Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco will become the first visiting artist at the SPAC School of the Arts (SOTA), Saratoga Performing Arts Center announced Thursday.
SPAC SOTA is a new, multidisciplinary school dedicated to dance, music, and theatre, with additional offerings in literary arts, visual arts, and media arts, as well as serving as a mentor for the 2022 Adirondack Trust Company Festival of Young Artists.
Driven by a desire to examine the essence of place and belonging, Blanco explores through his work his cultural identity as a Cuban-American and how we are shaped by experiences, memories, and our complex stories. As inaugural poet for President Obama and the first-ever Education Ambassador for the Academy of American poets, Richard Blanco will bring his passion for inspiring students through the close reading, writing and performing of poems. In collaboration with faculty, he will infuse poetry into the School’s multi-genre arts curriculum, which aims to provide further access to under-represented art forms, as well as to deepen the students’ connections to each other and to the world around them.
“Richard Blanco is one of the most deeply affecting, insightful poets today and we are delighted to bring him to Saratoga as our first visiting artist. Guiding an exploration of the larger questions of ‘where do I belong’ and ‘what is home,’ he will help us examine deeper issues that spark conversation and understanding on cultural identity and diversity — teaching our aspiring poets how to connect to the heart of human experience,” SPAC President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol said, in a statement. “Over the past several years we have expanded SPAC’s mission to incorporate literary arts into our programming. Richard will bring poetry to our school curriculum, naturally infusing elements of music, dance and theatre into its teaching.”
As the literary arts mentor for the 2022 Festival of Young Artists, which will follow the same theme, Blanco will select the poetry submissions to be featured in the festival. He will also mentor and help develop the crafts of three poetry finalists who will be chosen to recite their work on SPAC’s amphitheater stage alongside the inaugural poet.
“As an immigrant child from a working-class family, I had very little access to the arts while I was growing up. As such, I am a champion of arts education and have found a perfect fit with SPAC’s School of the Arts. They believe—as I do—that the arts should not be a luxury, but rather, a necessary part of learning,” said Richard Blanco, Presidential Inaugural Poet and Visiting Artist at the SPAC School of the Arts. “I’m honored and thrilled to be part of the school’s programming, helping students to explore their creativity as they learn new and vital ways of thinking and feeling about themselves, their communities, and the world at large. The School of the Arts serves as the proverbial campfire around which students can gather to explore their stories, assert their humanity, and understand our interdependence through art.”
In celebration of his new role and to commemorate the opening of the School at 10 a.m. on Sept. 18, Blanco will recite his poems “Declaration of Inter-dependence” and “Looking for the Gulf Motel.” Following his poetry readings, families with children ages 4-18 are invited to participate in classes in music (ages 4-6), dance (ages 7-12), and theatre (ages 13-18) in addition to meeting the faculty and enjoying refreshments. The event will be held outside in the School courtyard or inside the Lewis A. Swyer Studios in the case of inclement weather. The community is encouraged and invited to attend. Advance registration is required as space is limited; visit www.spacschool.org.