy trabajando, puedes ponerte en contacto conmigo acerca de la inversión en viviendas asequibles para la comunidad y  proyectos de desarrollo de un centro de artes. Uno de esos  proyectos es un proyecto de casas pequeñas para mujeres trans de color que fue fundado por, Monica Jones, una activista trans negra, y  el proyecto se llama Outlaw. Estamos comprando terrenos en Tucson y comenzaremos con esas pequeñas casas. Puedes encontrarme en las redes sociales, Natalie Brewster Nguyen, en  todas las plataformas. 


Raye: Para obtener la entrevista completa, fotos, y enlaces a más información, visite

Esta entrevista se grabó originalmente en inglés. Traducción de Indira Arce.

Natalie Brewster Nguyen stands in the parking lot of the Splinter Warehouse.

Natalie in front of The Splinter Collective Warehouse, where they have lived and worked for over eight years. Raising children with co parents and chosen family. Natalie is a activist, healer and sex worker who is working to build community resiliency through anti capitalist development. A movement aimed at affordable housing for BIPOC and LGBTQ communities. 

Natalie, in the recording studio (a small storage closet in the Splinter Collective Warehouse​), Natalie describes the need for efficiency housing for single Parents and their larger vision to create sustainable housing in Tucson. 

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