San Jacinto College highlights fine arts with Celebrate the Americas


San Jacinto College showcased fine arts week with their 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, department chair, fine arts at San Jacinto College South. “Our first goal was to draw attention to 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 Tuesday, Nov. 5 at the San Jacinto College 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 presented to them through the ofrenda, or altar on the day of the dead. In the foyer of the Fine Arts building, a 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 Wednesday, 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, Professor of Music and head of Steelpan 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 San Jacinto College South Campus, Thursday, 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.”

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries, and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has served the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. The College is fiscally sound, holding bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. San Jacinto College is a 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Top 10 institution, a 2017 Aspen Prize Rising Star Award recipient, and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. The College serves approximately 45,000 credit and non-credit students annually, and offers eight areas of study that put students on a path to transfer to four-year institutions or enter the workforce. San Jacinto College’s impact on the region totals $1.3 billion in added income, which supports 13,044 jobs.

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