By Marta Moreno Vega
Community Arts University Without Walls (CAUWW) is a project of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute created by Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, President/Founder
Community Arts University Without Walls is a project that in its first phase is supported by the Community Arts Convening and Research Project, which is funded by the Nathan Cummings Foundation (NCF) and sponsored by Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). The intent of this project is to develop a theoretical framework for a course of study in community arts. Dedicated to the principles of cultural equity and social and economic justice, this project invites community cultural advocates of historically marginalized communities, artists, students, academics, community scholars and policymakers to collectively frame a comprehensive program connecting all of these multiple perspectives and areas of expertise.
Central to this project is a commitment to both embrace and honor the cultural histories, traditions and transformations that inform the aesthetic and creative expressions of varied, diverse communities at both the local and global level.
The premise of the Community Arts University Without Walls is in line with the declaration set forth by the United Nations International Conference, World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Durban, South Africa, August 31-September 8, 2001:
…cultural diversity is a cherished asset for the advancement and welfare of humanity at large and should be valued, enjoyed, genuinely accepted and embraced as a permanent feature which enriches our societies.
…Having listened to the peoples of the world and recognizing their aspirations to justice, to equality of opportunity for all and everyone, to the enjoyment of their human rights, including the right to development, to live in peace and freedom and to equal participation without discrimination in economic, social, cultural, civil and political life,... (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights).
Community Arts University Without Walls evolved out of a network of collaborators from institutions of higher education and cultural organizations: New York University, MICA, Wesleyan University, California State Monterey Bay, Temple University, Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puertorriquenos y el Caribe, Caribbean Cultural Center – African Diaspora Institute and students of the University of Puerto Rico. Utilizing a broad base of knowledge, varied experiential groundings and unique professional perspectives, this planning group has taken a theoretical concept and produced a replicable working model of great importance.
Amalia Mesa-Bains provides insight into this inclusive, fruitful exchange of ideas and perspectives:
In working with the CAUWW planning team, I found the planning process to possess a high level of openness and camaraderie, thereby allowing us to think through the challenge of designing this initiative in a very creative and dynamic way. Many of my early perceptions changed as we shared viewpoints and experiences. A particular challenge was the development of a model that would address the students’ self-reference and cultural identities and make it possible for them to work in many diverse community settings. As both an educator and artist I felt myself totally engaged in building something very real and necessary. I look forward to the actualization of this visionary project (“Working Collaboratively”).
Community Arts University Without Walls is dedicated to assuring that community-based experts working to transform their own communities receive accredited recognition for their ongoing work.
Without the ongoing input of these community-based artists, scholars and organizations, the emerging field of study in higher education will possess limited rootedness and authenticity. Therefore the creators and sustainers of the community arts field are integral to the process of establishing community programs at the college level. Additionally, CAUWW is especially concerned with developing economically affordable access to higher-education accreditation programs.
For young people entering the field, CAUWW will provide direct access to this expertise, a knowledge base that is theoretical, culturally grounded and practical. The courses offered will address cultural policy and its impact on marginalized communities at the international, national and local levels. According to Human Rights Watch Newsletter of 2009, the United States has yet to ratify the Covenant that assures economic, social and cultural rights. This covenant assures the following:
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR): The covenant commits states to address basic rights such as to health and education. Together with its counterpart, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its protocols, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ICESCR forms what is known as the International Bill of Rights. The treaty has been ratified by 160 nations. Although the U.S. signed it in 1977, it has yet to ratify (“US: Treaty Signing Signals Policy Shift”).
Multiple Entry Points
The CAUWW project recognizes that community scholars and young adults working in community and those wishing to enter the Community Arts field must be provided the opportunity to learn, craft and share best practices. Institutions with existing community arts programs will also benefit from this initiative.
Ken Krafchek notes the following regarding the MFA in Community Arts (MFACA) program at MICA.
