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'Inspiring' Festival To Debut At SHSU

Feb. 3, 2011
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

LULAC performersScholars and artists who are inspired by the Latin American culture will share their passion with Bearkats and fellow aficionados alike during the inaugural Festival Inspiración, Sam Houston State University’s first Latin American Arts Festival, Feb. 21-26.

The festival will bring together respected names in academics, publishing, art, music and dance for a week of lectures, interactive workshops and performances that will span many of the countries that represent the Latin American culture.

“Festival Inspiración is about education,” said Sergio Ruiz, director of keyboard studies at SHSU and festival creator. “It’s an exchange of culture; not only musical culture and educational culture but truly breaking international borders.

“We’re going to Puerto Rico, we’re pulling people up from Bolivia and Mexico; we’re working with El Salvadorian food,” he said. “For me it’s an inspirational festival.”

The educational portion of the festival will include poster sessions, presentations and panel discussions that will address “Latin American Scholarship at SHSU,” “Mexico and Mexicans,” “Literature and Arts in Latin America” and “Literature and Publishing in Latin America.”

“The Latin American festival is about educating people on the diversity of Latin America itself,” said foreign languages department chair Debra Andrist, who organized the educational portion of the festival. “Many people are not aware of the breadth of Latin America. They think of Mexico, which is important, but there are at least 21 different geographical countries and areas where variations of Spanish are spoken. The cultures are super different, as are the arts in each one.”

She said these presentations will not only highlight some of the outstanding research being done at SHSU but will also bring to campus such notable people as Nicolás Kanellos, founder and editor of the Arte Público Press; Rogelio García, founder of the Microcredits Project; John Burke, a well-known scholar of mestizaje; RoseMary Salum, founder and editor of Literal: Voces Latinoamericanas Magazine, who will also read from her works; and poet Sarah Cortez, among many others.

“The scholarship on Latin America is more vast than people really realize and it spans many disciplines,” Andrist said. “So it’s really two-fold: the festival gives them the opportunity to hear famous people discuss Latin American topics and learn that some of those people belong to us.”

Painter Adelina Moya and sculptor Jesús Moroles will combine their artistic talents with teaching for the festival. After their artist opening at the Wynne Home Arts Center, on Monday (Feb. 21) from 5-7 p.m., the two will teach workshops for the rest of the week in their respective mediums at the Wynne Home that are free and open to members of both the SHSU and surrounding communities.

Moya’s “Painting at Wynne” will be on Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., while Moroles’s “Sculpture at Wynne” will be Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 2-4 p.m.

In addition to being accomplished by their own rights, Moroles is a 2008 National Medal of Arts winner—the highest award given to artists and patrons by the U.S. government and presented by the president.

Luis Marín, director of the Puerto Rico National Conservatory of Music

A Latin jazz concert will kick off a week of performances on Monday at 7:30 p.m., when Luis Marín and musicians from the Puerto Rico National Conservatory of Music will play in the Performing Arts Center Concert Hall.

One of the most exciting events, according to Ruiz, will be Wednesday night’s “Creación del Alma” (“Creation of the Soul”), an improvisation concert featuring sculpture, modern dance and percussion, at 7:30 p.m. in the PAC Dance Theater.

“We’re going to build a platform that comes out into the seats, covering some of them, and there will be percussionists on each side of the stage on (top of) large granite sculptures, using thousand-pound granite sculptures to create sounds,” Ruiz said. “They have small, smooth stones, like skipping-stones, and they run them over the granite sculptures that produce pitched sounds.

“Sculptures will be suspended from the ceiling, dancers will be on the stage, and an artist (Moroles) will be creating works during the performance,” he said. “The audience will be given a sculpture that the artist has created as they walk in. Each one is pitched, and when we give a signal, they will (use the sculpture to) take part in the improvisation. So it’s audience, percussion, dancers and artist, all here on Wednesday night.”

Friday’s events will include the Invitational Latin Jazz Festival, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center, during which high school and university jazz bands from the Houston, Dallas and San Antonio areas will participate in workshops with some of the festival’s prominent musicians. They will compete for the opportunity to play in the final concert on Saturday with Danilo Pérez, a Panamanian music artist, now based in New York.

“The Friday (concert), for me, is really touching. I was really nervous because the idea came up of having the contest winner play on Saturday night with this international artist who is known everywhere,” Ruiz said. “It’s the equivalent of studying political science with the president.

“I asked (Pérez) if the high school band could open the concert, and he said no, that he wanted them on the (second half of the) concert,” Ruiz said.

Panamanian music artist Danilo Pérez (center), with drummer Adam Cruz and bassist Ben Street, will perform during the Final Latin Jazz Concert on Saturday.

The two Saturday performances that will play out the festival include a Caribbean-style jam session by the SHSU Steel and Jazz bands, from 2-4 p.m. in the PAC foyer, and will culminate with the Final Latin Jazz Concert, featuring Pérez, SHSU professor Aric Schneller, the SHSU Jazz Band and Symphony Orchestra, and the winning band from the jazz festival, at 7:30 p.m. in the PAC Concert Hall.

Other activities include workshops conducted by the musicians on several forms of improvisation and Latin rhythm; dancers from the Huntsville chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens performing a Ballet Folklórico; and three film festivals, presented by filmmaker Pat Collins, from San Rafael Productions; by the Houston Institute for Culture film festival, with an introduction by director Mark Lacy; and by English professor Ralph Pease.

As Ruiz’s “brainchild,” Festival Inspiración has been seven years in the making. With the help of the City of Huntsville, the Hotel Occupancy Tax Board and an SHSU team that includes School of Music director Mike Bankhead, Andrist, Spanish professor Rafael Saumell Muñoz and Schneller, Ruiz said he has been able to take the idea and “go big.”

Going big literally means making it an international affair. In addition to the Puerto Rico National Conservatory of Music participants, two Bolivian string students with whom SHSU string professor Javier Pinnell works are being brought to the U.S. courtesy of American Airlines.

“We’ve gone to Bolivia a couple of times and to work with their orchestra, we’ve performed there, and now we’re invited a couple of those students to partake in the festival and stay a couple of extra weeks to take classes and see what it’s like to play with an orchestra,” Ruiz said. “They will perform during the festival as well.”

The international exchange is just one of the aspects Ruiz said he finds inspiring. The other is helping Hispanic students like him.

“I was the first college graduate in my family, and thinking of that, I remember how several of my friends had to leave college because their mom and dad got sick and they had to work. And they never went back to school,” he said. “In higher education, we need to attract Latin American students, and we don’t have a lot of things of this nature that celebrate our heritage.

“We’re bringing Latin America together with this festival: we’re doing things in Ecuador, in Bolivia, in Mexico and Puerto Rico,” he said. “It’s really about community, and for me that’s exciting because it helps us be together and happy. I’m excited to be able to realize what I’ve been dreaming over the last several years.”

All of the Festival Inspiración events are free and open to the public, except the Saturday evening concert, for which admission is $15 for adults and $12 SHSU students and senior citizens. However, tickets will be required for all of the events and will be dispensed on a first-come, first served basis. Tickets can be obtained through the PAC box office at 936.294.2339 or tickets@shsu.edu.

The festival is sponsored by SHSU, The City of Huntsville, Goya, American Airlines, Carbonero Restaurant in Huntsville, Buena Suerte Spanish newspaper, La Información Spanish newspaper, Sherman Clay, Texas Commission of the Arts State Cultural District and Yamaha.

For a complete list of events, visit http://www.shsu.edu/~music/festival/.

 

 

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