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MICA Welcomes Cuban Teens to Pre-College Program in Unprecedented Exchange

The exchange represents the first national education initiative between an American non-profit, Latino Art Beat through a partnership with MICA, and the Cuban government.

Posted 07.17.17

Pre-College Group

On June 26, MICA welcomed two Cuban teenagers, Luis Felipe Betancourt, 17, and Favio Felipe Gonzalez, 16, to participate in MICA's annual month-long Pre-College Studio Residency Program. The exchange marks the first national education initiative between the United States and Cuba, in which the American arts organization Latino Art Beat (LAB) partnered with the Cuban government's Ministry of Culture to offer an art competition to Cuban students with the reward of a scholarship to MICA's Pre-College program.

"For over 15 years, MICA has worked with Latino Art Beat to provide scholarship programs for Latino/Hispanic art students in the U.S. With this new, one-a-kind program, we are proud to expand our partnership to support young Cuban artists with the hope of fostering friendship and understanding between our countries," said Theresa Bedoya, MICA's dean and vice president, admission and financial aid.

Betancourt and Gonzalez were selected as part of a youth arts competition sponsored by Latino Art Beat, a Chicago-based national non-profit arts organization that awards academic scholarships, with support from the Cuban Ministry of Cultural Affairs (Ministerio de Cultura) and Casas de Cultura, Havana. Latino Art Beat President Don Rossi Nuccio forged the collaboration during a 2016 trip to Cuba as a guest of President Obama and the White House.

The partnership opened Latino Art Beat's annual Hispanic art competition to Cuban youth for the chance to win a scholarship to study in MICA's Pre-College program during the summer.

"This milestone initiative is significant step in bridging the cultural divides between Cuba and the U.S. By welcoming the two Cuban students to MICA, they'll create new bonds with similar artists, as well as learn the latest techniques and technology in art and film to bring back home," said Nuccio.

The Cuban youth art competition was centered on the theme "friendship between the youth of the United States and Cuba," and Betancourt's and Gonzalez's work represents a desire for greater cultural understanding between the youth of both nations while encouraging and celebrating their cultural heritage.


Detail of El Faro de la Libertad (The Lighthouse of Liberty) and Zoom

Entitled El faro de la Libertad (The Lighthouse of Liberty), Betancourt received first prize for his painting that depicts a young man gazing up at a lighthouse topped with iconography of the Statue of Liberty, while a younger boy flies a kite nearby. Gonzalez was awarded second prize for Zoom, which depicts an old man taking a picture of the viewer with a camera, set against a backdrop of a tarnished American flag.

Additionally, the competition awarded a $1,000 scholarship to American art student Gabriela Zegarra of Miami, as well as $500 to a third Cuban student, Alex Perera, for honorable mention in the competition.

"We look forward to continuing the initiative next year, and hope we can send young American art students to Cuba to further the cultural dialogue established this year," Nuccio added.

MICA's Pre-College program is a four-week summer intensive that offers high school students the chance to experience college-level studio courses designed to help participants make the leap to an art and design college.

For 20 years, Latino Art Beat has operated as a national not-for-profit 501(c)(3) arts organization that recognizes and celebrates heritage and culture through the talents of young visual artists. It operates through the Mayor's Office and regional Departments of Education in participating cities, which include Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and the District of Columbia. Through its annual youth art competition, which is open to various art forms, including painting, drawing, film and animation, Latino Art Beat has to date awarded $4 million in academic scholarships. For more information, visit latinoartbeat.com.

This page was last updated on 07/26/2017.