The MFACA program espouses a philosophy grounded in the principles of social justice and cultural democracy. By definition, the program exists in relationship to the greater world, even as the walls of the institution define it. In the pursuit of meaningful educational experiences that transcend the intellectual and creative confines of the institution, MFACA is invested in the idea and inherent promise of the Community Arts University Without Walls.
MFACA’s preexisting action-based learning agenda is committed to community-centered identity, voice and self-determination. Its educational model is founded on the principles and practices of experiential education, critical pedagogy and participatory research. The MFACA program is therefore wedded to the pursuit of “partnerships of consequence” -- real work with real consequences in the real world. The Community Arts University Without Walls (CAUWW) provides the conceptual framework supporting an inclusive “coming-together” of thought and action and the crafting of new knowledge.
This past March, just prior to this year’s Project Convening in Baltimore, faculty representatives from Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y El Caribe (CEA) and students from the University of Puerto Rico met with the faculty and students from the MFACA program. It was our collective intent to test out and determine if students from very different places could relate in meaningful ways, and if so, to what end. We were collectively excited by the outcomes. The resulting energy and enthusiasm produced by this exchange unequivocally supports the legitimacy and future success of CAUWW. The MFACA and UPR students together recognized within each other a wealth of unique skill sets and knowledge, born of different life experiences yet reflective of a commonality of purpose and shared destiny.
CAUWW provides the means for infusing the MFACA program with important post-graduate experiences rooted in advanced theory and practice -- ideas born of community yet essential to the health and wellbeing of the world at large.
The rich tapestry of racial and ethnic communities in contemporary society often inhabit common spaces that provide important opportunities to share cultural and aesthetic traditions while comparing and connecting common values and praxis. Practices grounded in the cultural arts provide the foundation and focus to achieve cultural equity, social justice and cultural rights that are fundamental to a democratic society.
The conditions for launching CAUWW with maximum impact include student protest movements occurring internationally.
Arturo Otlahui Ríos Escribano, one of the student strike leaders protesting cost and accessibility policies of the University of Puerto Rico writes in his statement An Enriching Experience:
Spaces designed to promote ideas, exchanges and the development of social justice and cultural advocacy work, exist. These are the vibrant spaces that are alive, breathe and multiply through creative thought and action. These agora-like spaces are inherently necessary for human exchange, the engendering of new thought and the dismantling of ‘colonial oppressive thought.’ It is important to create spaces of higher learning, safe spaces for critical analysis, creative thought and the opportunity to implement our vision. In these spaces we learn, we share and are educated.
- Student Strike at University of Puerto Rico enters 28th Day (VIDEO)
Democracy Now, May 17, 2010
Civil Rights Movement
Emerging from the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of the late ‘50s, artists and cultural workers gave rise to an aesthetic, multidisciplinary narrative of liberation. These efforts were directed at dismantling the institutions of racism, segregation and other discriminatory practices at all levels of society. The emerging artists and community-based arts organizations understood that the dominant Eurocentric aesthetic tradition was a major contributor to and benefactor of these systems of oppression. The Civil Rights Movement provided a collective, universal voice and a platform for a new global aesthetic, an aesthetic dedicated to freedom.
In an essay entitled “Cultural Diversity: An Asian American Perspective,” Margo Machida states, “…a fundamental belief we share that the predominance of Eurocentric values and practices in American culture must be challenged and new institutional models and cultural policies be put forward that are respectful and supportive of the heritages of all Americans” (83).
The imperative moving forward as recommended by scholar Harold Cruse in “Afro Centricity: A Philosophical Basis for Cultural Equity Battles?” indicates, that
…we must take all of these differences, these movements, these expressions, these phases into consideration in order to create even the semblance of a new cultural paradigm for equity – new definitions, that will include a number of philosophical refinements of our view of this process leading from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s to the present (12).
