San Jacinto College showcased fine arts week with the Celebrate the Americas event, made possible by a $19,000 Foundation Student Success Initiative grant. The event spanned over three days in November, featuring special speakers, concerts, and art exhibits as well as interactive workshops and makers' stations.
"The Fine Arts Council wanted to create a series of events that were cohesive but could also be tailored to each campus, allowing the unique campus cultures to shine," said Jeffrey McGee, South Campus fine arts department chair. "Our first goal was to draw attention to the spectrum of the arts and bring people together, but we also wanted to be able to promote it under one idea and one banner."
The campus festivities began Nov. 5 at the North Campus with a speaker series on North American funeral traditions called Food for the Soul. Genevieve Keeney, president of the National Museum of Funeral History, along with Jorge Navarro, ESL/LOTE specialist for Humble ISD, and Lula Hall, formerly of the Duke Elllington Orchestra, shared customs and personal experiences about Dia de los Muertos and New Orleans jazz funerals.
The festivities continued with food and music as students were treated to traditional pan de muertos, or dead bread, and Guatemalan fiambre, a salad made by mixing a loved one's favorite dishes and presenting to them through the ofrenda, or altar, on the Day of the Dead. In the foyer of the fine arts building, the four-piece Dixieland Quartet took turns serenading students with local Mariachi Oro de Mi Tierra.
"I loved the Celebrate the Americas: Food for the Soul presentation," said Patrizio Amezcua, North Campus government instructor. "It was the perfect blend of culture, cuisine, and history told with the soundtrack of jazz and mariachi music. The speakers were informative, and their passion was evident to all us in the room. These are exactly the type of events we should be hosting as an institution of higher learning because they are incredibly relevant to our students."
The Central Campus kept the celebration going with their events Nov. 6, including a printmaking workshop, interactive swing dance lesson, and performance with the Houston Hepcats in the Central Gallery featuring the "We are Here, Here We Are" exhibit and culminating with a live steel drum concert with Liam Teague.
Teague, music professor and head of steel pan studies at Northern Illinois University, performed with local students from Park View Intermediate, Sam Rayburn High School, Dobie High School, and League City Intermediate.
The finale of the Celebrate the Americas event took place on the South Campus Nov. 8. The South Campus had a full day of events lined up, including a special artist talk with John Bavarro, a leather cuff making workshop, an Argentinian design lunch and learn presentation, an interactive hula lesson, and live performances by the theatre practicum class and Great Promise for American Indians.
"Celebrate the Americas is an occasion to experience through the arts how peoples across all the Americas — and especially our diverse San Jac student population — deep down we are more alike than languages, art, foods, dance, music, and other customs reveal," said Randy Snyder, department chair at the North Campus. "On the surface, artistic practices vary, but at our core, the intentions and expressions actually run parallel. I hope that all in attendance were able to glean an awareness of equality, equity, and feel empowered to explore new opportunities."