This past Friday, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) President Emeritus Steven D. Lavine received the Ohtli Award, one of the highest awards given by the Mexican Government.
The award—which honors Mexican, Mexican-American or Latino leaders who contributed to the wellbeing, prosperity and empowerment of Mexican communities award—was given to Lavine by the Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles Carlos Garcia de Alba.
He was selected for the award for his work to promote Mexican arts and culture and to support Mexican relations in Los Angeles.
Lavine first fell in love with Mexican life and culture when he visited Oaxaca with his wife, Janet Sternburg, who ran a film and video program at The Rockefeller Foundation that included Mexican artists.
“We made a reservation to return before we left from that first visit and we’ve been going back ever since,” Lavine said. “We find it a place of deep, deep culture, of wonderful human beings, a place that restores your faith in the world. I have to say living in the United States this year, we’ve needed all the restoration of our faith in the world that we could have.”
Lavine also noted a longstanding connection between CalArts and Mexico that has supported Mexican culture through youth programs, at Walt Disney Concert Hall and in classrooms at CalArts.
“But most important, all these years, wonderful students from Mexico have come to our college,” Lavine said.
These graduates include artists like composer Arturo Marquez, performance artist and MacArthur Fellow Guillermo Gomez-Pena, curator Ruben Ortiz-Torres who was central in the LA/LA festivals, artist Daniel Martinez and Soma school founders Edward Arburora and Carla Herrera Prats.
CalArts also supported the education of “The Book of Life” director Jorge Gutierrez and “Coco” co-director Adrian Molina.
“CalArts has given us wonderful opportunities to draw closer to Mexico and is a constant reminder of how intertwined our cultures are and just how wrong our president is in every way,” Lavine said. “When you read statistics about Mexicans in the United States, they represent the values that the United States prides itself on representing… like religious faith, family, hard work.”
As Lavine left the stage, he expressed his joy to contribute to growth of Mexican culture in Los Angeles that brought together residents, artists and leaders.
“I was very glad to be able to contribute toward that connection and… to bring together cultural leaders, political leaders from both countries to talk about how to deepen the connections that exist still further,” he said.
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