Artist G. Peter Jemison from the Seneca Nation notes,
Our movement seeks the recognition of Native American artists, writers and musicians. It relies on a conceptual reawakening of our way of life. Actually this way has never vanished, but most Americans still know very little about the Native Americas. Our art is the indigenous art of this country, in fact (24).
In the essay entitled “Indigenismo: The Call to Unity,” Amalia Mesa Bains speaks for all marginalized cultural communities when she notes:
The need to affirm our own cultural reality through our resistance to exploitation and our experience as a internally colonized community within the United States was a driving force in the numerous fronts of the Chicano Movement. Whether a response to farmworkers’ conditions, land and water rights struggles, bilingual education needs, or in the largest sense of redress for an historical presence long denied, Chicano activism sought to link social demands with cultural expressions (44).
Today students are voicing similar concerns and actively working to implement strategies for positive change. Giovanni Roberto, one of the students most targeted by the media during the strike against the University of Puerto Rico, notes the following in his essay, About the Interaction:
Connecting social justice and art before, during and after the strike was the product of a quest for freedom of speech under a totalitarian and oppressive university administration. Nothing that happened during the strike can be separated from the circumstances under which it was born. This strategy of placing art at the center of our strike was a direct response to the administration and the government’s attempts to shut down the educational process. When they wanted to silence our message, we organized ourselves and moved forward with our alternative communication process, incorporating art as our main vehicle for informing the public.
The statements above encapsulate CAUWW’s vision for linking art, social and economic justice and cultural equity with cultural expression that transforms communities through self- realization, determination and empowerment.
The Pursuit of Cultural Equity
Cultural equity is the recognition that all racial, ethnic, cultural and lifestyle groups are valued contributors to society and consequently, possess equal access to resources. Critical to this understanding is the equitable distribution of resources based on aesthetic excellence and cultural relevance. The criteria and meaning of such excellence must take into account the cultural and historical context and lived experience of these diverse groups. Part of CAUWW’s mission will be to examine ways for assuring the sustainability of these cultural arts initiatives.
In her statement, An Invitation: Community Arts University Without Walls, Maria Elba Torres Muñoz addresses this concern:
Important to sustainability is the development of small, self-managed cultural arts businesses that assure the traditional artisanal skills important to the culture identity of Puerto Rico. Distinct strategies are designed with each community to develop entrepreneurial endeavors, enabling these cultural community-based enterprises to market their art skills and stimulate economic stability.
Next Generation of Cultural Arts Advocates
CAUWW is designed to address the needs and interests of individuals working within their own core communities or community grounded programs and institutions. Courses will focus on historical, theoretical and practical studies. Field-based exchanges between cultural arts colleagues in Puerto Rico and individuals participating in CAUWW will provide the opportunity for in-depth sharing and the development of future joint initiatives. Experts in community arts advocacy will teach the CAUWW courses and serve as mentors in the field.
As part of the envisioning process for CAUWW, the students from Puerto Rico participated in a panel discussion focused on protest and the arts at NYU, March 10, 2011. Hosted by the chairman of the Arts and Public Policy Department, MICA and CCCADI, this discussion resulted in an in-depth analysis of the political and historical context of these mobilizations. Panelists included Arturo Otlahu Ríos, Giovanni Roberto Caez, Lourdes Santiago Negron and Pedro Manuel Lugo from the University of Puerto Rico. Giovanni Roberto’s statement above is echoed in Randy Martin’s following statement:
What rendered the internal culture of this movement especially vivid was a slide show of some 200 examples of artwork associated with the student movement. The work spanned artistic media and genre, from music and dance to conceptual installations and performance work. The artwork itself became evidence of both the abundant creativity that the protests and their repression unleashed, as well as the aesthetic diversity, range of voices and sheer complexity of artistic expression aligned with this social movement. In the light of presumptions that protest movements might generate a single aesthetic response, that artistic inventiveness is confined by political commitments or that a social message predetermines possible forms of creative response, the artworks made by those affiliated with the movement on behalf of just and equitable higher education have much to teach about the complex and fateful intersection between art and politics. The students from Puerto Rico were clearly energized to be able to represent their accomplishments and discuss their challenges with student and community peers. Students and artists in attendance were equally inspired to learn of their energetic response and resourceful refashioning of education to meet the needs of the future they envision.
