News & Announcements

Acclaimed Book Inspires Inter-arts Initiative

The award-winning novel The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, regarded as a seminal work of Chicano literature, is inspiring an original musical composition, inter-arts performance and an art exhibition at Chautauqua Institution this summer. The book tells the story of Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. It is among 20 books featured as selections of the 2017 Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle and its Young Readers program.

Mango Suite, composed by Derek Bermel, is a 45- to 50-minute symphonic work that reimagines Cisneros’s observations through 12 musical vignettes that explore and emphasize themes such as the natural and supernatural world, cultural identity and alienation, maturity and longing for independence, and disappearance and death. Performed by the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, with members of the Chautauqua Theater Company, and Chautauqua Voice Program and School of Dance, it premieres at 8:15 p.m. Saturday, July 22, in the Chautauqua Amphitheater.

Video of composer’s perspective on the work:

An art exhibition in Chautauqua Institution’s Strohl Art Center through Aug. 21 also celebrates the message and impact of The House on Mango Street. The show, “Homage to Mango Street,” curated by Artistic Director Don Kimes, presents works by several contemporary Latino artists with roots in Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Cuba. Strohl Art Center galleries and its Gallery Store are open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.weekdays, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays (closed Saturdays).

“Our inter-arts projects not only demonstrate the power of the arts to illuminate multiple dimensions of the human experience but, at Chautauqua, they also provide us the opportunity to unleash the full potential of our diverse and magnificent arts programs and companies in residence,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president and director of programming.

According to Bermel, Chautauqua Institution is the ideal setting for inter-arts collaboration.

“Chautauqua’s an interesting place; it’s a huge community of artists, and the focus of this piece was to bring all those folks together,” Bermel said.

The House on Mango Street is the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (CLSC) and Young Readers selection for Week Four, and Cisneros is speaking at the CLSC Roundtable presentation at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, July 20, in the Hall of Philosophy. A book signing will follow at 4:30 p.m. at the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Mango Suite was commissioned by Francis and Cindy Letro, in honor of Tom and Jane Becker for their dedication to inter-arts programming.

About Derek Bermel, composer

Grammy-nominated composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity. Artistic Director of the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Bermel is also Director of Copland House's emerging composers institute Cultivate, served as Composer-in-Residence at the Mannes College of Music, and enjoyed a four-year tenure as artist-in-residence at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton. Bermel has become recognized as a dynamic and unconventional curator of concert series that spotlight the composer as performer. Alongside his international studies of ethnomusicology and orchestration, an ongoing engagement with other musical cultures has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language, in which the human voice and its myriad inflections play a primary role.

He has received commissions from the Pittsburgh, National, Saint Louis, and Pacific Symphonies, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, WNYC Radio, La Jolla Music Society, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, eighth blackbird, Guarneri String Quartet, Music from Copland House and Music from China, De Ereprijs (Netherlands), violinist Midori, and electric guitarist Wiek Hijmans among others. The Boston Globe wrote, "There doesn't seem to be anything that Bermel can't do with the clarinet." His many honors include the Alpert Award in the Arts, Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, American Music Center's Trailblazer Award, and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; commissions from the Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations, Meet the Composer, and Cary Trust; and residencies at Yaddo, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff, Bellagio, Copland House, Sacatar, and Civitella Ranieri.

His discography features three critically acclaimed discs: an all-Bermel orchestral recording that includes the Grammy-nominated performance of his clarinet concerto Voices, (BMOP/sound); Soul Garden, his small ensemble/solo music (New World/CRI); and his most recent disc, Canzonas Americanas, with Alarm Will Sound (Cantaloupe). Bermel recently made his Cabrillo Festival debut, conducting his Dust Dances, and served as composer-in-residence at the Bowdoin Festival. Recent and upcoming are appearances or premieres include the Intimacy of Creativity Festival in Hong-Kong; the Seattle Chamber Music Festival; Hyllos, his evening-length collaboration with The Veenfabriek and Asko | Schönberg Ensemble, which premiered the Netherlands; performances and recordings with the JACK Quartet and Music from Copland House ensemble; and as soloist with the New Century Chamber Orchestra. For more information, visit:

About Don Kimes

A 2016 Scholar in Residence in the Art and Philosophy seminar at the American Academy in Rome, Kimes has received awards to be Artist in Residence at SACI in Florence, Italy; to live and work on the Pacific island of Kauai; to spend a year painting near Todi, Italy; a U.S. Department of the Interior award to be artist in residence at Yellowstone; a grant from the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes to work in southern Mexico; Eisenhower Foundation and Chautauqua Institution support to be a United States Visual Arts representative to the Jurmala Cultural Exchange in the Soviet Union; and studio residency awards from the Millay Foundation; the Assensore di Cultura in Corciano, Italy; the Accademia di Belli Arti in Perugia, and many others.

His paintings have been included in more than 140 exhibitions internationally including Denise Bibro, Frederieke Taylor, Claudia Carr, Kouros, Stephan Gang, Lucky Strike and Arsenal galleries, National Academy of Design, Ammo Artists Space, Brooklyn Museum of Art (all New York City), The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington Project for the Arts, National Academy of Sciences, Katzen Museum, Fondo del Sol Galleries, Hillyer Art Space, Constitution Hall (all Washington, DC), Baltimore Museum of Art, Burchfield Penney Museum (Buffalo), Rueda Museum (Madrid), Biennale Internazionale di Firenze (Florence, Italy), Rocca Paolina (Perugia), ExMoenia (Todi, Italy), Living Art (Milan), America Haus (Munich), Casa di Cultura (Villahermosa, Mexico), and many others.

Kimes' curatorial practice is extensive, having organized dozens of major exhibitions throughout the United States and internationally over the past 30-plus years. He has been a guest artist at schools, art academies and programs throughout the United States as well as Rome, Umbria, Florence, Mexico, Germany, Latvia and many others, some of which include Dartmouth, Bard, Carnegie Mellon, UC Davis, Parsons, Syracuse, Cleveland Institute of Art, Harvard, and Cooper Union. He is currently the senior Professor of Art at American University in Washington, D.C., where he has served as head of the studio art program for 18 of the past 28 years (and department chair for 11 years). Since 1986 he has also been Artistic Director in the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution. Previously he taught for 10 years at the New York Studio School in Greenwich Village, where he also served as Program Director for six years. For more information, visit:

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