Spring diversity discussion series to launch with talk on adoption, art, and race

Local News

CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Announced by the University, a West Texas A&M University art historian will kick off a spring series of diversity discussions by tying her personal story with that of an influential Cuban-American artist.

The University said Dr. Amy Von Lintel, associate professor of art history, Doris Alexander Endowed Distinguished Professor of Fine Arts and director of the gender studies program, will present “Severed Identities: Adoption, Art and Race” at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Student Senate chamber in the Jack B. Kelley Student Center and on Zoom. The speech is part of WT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion’s We Are One Talks.

Von Lintel is set to discuss the life and career of Ana Mendieta who, as a child, was removed from her Cuban home as part of Operation Pedro Pan, during which 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minors were sent to the United States between 1960 and 1962. The program ostensibly was meant to protect the children of Cubans who were targeted by Fidel Castro’s new regime, but it eventually included any child whose parents wanted them to leave the island. Many families were never reunited.

Mendieta was sent to the U.S. at age 12 and was placed in foster care in Iowa with her sister, Raquelin. After five years, they were reunited with their mother and a younger brother.

Mendieta’s often-autobiographical work drew on such themes as feminism, identity and belonging, often influenced by Afro-Cuban traditions.

“When she arrived in Iowa, she knew nothing about the race issue in the United States, and being severed from her family made an impression on her,” Von Lintel said. “She had to figure out who she was, what it means to be Cuban.”

Von Lintel also will discuss the echoes between her life and Mendieta’s experiences: Von Lintel and her husband Matt Welch have adopted three Black children, now aged 15, 14 and 8.

“I’ll be using Ana’s art as a foothold into discussing my personal life. I’m not an expert in cross-racial adoption, I just live it,” Von Lintel said. “My own kids were uprooted from their Black community, put into the foster system and then into our home.

“Adoption is a great thing, but it’s also really hard. It’s kind of a severing of identity,” she continued. “It’s a displacement. It could be positive, it could be negative, and it could be both.”

Angela Allen, WT’s chief officer for diversity and inclusion, said Von Lintel’s discussion will be an insightful kickoff to the spring series of speeches.

“Amy always has a brilliant way of connecting people to art, even when they can feel intimidated or out of their element,” Allen said. “By tying her own personal experiences to those of Ana Mendieta, Amy will help the audience relate to the groundbreaking work that Mendieta created.”

The University said that upcoming We Are One Diversity Talks are scheduled to include:

  • Feb. 23 – “Embracing His Legacy to Create Our Own,” featuring a panel of McNair Scholars discussing Dr. Ronald McNair, wo died in the explosion of the Challenger in 1986;
  • March 23: “Diversity in Journalism,” featuring Dr. Nancy Garcia, assistant professor of media communication and faculty advisor for The Prairie; and
  • April 27: “Diversity and Reducing Information Asymmetry in Academic Success,” featuring Dr. John Francois, assistant professor of economics, and the Donald W. Hodges Professor of Business.

Each lecture, said the University, will begin at 12:30 p.m. and include Zoom options. All are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact the Office for Diversity and Inclusion at 806-651-8482 or diversity-inclusion@wtamu.edu.

Said the University, the We Are One talks are in line with the mission of creating a diverse and inclusive student body, as outlined in the long-term plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect new information given by the University.

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