FSC Faculty Discuss Heritage of Spain

Mar 13, 2018

by Cary McMullen
Publications editor

The Polk Museum of Art (PMA) at Florida Southern College (FSC) is pleased to announce its confirmed list of humanities experts who will be speaking at the Goya, Picasso & the Heritage of Spain: Exploring Spanish Culture in Florida from 1513 to Today panel discussion on Tuesday, April 3, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. This free-of-charge program will be held in the Museum’s Kent Harrison Auditorium located at 800 East Palmetto Street in Lakeland.

The distinguished panel of five presenters is composed of art and culture specialists from four institutions across Polk and Hillsborough Counties. PMA Curator and Florida Southern College Art History Professor Dr. H. Alexander Rich orchestrated the collaborative effort to develop this Florida Spanish history and heritage program to occur during the run of the Museum’s Masters of Spain: Goya & Picasso exhibition from March 17 to June 17. Goya and Picasso’s iconic bullfighting images inspired the discussion theme and led panelists to create individual presentations in their areas of expertise.

Dr. Rich will serve as the panel moderator for the 90-minute program, which includes a 30-minute interactive audience session. He will introduce the discussion theme, set the historical context of Goya and Picasso’s work, present the panelists, and facilitate the discussion. Dr. Rich is a Modern art history expert, with a particular focus on 19th and 20th century European art. He earned his Ph.D. in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and his A.B. from Dartmouth College.

Representing the University of South Florida's Department of World Languages is Spanish Professor and Graduate Program Director Dr. David Arbesú, whose opening presentation will focus on the historical presence of Spain in Florida from Juan Ponce de Leon's first expedition in 1513 to Pedro Menendez de Aviles’ founding of St. Augustine in 1565. Dr. Arbesú is a native Spaniard who  holds a Ph.D. in Spanish from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and M.A. and B.A. degrees in English Philology from the University of Oviedo in Spain. He has authored many articles and four books, including the 2017 edition of Pedro Menendez de Aviles and the Conquest of Florida.

FSC Spanish Literature Professor Dr. Melissa Garr will serve as the second program panelist to speak about the most significant Spanish cultural encounters that took place throughout Florida’s history beginning with Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca’s text Shipwrecked in 1528 and ending with Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls in 1940. Dr. Garr earned her Ph.D. in Spanish literature from Purdue University and M.A. in Spanish from the University of Northern Iowa. She has over 20 years of experience teaching Spanish language and literature at the secondary and postsecondary levels.

The third panel presenter is Polk State College Ceramics Professor Andrew Coombs, who will discuss the art of pottery, Picasso’s ceramics, and the recent pottery discovered at Tristan de Luna’s 1559 Settlement site in Pensacola. Professor Coombs began his ceramic career making pinch pots in his father’s pottery studio. His academic career ranged from chemistry to philosophy and back to pottery, and he earned his MFA in ceramics in 2008 from the School for American Crafts at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He currently teaches ceramics and three­ dimensional design courses at Polk State College’s main campus in Winter Haven.

Centro Español de Tampa President John A. Ranon will be the fourth and final panelist to present his topic on the history of Spanish immigration to Tampa and the Spanish heritage that is embedded in Tampa today. Mr. Ranon is a first-generation Spanish­ American and lifelong resident of Tampa, who received his B.S. in Engineering from the University of South Florida. He is a licensed civil engineer with a 35-year career history. Fluent in Spanish, Mr. Ranon’s consulting projects have included assignments in many Central and South American countries and Puerto Rico. He is an active civic leader and past president of the Ybor City Rotary Club and Ybor City Development Corporation.

Concluding the presentations, Dr. Rich will encourage the audience to ask questions and share their insights gained from participating in this Florida Spanish history and heritage panel discussion, which is funded by a Florida Humanities Council (FHC) Community Project Grant that was made possible through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the FHC or NEH.