Courses are designed to assure that participants are critically and thoughtfully engaged in the important issues and concerns of their communities in order to implement transformative processes that will effectively address these issues.
Certificate of Cultural Arts Advocacy
The program will commence in the Summer of 2012 at El Centro de Estudios de Puerto Rico y El Caribe in Viejo San Jan Puerto Rico, an accredited Middle States Commission on Higher Education institution.
Why Puerto Rico
The Cultural Arts University Without Walls Certification program is designed to flourish in a variety of locales in partnership with accredited institutions of higher learning. Because of its rich cultural history, extensive community-based programs, accessibility and affordability, the first stage of the program will be implemented in Puerto Rico at El Centro de Estudios de Puerto Rico y El Caribe. Possessing the institutional capacity to host the certificate program, CEA is centrally located in the Caribbean, allowing for extensive networking with other cultural and university institutions in the region, stateside, Central and Latin America. The intent of the CAUWW initiative is to eventually develop a network of advocates working in the cultural arts within core communities who generally do not have the financial resources, because of escalating tuition costs, to pursue a Community Arts and Public Policy degree.
In his commitment of August 2011, Chancellor Miguel Rodríguez López of CEA sets forth the importance of launching CAUWW in Puerto Rico:
The invitation of Dr. Marta Moreno Vega and Graduate Director Ken Krafchek to visit MICA provided the opportunity for students and scholars from Puerto Rico to experience the work being accomplished by MICA students in their community arts program. The exchange between the students from Puerto Rico and those of MICA further highlighted the importance of learning opportunities enhanced by international exchanges.
The shared interest of administrators, students and scholars of MICA and CEA to foster cultural exchanges was further affirmed by Fred Lazarus the President of MICA. In our discussions it was evident that learning experiences that brought together scholars, students and community advocates is essential to expanding the learning opportunities for all sectors.
It was understood by the excitement generated by the students’ conversation that it was essential to develop the means for international learning exchanges. Conversations around the CAUWW project included collaborative work between Puerto Rico and stateside institutions. The learning experiences that visiting students will have in Puerto Rico will be unique and particular to the island. Students and scholars from the island will have the opportunity to share and learn from the diverse backgrounds of visiting students and scholars. Ultimately, these mutual learning experiences will expand and deepen the practice of community arts work while contributing theoretical and practical methodology to the field.
The courses are designed to encourage self-reflection and the examination of the students’ core beliefs and assumptions as they relate to the realities of others working in the field. The exchange of information and knowledge is designed to motivate creative, innovative thought while exploring possibilities for joint work with community cultural advocates in Puerto Rico.
Program days will be divided between classroom sessions in the morning in which all students will attend together and site-based study in the afternoon in which smaller groups of 12-15 students will participate. The morning classes will provide information pertaining to the cultural, historical and policy-related contexts of partnering communities. The afternoon sessions will afford practical experiential learning opportunities with established local community groups.
The Right to Cultural Equity: The Community Arts Imperative – 4 credits
The continuous challenges posed by racial, ethnic and cultural diversity necessitate an understanding of the global issues and public policy decisions impacting these communities. This course analyzes the global context and local innovations pertaining to cultural equity movements around the world and the importance of community arts in advancing this cause.
For example, in spite of the historic Civil Rights Movement, existing and new migrant and immigrant groups continue to struggle to establish communities that reflect their aesthetic, creative vision, traditions and sacred expressions. How these cultural entities are received by the broader cultural and arts community raises many questions pertaining to ongoing inequities, racial and cultural discrimination, funding disparities and more.
