June 8, 2017

Caribbean Heritage Mixed-media Art Exhibition Marks Caribbean Heritage Month, Year of the Caribbean

Painting from the Caribbean Heritage Mixed Media Art Exhibit

The student/alumni club the Metro Art Club wrapped up its artistic season with an opening reception for its inaugural mixed-media art exhibition celebrating National Caribbean Heritage Month.

The exhibit also marks the college’s designation of 2017-18 as the Year of the Caribbean.

“Empire State College recognizes that its role as an academic institution, in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the U.S., means that the college must forge an inclusive curriculum and programs that reflect the plurality of the student body, as well as the community,” said Lear Matthews, a professor of Community and Human Services. Matthews also is a member of the editorial board of the Caribbean Journal of Social Work. “To this end, the Caribbean Heritage Art Exhibition tells the story of people representing various Caribbean nationalities, including Spanish, English-speaking, French and Dutch, and showcases the traditions, practices, beliefs and artifacts of this selected group.”

The exhibit features artwork by students Natural Langdon, Anesta Bernice Stewart, Pedro Tavárez, Felix Torres, Carmen Velez and George A. Velez, as well as alumni Eugenia D’Ambrosio ’05, Cristina Guzman ’12, Alisa Irby ’16, Vanessa Moore ’14, Julia Primus ’16 and Daryl Tillman ’16.

Images from the reception are available on the college’s Facebook page.

“This art forum presentation of the Metro Art Club emphasizes art as a universal language and is just another example of the work SUNY Empire is doing in bringing together cultures in a way that we can embrace and respect each other’s diversity,” said Rosalind October-Edun, a professor of Community and Human Services. October-Edun contributed a chapter to the book “English-Speaking Caribbean Immigrants: Transnational Identities,” (University Press of America, 2013), which was edited by Matthews.

The reception for the exhibit took place June 1 at the college’s Brooklyn location, Livingston Gallery, sixth floor, 177 Livingston Street, and the exhibit is on display Mondays through Thursdays, noon to 5 p.m., or by appointment, through Wednesday, Aug. 30.

Admission is free and appointments to see the exhibit can be made by calling the college’s Brooklyn location at 718-783-4400.

“The works include photography, digital art, illustrations, paintings and drawings as diverse as the Caribbean cultures themselves,” said visual art faculty member and SUNY Empire State College alumnus Raúl Manzano ‘05, one of the club’s faculty advisors and the exhibit’s curator. “I saw the creation of this event as a response to the change in the college’s demographics. A high percentage of our students are of Caribbean descent and this exhibit reflects the diversity of our student population.”

In describing the exhibit, Manzano said that the artists portray everything from Puerto Rico’s fight for independence in 1862, to the bodegas and Nuyorican cafes of El Barrio in New York City, to the charm of Trinidad and Tobago’s carnivals and the streets of Havana, Cuba, with its string music players and food vendors.

He added that the exhibit includes portraits of Latinos in their adopted country, where immigration policies may determine their future, and the dreams of an illustrator sharing stories from his children’s books, “How to Make Friends in Space.”

In 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution recognizing the significance of Caribbean people and their descendants in the history and culture of the country. The U.S. Senate followed with its resolution in February 2006, and President George W. Bush issued the proclamation designating June as Caribbean Heritage Month on June 6, 2006.

The exhibit also marks another event in support of the college’s Year of the Caribbean, the first theme in and the inaugural year of cultural initiative.

This new SUNY Empire initiative will explore a topic more intensively through linked courses, cultural events and celebrations, art exhibits, webinars, seminars, service learning projects, student and alumni gatherings, speakers, articles in the college magazine and other experiences, throughout the year.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the college explores The Year of the Caribbean broadly, as part of its long-term, collegewide commitment to foster cultural diversity within the institution and the greater communities it serves throughout the state and internationally.

In addition to the current exhibit, the college has held other events, including the 2017 Boyer Lecture, “Reparatory Justice and Economic Development: Critical Support for the Social Growth Paradigm in the Caribbean,” delivered at this year’s All College Conference by The University of the West Indies Professor and Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles, in support of this year’s theme.

The Year of the Caribbean theme builds on the new partnership between The State University of New York and The University of the West Indies and the establishment of the SUNY UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development.

Based at the college’s Manhattan location at 325 Hudson Street, the center coordinates joint teams of UWI and SUNY experts, who take a multi-disciplinary approach and draw on external expertise to advance the following goals:

  • creation of a master’s program in leadership and sustainable development
  • solutions-oriented research
  • student advocacy and mobilization of the Caribbean diaspora
  • establishment of an expert network
  • facilitation of a think tank.

The leadership of Sir Hilary and SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall was an essential component of the formation of the partnership and the establishment of the new center for leadership and sustainable development.

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