Orange Alert

Skip to main content
Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

La Casita Cultural Center celebrates at grand opening

NPR's Maria Hinojosa among guest speakers

Sept. 29, 2011, by Kelly Rodoski

La Casita Cultural Center celebrated its grand opening on Wednesday, Sept. 28 with puppets, music, art, and special guest speakers. Located in the  Lincoln Building, 109 Otisco St., in downtown Syracuse, La Casita is the only Latino/a cultural center in the region. The Center is administered by Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences for the campus and Syracuse communities.

Speaking at the event were SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor; Maria Hinojosa, host and managing editor of National Public Radio’s “Latino USA,” in cooperation with University Lectures; Inmaculada Lara-Bonilla and Silvio Torres-Saillant, co-founders of La Casita and College of Arts and Sciences faculty members (Lara-Bonilla serves as La Casita’s program director); William Aguado, former executive director of the Bronx Council on the Arts; and Bea González, dean of University College.

Also featured were the exhibition, “Las Casitas Revisited: An Urban Cultural Alternative,” co-curated by Aguado; and live music by Son Boricua. The name “La Casita” can be traced to Spanish Harlem and the South Bronx, where in the 1970s Latinos revitalized their neighborhoods with gardens and small houses (or “casitas”) that served as public gathering places. "La Casitas Revisited" seeks to both commemorate and preserve this cultural history.
Located in Syracuse’s Near Westside neighborhood, which is home to the largest proportion of Latinos in Onondaga County, La Casita is designed to build bridges through arts, culture and education. With initial support from University College, La Casita was developed in 2009 as a Chancellor’s Leadership Project. In the past two years, La Casita has partnered with Say Yes to Education to organize summer camps with the Seymour Dual Language Academy; with the New York State Council for the Humanities to hold regular reading circles at Seymour School and the Mundy branch of the Syracuse Public Library; and with the Community Folk Art Center and SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts to sponsor various art exhibitions; among many community partnerships.

“La Casita is much more than a place where cultures meet,” says Cantor. “It epitomizes a ‘community of experts’—a profoundly collaborative physical and social space where partners not only cross cultures, but also cross disciplines, professions, life experiences, geographies and generations as we take on the complex challenges of our day. La Casita does all of that and more, forging partnerships whose impact is far greater than what we or any of our partners could achieve independently.”

“La Casita is an open and common space where students of all ages and walks of life can gather and interact, experience culture, engage in the arts and advance their educational and professional dreams,” says Lara-Bonilla. “By building bridges, we hope to generate creative solutions to shared problems and animate a spirit of sharing not only resources, but also different kinds of knowledge. We hope that our programs in the arts, humanities and education–shaped by our common interests and desires–will inspire new explorations, and enrich and strengthen our communities, on campus and in the greater community alike.”

“The admirable idea of opening a cultural center in the midst of a predominantly Latino neighborhood of the city of Syracuse was most compelling, and it is indeed a joyous occasion to see it coming into fruition, which is ultimately a testament to the numerous colleagues, departments, programs, schools, colleges and administrative offices that empowered us with their decisive solidarity and lent crucial material support to the initiative,” says Torres-Saillant.

The grand opening follows a $3 million “green” makeover of the Lincoln Building last year. La Casita is one of the occupants of the mixed-use building, and its space includes a classroom, bilingual library, small auditorium, art gallery, workshop, kitchenette and meeting area.