CAUWW’s course of study will include the examination of national cultural policies and how they impact cultural communities. It will also look at exemplary community-based organizations, movements and strategies. This course of study will include the review, examination and implementation of United Nations documents on cultural rights.
Cultural Arts Policy and Advocacy/Activism in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean and other Global Cultural Movements – 4 credits
The importance of cultural preservation through education and the arts is of paramount importance. Coursework will develop an understanding of community-based initiatives, varied narratives and organizational frameworks that assure the recognition of the heritage and legacies of grounded cultural communities. Included in this pursuit are new heightened levels of public discourse, awareness and involvement leading to significant policy changes. Special emphasis will be placed on the analysis of goals, strategies and outcomes of student movements. A first-hand dialogue with Puerto Rican University students actively involved in raising issues of social, cultural and economic equity will be provided.
Working Within Communities – Partnering with Cultural Arts Advocates in Puerto Rico -- 8 Credits
The course will focus on the building of partnerships for positive change. Students will develop projects in collaboration with community cultural groups based on an agreed upon need and approach. Students will, for the most part, work in unfamiliar communities in order to better understand and develop best practices for entering new communities. Based on their work at home and interests, students will be partnered with a single community site or rotate between two different sites.
Admissions Criteria for Cultural Arts Community Certificate
Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y El Caribe (CEA)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
The certificate in Community Arts/Cultural Equity at CEA is a unique intensive residency experience that brings together students with a range of backgrounds to engage in a grassroots and a practice-oriented curriculum. This investigation combines a comprehensive analysis of the opportunities and challenges pertaining to community-directed equity with skills for practical implementation of projects and initiatives.
The program accepts applications from students in four categories:
- Matriculating undergraduates.
- Matriculating graduate students.
- Students who have recently completed a formal course of study.
- Non-traditional students, adult learners, community activists without formal credentials.
Key to the integration of these varied educational backgrounds is a project-based approach whereby students can either bring a project from home or join in a community-based project underway in Puerto Rico. These hands-on projects will allow students to conduct critical analysis collectively from a variety of perspectives, in effect creating a basis for equitable co-learning despite different levels of formal education.
Projects will be developed in consultation with a faculty advisor and/or community-based mentor. Drawing from each applicant’s own personal and professional experiences, the following questions will need to be addressed:
- What specific issues do you see in your own community that you would like to work toward solving?
- What resources currently exist within your community that would attend to this problem, especially in terms of existing networks, traditions, practices and understandings?
- What steps could be taken to organize, mobilize or further develop these practical resources towards healthy change?
For students who will join an existing endeavor within Puerto Rico, descriptions of these sites and their work will be posted. Students can write a proposal as to why they are interested in this particular site and what they hope to contribute and take back to their own community.
An admissions committee will review these proposals and provide feedback to students that will help focus their projects. This advice might include suggested readings, information about similar efforts in other parts of the world or introductions to other students with related interests. Applicants are encouraged to partner with other prospective students with the intent of collaborating before, during and after their certificate residency.
Students will utilize their project proposals as benchmarks during the program, thereby allowing each to reflect on how their views and understandings have changed. Students will be asked to keep a journal that includes notes on their readings, classes, fieldwork and overall progress. At the beginning, middle and end of their residencies, students will make presentations on their projects including problems they face and how they will be addressed. Students will continue to share from home the ongoing progress of their work with CAUWW partners and mentors, using blogs or wikis to create a network of peers and advisors. The online CAUWW program site will publish documentation of the summer projects so that prospective students in subsequent years can view and reflect upon these efforts.
The evaluation will include the assessment of artistic processes, product and community impact.
Area of Community Need
Proposed student projects must demonstrate a clear and well-defined need that is addressed through artistic and cultural practices within an engaged and reciprocal model. It is expected that students applying to the program will have had previous meaningful experience working in community.
