AFC+A Founder & Executive Director
Irene Vilar is a Guggenheim Award author, social and environmental justice advocate, motivational coach, and activist combining over two decades of Non Profit, Cultural Brokerage, and Creative and Outdoor Economies experience. She is the Puerto Rican founder of the Colorado based environmental nonprofit Americas for Conservation + the Arts 501c3, advancing healthy communities in the face of climate change through environmental stewardship, leveraging arts and culture for conservation and outdoor economy gains that can best serve the most underserved. She has launched numerous education-driven initiatives including the publishing house Mandel Vilar Press, dedicated to advancing diversity in the book industry; the annual Americas Latino Eco Festival, dedicated to growing an inclusive conservation workspace; and Promotores Verdes (winner of the 2018 CAEE Innovative Program Award & 2020 SHIFT Award), powering a culture of recreation, conservation, and public health anchored in nature experiences and a sustainable outdoors economy.
Vilar is the recipient of the City of Denver Office of Sustainability Community Builder 2016 Love This Place Award as well as the 2017 Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Arts & Culture Imagine 2020. She is also a former member of the founding advisory council of the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation and served four years in the advisory council of the City of Denver Office of Sustainability. She has been an active public speaker for multicultural and environmental literacy.
Since the publishing of her first book in 1996, she has given numerous academic lectures and workshops on advancing eco-cultura, the social cohesive fabric that fosters a culture of authentic and bottoms up civic engagement with the creative and outdoor economies. An award-winning cultural worker, Vilar is a story finder as much as a storyteller, constantly feeling the call to help bring the best out of everyone as they work to grow into change makers roles. Her books have been translated into six languages and won the 2000 Mind Book of the Year Award, the 2010 IPPY Gold Medal for Best Memoir/Autobiography, and the 12th Latino Book Award for Best Women’s Issues. Her writings explore generational and national trauma and have been featured in numerous interdisciplinary doctoral dissertations, academic books, and higher academic course adoptions. As of 2020, her books have been cited in three hundred and twenty-nine dissertations and forty-two books.
Vilar’s work has been featured in the cover of The New York Times Arts section, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Time, Forbes, Vogue, NBC News, ABC, Huff Post, Latina, and many more media outlets. And her nonprofit work has secured grants from the Hispanic Federation, the Annenberg Foundation, USDA, The Nature Conservancy, Milton A. & Charlotte R. Kamer Charitable Foundation, The Morning Star Foundation, Maine Community Foundation, The Oscar & Evelyn Overton Charitable Foundation, among other national and international entities.
Vilar, the proud mother of two Colorado born Latina teenage daughters, is a Latina in love with the Colorado Great Outdoors. She is a sailor who has crossed the Gulf Stream current fifty-two times and an avid long-distance hiker in love with Colorado fourteeners.
Born in the coastal town of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Vilar went to outdoor education boarding school in Orford, New Hampshire between the ages of 10 and 13 and to a catholic convent in Valencia, Spain until the age of 15 when she entered Syracuse University in upstate New York and later on Bennington College in Vermont. Vilar has been a resident of Boulder, Colorado since 2003.