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Otterbein Tells the Story of Cuba through Opening Doors to the World Initiative

December 22, 2015
Otterbein University

Visual arts, music performances and critical dialog about Cuba’s history included in celebration of complex nation

As tensions ease between the U.S. and Cuba, Otterbein University is stepping up to tell the story of the complex neighboring nation. Through an initiative called Opening Doors to the World, Otterbein will share the artistic achievements of the Cuban people and encourage critical dialogue about Cuba’s history from Jan. 11-May 1.

According to Provost Miguel Martinez-Saenz, “Otterbein University hopes to tell a story that shows our students and our surrounding community that they must always resist telling and believing ‘a single story.’ Adopting a visual arts exhibition titled An Island Apart, combining it with panels on Cuban social and political history, with panels on doing business in Cuba today and culminating with a celebration and performance by one of Cuba’s premiere composers and jazz pianists, José María Vitier, we hope those who are fortunate enough to experience all our programming will come away resisting ‘a single story.’”

Otterbein is able to bring Opening Doors to the World to life through partnerships, including a federal Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Otterbein was announced as a recipient of the NEA grant on Dec. 8. 

The $20,000 grant supports one component of the initiative, the exhibition An Island Apart: Cuban Artists in Exile, which includes artwork, performance art and art documentaries by 12 Cuban or Cuban-American artists. Highlights of the exhibition will be an artist-led community installation by resident artist Juan Si González, two art documentaries by artist and educator Coco Fusco, and a performance art piece at the opening reception by Carlos Martiel. 

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The arts are part of our everyday lives – no matter who you are or where you live – they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society. Supporting projects like the one from Otterbein University offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.” 

Art Works is the NEA’s largest funding category, supporting the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, and promoting public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts. 

Additional funding to support artist-in-residence Juan Si González is provided by the Ohio Arts Council. Funding for accompanying events is provided by the Greater Columbus Arts Council, Kegler Brown Hill + Ritter, Dr. Anahi Ortiz and Mr. William T. Conard, the Law Office of José Pertierra, and the Johnstone Fund for New Music.

Other key partnerships are bringing musical performances to stages at Otterbein and in the community. Maestro José María Vitier, pianist and film score composer, will be an artist-in-residence at Otterbein and will collaborate with musicians from Otterbein and the Westerville Symphony during his residency.

The schedule of events is as follows:


An Island Apart: Cuban Artists In Exile
An exhibition featuring works by 12 internationally recognized exiled Cuban artists, performance art, art documentaries and collaboratively created community art. The exhibition spans three galleries:

Departure Gate A 
Jan. 11-May 1
Fisher Gallery, Roush Hall, 27 S. Grove St., Westerville. Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. Closed on holidays. 

Departure Gate B 
Jan. 11-Feb 14
Miller Gallery, Art and Communication Building, 33 Collegeview Rd., Westerville. Gallery hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Closed on holidays and University breaks. 

Departure Gate C 
Jan. 11-May 1
Frank Museum of Art, 39 S. Vine Street, Westerville. Museum hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday during the University’s academic year. Closed on holidays and University breaks.

Additional receptions and events:

Opening Reception with Performance Art
Jan. 22 from 5-7:30 p.m.
Miller Gallery, Art and Communication Building, 33 Collegeview Rd., Westerville
Carlos Martiel, a Havana-born performance artist who studied with activist-artist Tania Bruguera from 2008-2010, presents El Tanque (2015), an experiential commentary on politics and prisoners of conscience in Cuba. Performance begins at 6 p.m.

Progressive Reception
Feb. 4 from 4-7 p.m.
Guided tours of all exhibition spaces offered throughout the reception time.

La Confesión and La Botella al Mar de María Elena by Coco Fusco
Jan. 11-May 1
Location TBA
Two powerful art videos by performance artist and writer Coco Fusco give visual voice to legendary stories in Cuban history — the public confession of poet Heberto Padilla in 1971 and the poet María Elena Cruz Varela’s letter to Fidel Castro in 1990 requesting democratic reforms, which resulted in the poet’s arrest.

Artist-Community Co-created Installation
Feb. 15-April 24
Fisher Gallery, Roush Hall, 27 S. Grove St., Westerville
Artist-in-Residence Juan Si González will work collaboratively with students, faculty, staff and the community to explore themes of exile, migration, identity and place-making. The project will culminate in an exhibition. To join the project, contact Janice Glowski at jglowski@otterbein.edu.


Artist-in-Residence José María Vitier
April 1-May 1
Maestro José María Vitier, pianist and film score composer, engages greater Columbus through performance, master classes and an orchestral and choral presentation of his acclaimed Misa Cubana (1996), a mass that blends Afro-Cuban and Latin rhythms with Marian elements.

Latin Jazz and Cuban Music
April 3 from 3-5 p.m.
Columbus Museum of Art, 480 E Broad St, Columbus
Featuring José María Vitier; Richard Lopez, Director

Master Classes with José María Vitier
April 6 and April 13 from 5-6 p.m.
Battelle Fine Arts Center, 170 W. Park St., Westerville

Celebration of Cuban Music (Recital)
April 16 at 8 p.m.
Battelle Fine Arts Center, 170 W. Park St., Westerville
Featuring mezzo-soprano Olga Perez-Flora Professor of Voice, Muskingum University

Westerville Symphony performs Misa Cubana by José María Vitier
April 24 at 5 p.m.
The Fritsche Theatre at Cowan Hall, 30 S. Grove St., Westerville
Peter Stafford Wilson, Conductor; Otterbein University Chorus, Gayle Walker, Conductor

Celebration of Cuba: Community Gathering with Art, Music and Refreshments
April 29 from 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Columbus Museum of Art, 480 E Broad St, Columbus
Featuring art by Juan Si González and music by the Redbird Faculty Jazz Combo


Otterbein University deepens its commitment to global education with Otterbein and the Arts: Opening Doors to the World, a multi-year focus on the arts in three non-Western regions: Latin America (2015-16), Asia (2016-17) and Africa (2017-18). The initiative kicked off in fall 2015 with Chile as the gateway country. All events in the series are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.otterbein.edu/openingdoors or call (614) 823-1792. You also can find it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Otterbein-Opening-Doors-to-the-World-201943140142077.




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