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‘Parade the Circle’ flaunts 20th anniversary with international, Latino flair

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

The clear skies contrasted well with the rainbow of gigantic puppets and theatrical creatures with large blue horns marching Wade Oval for the 20th anniversary of Cleveland Museum of Art’s ‘Parade the Circle’ on June 13, 2009.

An estimated 70,000 spectators lined the Oval to enjoy the larger than life puppets, artists on stilts, and groove to the music of international artists representing Tobago and Trinidad.

The free annual event showcases the vibrancy art, culture, and entertainment in University Circle and this year theme ‘Chiaroscuro: Beguiling the Penumbra’ serves as a prelude to the opening of the brand new East Wing of the Museum on June 27, 2009.

The $350 million project is breathing new life to the cultural institution by adding 21 galleries which will house paintings, sculptures, photographs and visiting exhibitions in glass rooms, detailed with glistening hardwood floors. The buildings black and white striped marble exterior influenced the parade’s theme and also parallels how visitors will experience art in the new galleries.

“Chiaroscuro is the place in a painting where there is an eclipse, a shift from darkness to light,” said Parade the Circle artistic director Robin VanLear. “The penumbra is the gray, murky area surrounding the darkness. It is also considered the mysterious place where inspiration and creativity occurs.”

The theme de-emphasized the distinction between reality and fantasy and the 2000 parade participants interpreted it in unique ways. From the little girl on a giant bed dreaming of a unicorn, organizing work files to another dreaming of her African heritage; the parade left spectators in awe.

The parade included a distinct Latino flair through performances by Samba Joia, a Brazilian Bahia “Afro-bloco’ music troupe, Latin Carnival dance performances, Joya de México mariachi group, and a grand puppet for Divine Feminine: Lady of Guadalupe created by Trinity Cathedral.

Guatemalan artist Hector Castellanos Lara has been participating in the Parade for 10 years. This year he devoted his time to helping 110 participants with the Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland Public Theatre and the Music Settlement. The Theatre’s outreach program involved in engaging inner city kids between the ages of 9 and 13 with arts and theater.  Castellanos Lara he felt obliged to nurture their creativity: “I saw a new generation and wanted to coach them.”

Castellanos Lara added even though the parade highlighted Latin culture the community itself needs to be more visible and participate in the parade. He said the key is spreading the word and encouraging organizations to collaborate on projects. “The library is invited every year, and they always tell me they want to create a float that will last till the Puerto Rican Parade,” he said.

The parade refurbished puppets from the past years and introduced contemporary twists like an enormous Barack Obama Pez dispenser.

“It’s kind of nostalgic seeing the puppets because they remind you of past parades but at the same time you feel pride because people who are visiting for the first time can see these gorgeous pieces and enjoy them too,” Castellanos Lara said. His groups marched with the magnificent flaming red costume ‘Fire Bird Mystical Mirage’ first featured in 1996.

“We had such a fantastic time,” said Regina Shelley, who brought her two toddlers for their first summer parade. “They loved the sea creatures, the jelly fish and thought it was part of Finding Nemo,” she said. Shelley said the parade offered a great range of creativity that both adults and children could enjoy; she would like to keep bringing her children back each year to experience how the Parade evolves.

The Circle Village featured hands-on activities for children, food, and live entertainment. The Cleveland Music School Settlement and The Cleveland Orchestra allowed children to discover their musical talents by playing violins, brass, winds and percussion instruments of all sizes. Watching his 5-year old son enthusiastically stroking the miniature violin, Ken Houng said he felt inspired; “I may have to enroll him in music classes.”

Castellanos Lara said planning for next year’s parade begins immediately, “You see other works and think maybe next year I can do something like that!”

For upcoming CMA events visit: http://www.clevelandart.org/







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