There’s no escaping the fact that the global pandemic has had a damaging effect on live performance…and on the institutions that traditionally support such performance. But Hostos Community College’s Center for the Arts & Culture has some good news to offer:  its online offerings are attracting large (and international) audiences – proof positive of the strength of its programming and of the power of art to soothe and enlighten in difficult times.

One of the Center’s most popular offerings is The History of Latin Music and Latin Jazz Part XIII, a free virtual workshop hosted by noted music historian Joe Conzo, Sr. and produced by the College’s Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development (CEWD). Conzo, Sr.’s History is a splendid example of the way Hostos, the HCAC, and the diverse communities they represent collaborate to examine and share with the world the rich culture of the South Bronx.
“We strongly believe in the importance of preserving and sharing the rich diversity of the music pioneers and their impact on the history of Latin music and jazz,” CEWD’s Interim Dean Peter Mertens said. “Providing this important program for free to the general public is core to the mission of Hostos in serving the community in which we live and work. CEWD's The History of Latin Music and Latin Jazz Part XIII is particularly important during these times as it is broadcast virtually into homes around the world introducing Latin music, the jazz era and the diverse artists who were instrumental in creating it.”
The History of Latin Music and Latin Jazz Part XIII isn’t the only Hostos presentation drawing viewers. The BomPlenazo 2020 Festival took place virtually from October 7-11 and celebrated five days of Afro-Puerto Rican music and dance with four concerts, two panel discussions, two film screenings, and two workshops. Improved audio and visual quality and vigorous marketing and outreach through social media brought well over 1,500 viewers to the event as it occurred, and  approximately 26,000 viewers via videos posted on Facebook after the events.
Other virtual events via the HCAC included the 2nd Annual African Heritage Festival, a celebration of African music, dance, storytelling, and poetry presented in partnership with the African Advisory Council of the Bronx Boro Presidents' Office in late September; and “Shifting Streams:  Twelve artists by the Hudson River,” a 3-D online art exhibit which brought together 12 artists of Cuban origin living and working in New Jersey, offered in collaboration with the Bronx Council on the Arts in early October.
The Center’s Facebook Page also reflects the dramatic increase in viewers:  Page “Likes” are up 261%; Page Views are up 260%; and Post Engagement is up a whopping 1,240%.
The popularity of the Center’s offerings are echoed in other artistic, educational, and commercial institutions and businesses, all of which have seen greatly increased online involvement. This not only speaks to the particular moment of the pandemic but also to a greater, deeper need best expressed by Joe Conzo, Sr: “Without our culture we are nothing.”
For further information on the Hostos Center for Arts & Culture and its programming – including its 29th Annual Kwanzaa Celebration – please visit: or follow the Hostos Center for Arts & Culture on Facebook.