Hostos Arts Center Awarded Major Grant to Link Programming To Humanities Department and Afro-Caribbean Study Curricula

Hostos Grant, One of Just Eight Awarded to Colleges Across the Country,Will Support Afro-Dominican and Afro-Puerto Rican Arts & Culture Project-

Bronx, NY – The Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture has been awarded a major grant from the nation’s top association of arts presenters to carry out a national demonstration project linking the Center’s programming to Hostos Community College’s Humanities curriculum.

The Center was one of eight grantees chosen from over 250 applicants, which included major universities from coast to coast; it was the only community college-based arts center among the grantees.

Totaling $110,175, the grant was awarded by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Creative Campus Innovations Grant Program, a program funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

The program challenges campus-based performing arts presenters to integrate their programs more organically within the academic environment, engaging faculty, students and higher education leaders in all aspects of their work in innovative ways.

Grant-funded programs will become the basis for a set of case studies that offer models for action to be made broadly available to higher education institutions.

“Colleges and universities have been leading patrons of the arts for more than 100 years, and despite their presence on campuses in many forms and dimensions, the arts are not recognized as a priority in the same ways that science, sports or foreign language teaching are,” stated Sandra Gibson, president and chief executive officer of Arts Presenters. “The Creative Campus Innovations Program provides an opportunity to fully integrate the performing arts into the life of the academy, higher education and the community.”

“We have high expectations for this project,” said Dr. Dolores M. Fernandez, President of Hostos Community College. “Above all, we hope that, among its outcomes, it will lead to a greater appreciation of the arts as a vital component in a progressive, liberal and humanistic education.”

The grant will help fund the Afro-Caribbean Culture Study and Fieldwork Project, which will link two biennial festivals at the Hostos Center to the college’s study abroad programs and its Humanities course offerings. The festivals are BomPlenazo, a biennial of Afro-Puerto Rican culture and Quijombo, a celebration of Afro-Dominican culture.

In the summers prior to each festival, Hostos students, as well as students from other City University colleges, will perform fieldwork for academic credit in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. They will visit traditional communities and interview master craftsmen, musicians and dancers who will participate in the festivals in the fall.

They will also receive classroom instruction at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, the oldest university in the Western Hemisphere, and the Center for Advanced Caribbean Studies in San Juan. Instruction will be provided by teams of prominent ethnologists, sociologists and musicologists from these institutions as well as the University of Puerto Rico.

Eight to ten of the students participating in the summer abroad program will then be selected to participate in a docent program in which they will be trained as cultural guides who will accompany school groups and other college students attending events at the festivals in the fall. The goal is to create a cadre of young cultural agents and activists who are knowledgeable of and sensitive to the cultures represented in the festivals.

The Quijombo and BomPlenazo festivals will be the focus of another course in the fall 2007 and 2008 semesters. The course will also include a major symposium on the impact of development and globalization on traditional cultures, a topic of concern among scholars, activists and policymakers. It is also of concern to the communities Hostos students will be visiting in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

The fieldwork is one of the centerpieces of the program. In 2007, students will work in two of the most fascinating communities in the Dominican Republic: The Guloyas of San Pedro de Macoris and the Congos of Villa Mella. The Guloyas are descended Afro-Caribbean sugar cane industry workers who migrated to the Dominican Republic in the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century from other Caribbean islands colonized by the French, Dutch and English. The Congos are the descendants of African slaves brought to Hispaniola by the Spanish. Both communities have been included on the United Nations’ (UNESCO) list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, a designation reserved for communities worthy of special note, protection and nurturing.

In 2008, students will work and perform research in and around the town of Loiza Aldea, Puerto Rico, which was originally settled by runaway slaves and freedmen. The town is known as one of the principal centers of the bomba music and dance tradition, which traces its roots back to the early Spanish colonial period.

“This project will impact our students and the audiences of the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture in many ways,” said Dr. Carlos Sanabria, who will coordinate the project with Wallace Edgecombe, director of the Hostos Center, and Ana Garcia Reyes, director of Hostos’ study abroad programs. “They will gain a greater understanding of traditional societies and the challenges they face in a rapidly developing and increasingly globalized world.”

“They will also see how traditional art is made, how cultures are formed and how those cultures are transported to our cities, especially New York, which is home to so many immigrants from the Caribbean,” said Dr. Sanabria.

Garcia Reyes explains how this project is related to the highly praised summer academic exchange program in the Dominican Republic she has coordinated for the past 19 years:

“I am very pleased that this new project will complement our longstanding CUNY/Hostos Study Abroad Program to the Dominican Republic, which has nurtured pioneering research about Dominican civilization, and also led to the signing and implementation of CUNY-wide academic exchange agreements,” said Garcia Reyes. “The CUNY/Hostos Study Abroad Program has generated mutually beneficial alliances, new knowledge and valuable insights into the history, traditions and contributions of diverse migratory groups that have settled in Hispaniola.”

Some of the most prominent musicians, dancers and artisans of those traditions will be featured at the fall festivals. Produced in collaboration with Alianza Dominicana, the New York Dominican community’s premier social service and advocacy agency, Quijombo 2007 will present the Guloya Theater, perhaps the best known troupe of dancers and fife and drum musicians in the Dominican Republic. Under the direction of Daniel “Linda” Henderson, troupe members sport elaborate feathered headdresses and baggy costumes festooned with ribbons and mirrors.

Also featured in the festival will be La Cofradia de los Congos de Villa Mella under the direction of Sixto Minier. Los Congos, as they are widely known, are a mutual aid and burial society that organize funerals for members of the town of Villa Mella and its environs located just north of the capital of Santo Domingo.

These and other traditional artists will share the Hostos Center’s stages with their counterparts from throughout the New York metropolitan area.

A similar sequence of study abroad, festival and symposium will be offered in 2008 and focus on the bomba and plena traditions as they are manifested in Loiza, Puerto Rico.

About the Association of Performing Arts Presenters
The Association of Performing Arts Presenters (Arts Presenters) is the largest national service and advocacy organization for the performing arts, and is dedicated to bringing artists and audiences together through presenting and touring. With over 2,100 members worldwide, Arts Presenters is committed to increasing community participation, promoting global cultural exchange, and fostering an environment for the performing arts to thrive. www.artspresenters.org

About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, wildlife conservation, medical research and the prevention of child maltreatment, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The foundation’s assets currently total approximately $1.8 billion. Of its grants totaling close to $473 million to date, the foundation has approved approximately $156 million to support nonprofit performing arts organizations throughout the United States. www.ddcf.org

For more information please contact 718.518.6700 and 718-518-4300 (ext. 4313) or visit www.hostos.cuny.edu

PRESS CONTACT
Nestor Montilla
Director of Public Relations

Office of Institutional Development
Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College
of The City University of New York
120 East 149th Street, Rm. 214 E
Bronx, NY 10451
Tel. (718) 518-4355
Fax #: (718) 518-4240
Email: nmontilla@HOSTOS.CUNY.EDU

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