Students must have partners within their designated communities that include either families, community-based organizations or community leaders who value their proposed projects. This work may be documented in various forms such as interviews or testimonios, scholarly articles, video and audio documentary and self-reflective personal essays or journals that contribute new knowledge to the field of Community Arts.
Area of Artistic and Cultural Production
Projects must demonstrate the integration of community needs, artistic process and cultural production.
Student work is expected to demonstrate its cultural/artistic relationship to community in its production and impact, including ongoing community involvement and the ultimate transitioning of the project’s ownership to the community.
Students may use a variety of media for collaborating with community members and documenting their work together, including scholarly articles, video and audio documentary, community feedback and self-reflective personal essays/journals that contribute knowledge to the field of Community Arts.
Candidates for CAUWW
Special attention will be paid to candidates who have been working actively to eradicate cultural inequity through the arts and other socially conscious mediums. The program seeks to support those working in community by helping to provide access to resources assuring educational opportunities that reflect diverse historical legacies and heritage. Candidates who have a history of working in marginalized communities around issues of social justice and inclusion will receive serious consideration.
- Marta Moreno Vega, President Caribbean Cultural Center – African Diaspora Institute, Professor Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y El Caribe, adjunct Professor New York University Art and Public Policy
- Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen, PhD., Founding Director, Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program & Institute Associate Professor, Dept. of Social and Cultural Analysis & The Gallatin School of individualized Study New York University & Co-founder, Museum of Chinese in America
- Lourdes Santiago, Student, University of Puerto Rico
- Jaime Cancel Rodriguez, Academic Dean, Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y El Caribe
- Giovanni Roberto, Student, University of Puerto Rico
- Arturo Otlahui Ríos Escribano, Student, University of Puerto Rico
- Pepón Osorio, Laura Carnell Professor of Community Art, Temple University
- Maria Elba Torres Muñoz , Professor Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y El Caribe
- Amalia Mesa-Bains, Artist, Professor Emerita Department of Visual and Public Art California State University Monterey Bay
- Randy Martin, Chair, Art and Public Policy, New York University
- Sonia BasSheva Mañjon, Vice President for Institutional Partnerships & Chief Diversity Officer, Wesleyan University
- Pedro Lugo, Student, University of Puerto Rico
- Miguel Rodríguez López, Chancellor, Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y El Caribe
- Ken Krafchek, Graduate Director, MA and MFA in Community Arts, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)
- Cruse, Harold. “Afro Centricity: A Philosophical Basis for Cultural Equity Battles?” Voices from the Battlefront: Achieving Cultural Equity. 11-22.
- Jemison, G. Peter. “Setting the Record Straight: A View from Seneca Country.” Voices from the Battlefront: Achieving Cultural Equity. 23-30.
- Krafchek, Ken. Community Arts Convening Draft #1. Message to the author. August 2011. E-mail.
- Machida, Margo. “Cultural Diversity: An Asian American Perspective.” Voices from the Battlefront: Achieving Cultural Equity. 83-88.
- Mesa-Bains, Amalia. “Indigenismo: The Call to Unity.” Voices from the Battlefront: Achieving Cultural Equity. 41-68.
- “Working Collaboratively.” Message to the author. August 2011). E-mail.
- Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. “Commission on Human Rights resolution 2002/26.” United National High Commissioner for Human Rights. 22 April 2002. Web. 28 Sept. 2011.
- Panel discussion on protest and the arts. New York University, New York, N.Y. 10 March 2011.
- Ríos Escribano, Arturo Otlahui. “An Enriching Experience.” Message to the author. August 2011. E-mail.
- Roberto, Giovanni. “About the Interaction.” Message to the author. August, 2011. E-mail
- Torres Muñoz, Maria Elba. “Community Arts Without Walls.” Message to the author. August 2011. E-mail.
- “US: Treaty Signing Signals Policy Shift.” Human Rights Watch. 24 July 2009. Web. 28 Sept. 2011.
