Los Fresnos News

Multicultural Arts Take the Spotlight at UTRGV’s New Center for Latin American Arts

Courtesy Photo

by Amanda A. Taylor

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – UTRGV is set to open a new center for multinational events that will act as a cultural hub for Latin American music, theatre, art, art history, creative writing and dance.

The UTRGV Center for Latin American Arts (CLAA) will open in August 2019 to promote the arts in Latin America through teaching, study, scholarship and performance, effectively expanding education and traditional cultural connections crucial to the RGV community.

Based in the UTRGV College of Fine Arts, the Center facilitates the exchange of ideas and the study of Latin American, Iberian and Latinx arts. The Center’s mission is to help unite students, performers and scholars with common interests in the region, Texas and beyond.

The Center is led by Dr. Steven Block, dean of the College of Fine Arts; Dr. Katherine Moore McAllen, director of the Center of Latin American Arts; and by the Center’s executive committee comprised of professors Andrés Amado (School of Music), Celeste De Luna (School of Art), Miguel Peña (Dance Program), and Eric Wiley (Department of Theatre).

“One major goal of the center is promoting community engagement and an appreciation for Latin American cultural traditions important to our region in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond,” McAllen said. “The Center’s mission statement focuses on our unique community in the RGV that is positioned at a culturally fertile intersection of languages and cultures. With its performances and scholarly study, the CLAA will foster a valuable sense of connection and pride in a shared Latin American cultural heritage that transcends borders through the arts.”

The Center is intended as a gathering place on UTRGV’s Edinburg and Brownsville campuses that will encourage faculty and students to learn about the arts in Latin American and connect with diverse histories and cultures, McAllen said. International performances and renowned scholars from across the United States and Latin America are slated to visit the center in coming months.

“The Center will bring a clearer focus and identity to the UTRGV College of Fine Arts and offer greater coordination and support to existing initiatives for research, teaching and creative works relating to the RGV and Latin America,” Amado said. “It will also develop new initiatives that will help UTRGV and the Valley attain a national reputation in the arts.”

With a focus on education and outreach, the center can also highlight the unique culture that exists along the U.S.-Mexico border and potentially enhance understanding on Mexican and U.S. traditions. The Center is currently producing a carta de intención with the Mexican Consulate in the city of McAllen to formally confirm its intentions to collaborate on projects related to the arts, music, dance, theatre, and creative writing in Mexico and the United States and place UTRGV at the center of these binational events.

Some of the Center’s goals will be to carve out an identity for the UTRGV College of Fine Arts through the talents of its faculty and students, to produce academic work in the field of Latin American art that will help build the reputation of the university as a whole.

“We have a rich culture in the Valley that not only encompasses classic arts and folk arts, but popular art as well, from Latin Jazz to Conjunto and Graffiti,” Block said. “The Center for Latin American Arts hopes to be a mechanism to promote all such arts, to bring in many more guest scholars and artists to the Valley and UTRGV, and to build relationships with other institutions in Mexico and beyond.”

“The arts are an engaging source of learning and creativity that provide insights into diverse cultures and our identities,” McAllen said, “and the vision for the CLAA was spearheaded by Dean Block to showcase the talents of UTRGV’s faculty and students from various fields.”

The steering committee – comprised of professors Wiley, Amado, Peña, Sonia Chapa (Dance Program), Robert Bradley (School of Art), McAllen, Constance Cortez (director of the School of Art), and Kurt Martinez (director of the School of Music) – collaborated to write the proposal for the center.

“This has been a dream made into reality for both Dr. McAllen and Dr. Block,” said Kelly Scrivner, vice president for Institutional Advancement. “This is so exciting for UTRGV, the region and beyond.”

The Center for Latin American Arts will be located on the Edinburg Campus on the second floor of the Library, ELIBR 2.114.

On the Brownsville Campus, the Center will be inside the Music, Science & Learning Center, BMSLC 20210.

For more information, visit www.utrgv.edu/CLAA.



The Center for Latin American Arts advances scholarship, performances and the exhibition of the arts in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking worlds and the United States.

The Arts are a uniquely tangible source of entertainment, learning and beauty that provides essential vocabularies for communication and sources of pleasure in our daily lives. The Arts also provide insights into our local cultural identity, fostering understanding, tolerance, and appreciation for the traditions and people around us and throughout the world. The Center for Latin American Arts seeks to be a place of gathering and collaboration under the auspices of UTRGV to promote the arts in Latin America, expand our knowledge, and connect with traditions that are important to our community in the Rio Grande Valley.