Cecilia (Ceci) Méndez-Ortiz, a Roslindale resident and Executive Director of Massachusetts College of Art and Design’s Center for Art and Community Partnerships (CACP), has been chosen as one of the Kennedy Center’s Next 50.
According to a press release from MassArt, the “Next 50” is “a group of trailblazing leaders, artists, and culture makers whom the Center believes will lead the country into its next 50 years. “Next 50 is a new initiative by the Kennedy Center in its 50th anniversary year, to invest in the future of the arts and its impact on social change through the nation’s cultural leaders.”
Méndez-Ortiz told the Gazette that the honor “came as a complete surprise to me,” but she is grateful to have been selected.
She said her love for art and collaboration began when she was a child—her mother was a craftsperson who had her own business, which led to traveling around New England.
“I’ve always live at the intersection of art and community,” she said, and has held positions at museums as a curator and educator, as well as an artist, a teacher, and a board member.
She said that her work with CACP includes partnerships with people and communities as well as creating “opportunities for arts experiences, for resources, and generally to be connected through arts.”
Méndez-Ortiz said that “no day is ever the same.”
She said she’s really looking forward to the opportunities that being a part of this opportunity will offer. “I’m really, really honored because these are all incredible humans that are making and sharing and forging ways through the world,” she said. She also said she looks forward to learning more about the other awardees, as she is personal fans of many of them.
According to the Kennedy Center’s website, awardees “will take part in Kennedy Center programs, forums, residencies, and events—such as Arts Summit, the Center’s annual convening investigating the power and potential of the arts—and work with the Kennedy Center to create opportunities for discourse with civic leaders to ensure that the voices of artistic and cultural leaders are lifted and heard.”
Méndez-Ortiz said that she looks forward to connecting with others and sharing her work with both MassArt and the Radical Imagination for Racial Justice regranting program, which is a collaboration between MassArt, the City of Boston, and the Surdna Foundation to provide funding for BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color) artists, including “to those seeking to advance racial justice through collaborative projects in their communities,” according to the MassArt website.
This year also marks the tenth anniversary of CACP’s sparc! ArtMobile, which made its debut in Mission Hill. Artist Ekua Holmes is the van’s director.
“We had a lot of conversations with our partners, leaders, and community-based organizations, youth workers, teens, parents, business leaders, educators” about “what are the ways an art mobile in the neighborhood” could connect people with “arts experiences that were already happening,” Méndez-Ortiz said.
“It’s always been really important to us to be good neighbors,” she said. “Everything was community driven,” from what the van would look like and what role it would play in community events.
“Ultimately, sparc! Belongs to the neighborhood and to the neighbors,” Méndez-Ortiz said, and has extended its reach to other neighborhoods as well.
Méndez-Ortiz is also on the board of Sociedad Latina, which has partnered with sparc! to bring community mural making experiences to events with speakers, dancing, and live music.
Méndez-Ortiz grew up in Andover, but has dual citizenship in the United States and Panama. She said that her parents and her grandparents have really helped to shape her beliefs and values about the world.
She said that her work is not done alone—“I do it collaboratively with a team,” she said. “I love the people I get to work with.”
For more information about The Kennedy Center Next 50 and Ceci Méndez-Ortiz, visit kennedy-center.org/artists/m/ma-mn/cecilia-mendez-ortiz/.