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La Casita Cultural Center Kicks Off Hispanic Heritage Month with Exhibition ‘Pa’ La Calle’ (To the Streets)
La Casita Cultural Center is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with the opening of a new exhibition launched with an opening reception on Friday, Sept. 13, at 6 p.m. Admission to the event is free and open to the public. A traditional Caribbean menu and refreshments will be served. The opening reception will include special performances by Raíces, a Syracuse University all-student dance troupe, and Dominque’s Dance Creations. La Casita Cultural Center is located at 109 Otisco St., Syracuse; free parking is available.
The exhibition, “Pa’ La Calle” (To the Streets), presents the work of Syracuse-based, up-and-coming artist Bennie Guzmán. The opening reception is the kick-off event for the 2019 Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month commemorative program at La Casita. As with previous annual exhibitions at La Casita, “Pa’ La Calle” sets the central theme for a series of events and programs that will examine urban cultures, life in the barrio, street art, graffiti, hip-hop and reggaeton throughout the 2019-20 academic year.
“I believe that art is the best way to start a conversation,” says Guzmán. “And I believe that for the youth in this community, where hip-hop, reggaeton and graffiti art are so prevalent, this is the language we need to use in order to have that conversation.”
“Pa’ La Calle” features a collection of paintings, a series of portraits that recognize prominent Latinos and Latinas of Syracuse who are committed to the continued development and well-being of this community and who are enthusiastic partners in support of La Casita’s programs. Portraits include Gregorio Jimenez, executive director of the Near Westside Initiative; Bea González, vice president of Community Engagement at Syracuse University; José Miguel Hernández Hurtado, artistic director of La Joven Guardia del Teatro Latino; and Hugo Acosta and Marisol Hernández, publisher and editor in chief, respectively, of CNY Latino, among others.
Guzmán also invited a group of teens to create a mural inspired by the lives and aspirations of these young talents in the Syracuse Latinx community. The Spanish Action League’s One Team-One Dream youth program partnered in the project, which was completed this past July.
“This project is about engaging with our community in new ways,” Guzmán. “It’s about taking all the positive things that come from this community and putting them on display for everyone to see. At the end of the day, I want the people in this community to see themselves like never before.”
Guzmán’s art is focused on sharing the narratives and lived experiences of marginalized communities. He was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and received a B.A. from Colgate University in art and art history, specializing in studio art and English. He is currently a staff member at La Casita in charge of media outreach and communications.
The exhibition opening will be followed by a panel discussion titled “Letra del Reggaeton” (Lyrics of Reggaeton) on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 6 p.m. at La Casita. The event, which is free and open to the public, features Syracuse University faculty and students, local deejays and promoters in a dialogue about the controversial nature of hip-hop and reggaeton lyrics, the global impact on these music genres, and their undisputed success in conquering young markets from almost every culture worldwide.
Panelists are Todd Herreman, associate teaching professor in the Setnor School of Music; David Knapp, assistant professor of music education in the Setnor School and an expert on Arab hip-hop; Biko Gray, assistant professor of religion in the College of Arts and Sciences and author of “Breaking Bread, Breaking Beats: Churches and Hip-Hop—A Basic Guide to Key Issues” (The CERCL Writing Collective; 2014); Hasan Stephens, director of the Good Life Youth Foundation and a professional deejay; Liamna Pestana Roche ’22, a student in the Setnor School, who will talk about the ban on reggaeton in her native Cuba; and Syracuse University graduate student Roberto Pérez, a professional Latin music deejay.