A decade to celebrate: La Casita Cultural Center

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Work by Corazón del Barrio created by artist Bennie Guzmán

La Casita Cultural Center hosted a reception on September 18 for the opening of a new exhibition, “Corazón del Barrio (Heart of the Barrio)”, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the center. The exhibition’s opening reception, held in person and via Zoom, coincided with the launch of National Hispanic Heritage Month 2021, observed from mid-September to mid-October.

Throughout the celebration there was a deep sense of family, community, history and rich cultural heritage. Photographs, works of art, images and artefacts have covered the walls and exhibition spaces with colorful collages. Several small shelves of vibrant folk art exhibits displayed excerpts reflecting Hispanic culture.

Expressions of gratitude abounded in the collection. Stories of students who have found their home at La Casita have told of journeys and learning, of building bridges and finding the true meaning of collaborative community. And not just the students volunteer and participate in La Casita. Add teachers, area residents, artists, dancers, performers and musicians.

Poet Noel Quiñones reads at the 10th anniversary celebration of La Casita cultural center

Quiñones Christmas

The opening event included food, music, dancing, and even a spoken word performance by poet Noel Quiñones, a Puerto Rican writer, educator, and community organizer from the Bronx.

So many people, so many memories! Ten Years of Memories – not your ordinary collection – here is La Casita’s Cultural Memory Archive. In collaboration with Syracuse University Libraries, La Casita has undertaken an effort to digitize and expand access to many elements of their archives, reflecting the history, cultural heritage and experience of Latinx / Hispanic communities. in central and northern New York State. Digitized material assists preservation and research within New York’s digital heritage collections. Here at La Casita, much of it is now on display.

The objective of “Corazón del Barrio (Heart of the Barrio)”, according to Tere Paniagua, executive director of the Office of Cultural Engagement for the Hispanic Community of the College of Arts and Sciences and co-curator of the exhibition, is to ‘honor the people who have contributed to La Casita over the past decade, giving from their hearts, dedicating time and their stories to this shared and common space.

And hearts are everywhere, integrated into La Casita. From the large rendering of the milagro heart above the entrance, created by artist Bennie Guzmán in the colors of Syracuse University (photo above) to the many smaller hearts interspersed among the frames and the images and works of art. ‘art displayed. Guzmán, media and communications professional at La Casita, focuses his art on the stories and lived experiences of marginalized communities.

a collection of objects on display during the 10th anniversary event of the La Casita Cultural Center

Photographs, works of art, images and artefacts on display in a colorful collage at the 10th anniversary exhibit at La Casita Cultural Center.

Ten years ago, the co-founders of La Casita, Inmaculada Lara-Bonilla and Silvio Torres-Saillant, both faculty members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the time, might have only imagined the distance traveled by a La Casita bridge. And he has, by dint of his heart, with all his heart. “Corazón del Barrio” comes highly recommended from this neighborhood.

The opening event is part of this year’s Syracuse Symposium series, “Conventions”. Support also comes from the College of Arts and Sciences, the Latin American Studies Program, the Office of Cultural Engagement for the Hispanic Community, PLACA (Program on Latin America and the Caribbean, Maxwell School) and from the Syracuse University Humanities Center.

Located at 109 Otisco Street in Syracuse, La Casita Cultural Center’s usual hours are Mondays, 9 am to 3 pm; Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The center is closed on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. The exhibition will run until April 2022. In accordance with public health guidelines and protocols, the art gallery and facilities at La Casita currently offer guided tours and lectures by appointment only. Proof of COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test of 48 hours or less is required. Face covering and social distancing are also required. The gallery offers live or recorded virtual tours of its exhibitions. Please contact La Casita by email for more details.


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