Meet the Artburst Writers: Octavio Roca

Octavio Roca

As a full-time philosophy professor at Miami Dade College for nine years, a long-time writer and critic for numerous publications, and a new writer to Artburst, Octavio Roca’s diverse professional background is something he draws on when encouraging his students to stay flexible with their future plans. He named Latino Educator of the Year in Arts & Letters by the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education.

At Emory University he received his undergraduate degree and danced in the modern dance troupe. The latter prepared him for his writing career. He’s also had voice lessons and bar exercise.

“Both have helped me in my role as an arts critic. I can tell subtle things like the way a singer sings or a dancer walks and I incorporate those into my critiques,” he says.

While in graduate school at Georgetown, he wrote for the Washington Post reviewing opera singers Renata Scotto and Placido Domingo — his first book was about Scotto and featured an introduction by Domingo. His latest book Cuban Ballet is being worked into a movie.

He loves being a teacher and a writer and contributing to what he feels is a waning pool of critics whose expertise is critical to quality arts coverage. He applauds the efforts of the Knight Foundation and the Cultural Affairs Department. “What those organizations are doing along with Artburst is really filling a gap. Their support of arts education and building audiences is invaluable because art exists in all of us and we’re cheating ourselves if we don’t encourage people to witness and see them,” he says.

Additionally, The Arsht Center downtown and Art Basel “have allowed the city to recognize good quality.”

Ultimately, it was his mother, a dancer in Havana who was his dance partner as a child, who inspired his artistic path. His Cuban roots are important to him still, evident in his work as an ambassador to Smithsonian Institute groups that meet in Miami the day before their flights to Havana. “I brief them on what they’re going to see,” he says.

 

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