- Voices from the Battlefront: Achieving Cultural Equity. Eds. Marta Moreno Vega and Cheryll Y. Greene. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, Inc., 1993. Print.
The cultural arts activism of Marta Moreno Vega, PhD., stemming from the Civil Rights Movement, has led to the creation of community-based organizations that include Amigos del Museo del Barrio, Inc., Roundtable of Organizations of Color, Association of Hispanic Arts, Touring Network of People of Color, Global Afro Latina and Caribbean Initiative, Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, Cultural Equity Group and scholarship grounded in cultural equity and cultural rights movements. Moreno Vega is also the creator of the international conferences entitled Cultural Diversity Based on Cultural Grounding that were the basis for the publication Voices from the Battlefront Achieving Cultural Equity. Moreno Vega is founder and president of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute. She was awarded a grant from the Ford Foundation, which partially supported the filming of the documentary “When the Spirits Dance Mambo,” premiered at the Havana International Latino Film Festival in Cuba December 2002. The documentary, shot in Cuba, focuses on the impact of Santeria on the civil society of the island. She has received research fellowships from El Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños at Hunter College for developing a documentary on African-based spiritual practices in Puerto Rico. Moreno Vega is presently an adjunct professor at Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, and on the faculty of El Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe in Puerto Rico.
Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen, PhD. is a historian, dumpster diver and cultural activist analyzing and redressing the impacts of racial exclusion in NYC and the U.S. He is founding director of the A/P/A (Asian/Pacific/American) Studies Program and Institute at New York University. In 1980, he co-founded the Museum of Chinese in America where he continues to serve as senior historian. He is author of the award-winning books New York before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 1776-1882 and Genthe’s Photographs of San Francisco’s Old Chinatown, 1895-1905. Forthcoming is Yellow Peril: A Critical Archive of Essays, Documents, Images (The New Press). Tchen serves on the advisory committee for the formation of the new Smithsonian Institution Asian American and Pacific Island Center. Currently Tchen is researching the hidden tradition of intermingling and creativity in the political culture of New York City.
Giovanni Roberto is a Puerto Rican student from the School of Education at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. In 2000 he became a member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO). He has participated in various committees and organizations in defense of social justice and public education, mostly in Puerto Rico and Spain, such as the University Committee Against Privatization (2004), the Andalusian Revolutionary Space (2006-2008), “No to Bolonia” Students Group (2005) and the School of Humanities Action Committee (2010-2011). During the 2010 University of Puerto Rico student strike he was one of the main spokespersons of the National Negotiation Committee, created by students from the eleven UPR campuses to negotiate with the administration and local government. During the strike’s second stage (2011), he was one of more than 20 students that were expelled by the school administration, accused of "agitating others students to participate in a strike." He was recently reestablished as a student after winning a court case against the UPR administration. Currently, he works as a Spanish and history teacher in a nonprofit organization school. He also writes, from politics to creative writing, and his stories have been published in the 2004 Cuentos de oficio: Antología de cuentistas emergente en Puerto Rico.
Best known for his large-scale installations, Pepón Osorio merges conceptual art and community dynamics. Osorio’s work emphasizes the exhibition space as an intermediary between the social architecture of communities and the mainstream art world. He has worked with well over 25 communities across the U.S. and internationally, creating installations based on real life experiences. A MacArthur Fellowship recipient, he is the recipient of numerous distinctions including the 2001 Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture, the Whitney Biennial, 1993; an Alpert Award in the Arts-Visual Arts, 1999, The Legacy Award from the Smithsonian Institute Latino Initiative in Washington, DC. and The 2009 Samuel Fleisher’s Memorial Founders Award. Osorio is a Carnell professor at Temple University’s Tyler School of the Arts.
