The Capicu School of Poetic Arts in New York City is an educational arts and entrepreneurial workshop, founded in 2014 by the leadership of Capicu Poetry and Cultural Showcase, producers of diverse poetry and performing arts events in New York City.
After many years of organizing events that share the history and essence of the arts in relation to Latinidad, members of Capicu Culture–the Latin@ cultural activists and poets from Brooklyn and The Bronx–stepped forward to provide members of their community with an opportunity to learn more about the artistic craft of their choice.
Thousands of new and seasoned poets grace the stage at The Capicu Peoples Open Mic, expressing their profound need to develop their different artistic mediums. Because of Capicu’s format, the types of presentations vary greatly. Storytellers of different disciplines have participated: poets, memoirists, novelists, screenwriters, essayists, musicians, and visual artists working on both canvas and digital media have shared their works with the Capicu audience. After seven successful years, the team came to understand that giving the people a platform to present their work was no longer sufficient; it became imperative that they help those with so many talents develop their craft and become successful artists.
The Capicu School of Poetic Arts, also known as La SoPA, was created in 2014 by Juan ‘Papo Swiggity’ Santiago, Iraida ‘Jani Rose’ Perez Rosado, and George ‘Urban Jibaro’ Torres, as a response to the artists who have approached them with the desire to develop their craft. Educator Rich Villar joined the leadership ranks in 2016.
At its core, La SoPA is a school of thought, a liberation theology, fueled by the talents of educated, creative members of the urban Latin@s of New York City, a microcosm of our influence in greater world culture. By combining and sharing philosophy, theory and practice from the arts movements that have influenced their works: The Nuyorican Poets, The Harlem Renaissance, The Black Arts Movement, and the Beat Poets, they are able to use their unique voices to impart study, skill and technique that gives each individual attending their workshops the opportunity to increase their knowledge and hone their craft to professional levels, allowing them to become self-sustaining successful artists.
At La Sopa’s educational and entrepreneurial workshops, the community they serve is empowered by the accessible resources: professional development, financial literacy, and a historical narrative of the artistic legacies which have given way to the positive growth of the arts on New York City and beyond. As activists, it is important to them that the voices of traditionally marginalized peoples are developed, supported and shared both locally and globally. La SoPA’s intent is to work with educators and artists to develop the arts institution and its participants, in such a way that the momentum that is generated in its educational space, and affects the arts and society positively and powerfully.
It is La SoPA’s firm belief that empowering the people via artistic expression will help them find their voices in society. By bolstering the self-esteem of the individuals who seek self-actualization, the opportunity for breaking cycles of poverty and increasing awareness becomes possible.
The first workshops were held at the Graham campus in Bushwick, Brooklyn in April of 2014. The relationship with the private college was serendipitous, as the school itself was founded by educated urban Latin@s with a desire to create an educational space for traditionally marginalized peoples.
The educational series began with two powerful workshops in writing and performance. Rather than considering the workshops a space for instruction, a distinct choice was made to call the people at the helm of the classroom facilitators, as in fact, they were facilitating conversation and encouraging the growth of the artists in the space, rather than providing a how to lesson.
As a seasoned poet with experience in workshop organization and facilitation, Jani Rosado led the first writing workshop, and legendary slam master and host of the Nuyorican Poets Café, Keith Roach became “Coach Roach” for the first performance workshop. In the second season, author Rich Villar and Keith Roach led the writing and performance workshops. The third season was facilitated by Rich Villar for writing, and educator and author Anthony Morales joined them as the facilitator of the performance workshop.
In the third season, La SoPA landed an artist residency with the Loisaida Center, an incubator for self-sustainable artisanal, technological, culinary arts, and entrepreneurial initiatives, in the Lower East Side. This fortuitous arrangement led to the development of several programs in which the members of the organizations were able to present poetic showcases of historical and cultural value during the Loisaida Center’s annual Loisaida Festival and a tribute to local activists who have contributed to the legacy of cultural activism proliferated by community partners at Loisaida Center and Capicu Culture.
Guest instructors and speakers have included Lemon Andersen, Vanessa Mártir, Juan PaPo Santiago, Willie Perdomo and Jesus ‘Papoleto’ Melendez.
La SoPA is facilitated by established members of the arts community who are seasoned teaching artists. The founding poets began the series with poetry workshops, and have plans to expand the series to include many more artistic disciplines. With their finger on the pulse of the arts movement throughout the tristate area, they have access to professors and teaching artists who are knowledgeable in many different arenas. Their pedagogy is that of a Community S.T.E.A.M. program, with a special focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics, as it pertains to adult innovators.
- Science: The use of social sciences in identity and influence, reader/ audience perception, interaction, understanding of community needs, and the development of approaches by which
- Technology: The use of cutting edge phone/computer apps and tools for writers and artists along with best practices in use of Social Media engagement.
- Engineering: Sound and stage engineering for theatrical classes and/or music production, the use of video in documenting and presenting artistic works.
- Arts: Prose and poetry writing, performance, acting, screenplay, vocal development, live painting, dance and music.
- Mathematics: Financial education classes with a focus on ground level issues such as monetizing creative works, developing a financially stable career, credit, saving for retirement, and real estate for first home/condo/co-op.
Since their first gathering in 2014, The La SoPA Poets have been invited to perform at the Nuyorican Poets Café, at concerts for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; they have been covered in at least two upcoming documentaries. The donations that make the workshops possible are a fraction of what similar workshops in New York City ask. It is their profound vision and desire to make the workshops accessible to people of all financial strata. In that vein, Reverend Carlos M. Lopez Garcia has partnered with Capicu to present The Butterfly Tribe Scholarship in honor of departed poet Elizabeth Rivera de Garcia.
Entry into the program is facilitated by an application process which includes submission of creative works and a personal statement. La SoPA’s intention is to expand the series into a self-sustaining arts institution for people of color and allies to be able to create, share and grow, bettering the community at large via arts education.