College-Wide Reading Program Culminates in Art Exhibition and Author Lecture, Helping Students to Gain Perspective on Life as a Queer Latino
(Delaware and Chester Counties, PA • April 10, 2017)—Delaware County Community College’s 2016-17 College-Wide Reading Program, centered on Rigoberto González’s memoir Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa, has taken on wings of its own.
In addition to campus-wide discussions, this year the College commissioned an exhibition by artist David Antonio Cruz to correspond with the book. Curated by Assistant Professor of Art History Olivia Gruber Florek, and currently on view in the College’s Art Gallery, Cruz’s thosebutterflyboysandvioletunicorns explores a focal point in González’s memoir: life as a queer Latino. While the book tells the powerful coming out and coming-of-age story of a first-generation Mexican-American, Cruz’s vivid paintings and sculptures visualize subjects in emergence and transformation.
Pairing the text with the artwork has set up an interdisciplinary exercise for students and visitors to explore the connections between the two mediums. And it has worked. Students are learning ways to identify literary and artistic themes and techniques, and ways to convey and analyze ideas across disciplines.
Sean Marks, a 41-year-old first-time college student, reflected on his reaction to the book and exhibition. He said, “I’m originally from Indiana and I’m a 13-year Army combat veteran - I wasn’t used to this sort of assignment. The second time I read the book, I was able to absorb more and put myself in the author’s shoes. To appreciate something or to grow you have to put yourself out of your comfort zone. The book got me out of my comfort zone. Now I am more open-minded.”
Cruz recently appeared on the Marple Campus to deliver a lecture on his work. The audience included College students, faculty, staff and members of the community from all walks of life.
Jessye Storey, a student who plans to transfer to Temple University to pursue a career in arts administration, attended both the lecture and exhibition reception. She said, “The characters in the book are withdrawn and shy. I love how Cruz’s art just explodes in owning his sexuality and expression. I was surprised by how shy Cruz is, because his artwork is so out and proud. I could tell how thoughtful and artistic he is, like the novel. He has vulnerability and I could see where that comes from.”
The College-Wide Reading Program culminates with González’s visit to the College. He will hold a meet-and-greet at the Pennocks Bridge Campus (280 Pennocks Bridge Road, West Grove, PA) on April 12 at 3 p.m., followed by a community discussion at 6:30 p.m. On April 13, from 11:05 a.m. to 1 p.m. he will deliver a keynote lecture in the Large Auditorium in the Academic Building on the Marple Campus (901 South Media Line Road, Media). Phoenixville resident and student Premisa Kerthi, who won an essay contest on the memoir, will introduce González before his speech.
Cruz, who is based in New York City, earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Pratt Institute and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting and Printmaking from Yale University. His work has been shown in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and El Museo del Barrio, among other venues. The exhibition is sponsored by the Communication, Arts & Humanities Division and will remain on view in the Art Gallery in the Academic Building on the Marple Campus through April 14. It is free and open to the public.