Maria Elba Torres Muñoz, PhD., graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a Bachelors of Arts. She completed postgraduate studies in the faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), where she earned a master’s degree in Ibero-American Literature. Her master’s thesis, “Avant Garde Poetics in Puerto Rico: 1920-1929,” received an honorary mention from the university. In 2009 she earned a doctoral degree from the Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico Y El Caribe (Center of Advance Studies on Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, CEA) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a major in History. Torres Muñoz is the founder of numerous galleries in Puerto Rico, such as the Normandie Gallery (1980’s- 1990’s) and the Arrecife Gallery in the Hotel Conquistador. She collaborated in the creation of diverse art collections and conferences, in and out of Puerto Rico. She also co-founded the Institute of Afro-Caribbean Traditions in Puerto Rico with Marta Moreno Vega.
Amalia Mesa-Bains, PhD., is an artist and cultural critic. Her artworks, primarily interpretations of traditional Chicano altars, resonate both in contemporary formal terms and in their ties to her Chicano community and history. She has pioneered the documentation and interpretation of Chicano traditions in Mexican-American art and is a leader in the field of community arts. Among her many awards is the distinguished MacArthur Fellowship. She is Professor Emerita in the Visual and Public Art department at California State University at Monterey Bay.
Randy Martin, PhD., is professor and chair of Art and Public Policy and director of the graduate program in Arts Politics at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. He is the author of Performance as Political Act: The Embodied Self, Socialist Ensembles: Theater and State in Cuba and Nicaragua, Critical Moves: Dance Studies in Theory and Politics, On Your Marx: Relinking Socialism and the Left, Financialization of Daily Life, An Empire of Indifference: American War and the Financial Logic of Risk Management and Under New Management: Universities, Administrative Labor and the Professional Turn. He has edited collections on U.S. Communism, sport and academic labor and, most recently, Artistic Citizenship: A Public Voice for the Arts (with Mary Schmidt Campbell) and The Returns of Alwin Nikolais: Bodies, Boundaries, and the Dance Canon (with Claudia Gitelman).
Sonia BasSheva Mañjon, PhD., is vice president for Institutional Partnerships and Chief Diversity Officer at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. In this role, Mañjon provides leadership in community collaborations, institutional partnerships and civic engagement activities. Her charge is to enhance the university's outreach and engagement with Middletown, Hartford, New Haven, and Middlesex County communities; local and state government; as well as public and private organizations. As Wesleyan's Chief Diversity Officer, Mañjon works with Wesleyan's leadership team to develop initiatives and programs to attract, retain and inspire students, faculty and staff from groups currently under-represented on campus. She is also actively involved in Connecticut’s education-reform debate with public, charter and magnet schools in Middletown, Hartford and New Haven. Mañjon advises the Connecticut Parent Union, serves on the leadership council of the Middlesex County Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, is a board member for the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, and is a state commissioner for Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs.
Miguel Rodríguez López’s career spans more than 30 years as an archeologist and he has enjoyed an outstanding reputation in the field of education on Puerto Rican and Caribbean cultures. He holds a bachelor’s in sociology with a minor in anthropology, a master’s degree in Puerto Rican studies with a major in archeology, and is a doctoral candidate in history of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. He has been a member of the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities, serving as its board president between 2004 and 2007. From 1995 to 2004 he served as professor and later board member of the prestigious Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe. In 2004, the Board of Trustees unanimously named him chancellor to lead the institution where he presently serves. Professor Rodríguez López is the author of numerous publications, among them: two books, and close to 40 papers, articles and chapters on archeology and ethno-history that have been published in professional journals in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, England and the United States.
Ken Krafchek has been a member of the MICA faculty since 1985 and received the Trustee Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching in 1998. Since 1987, he has placed college students in a variety of arts-based programs serving youth and adults from the local Baltimore community. As founding director of MICA's Office of Community Arts Partnerships (CAP), he supervised its creation in 1998 and led the ongoing development of programming providing a unique set of learning experiences grounded in art-based youth and community development practice. He supervised the creation and design of MICA's MA in Community Arts (2005) and MFA in Community Arts (2010) and serves as the graduate director for both programs.