Written By Josie Gulliksen
August 25, 2023 at 2:41 PM

María Carla Chicuén speaking at the 2023 Miami Film Festival in March. Image courtesy of Miami Dade College

Miami Dade College’s robust cultural affairs programming is a year-round affair and leading the charge is María Carla Chicuén who took the reins as Miami Dade College Cultural Affairs Executive Director earlier this year.

One of Chicuén’s first major events was in March at the 40th Anniversary of the Miami Film Festival and coming up in November is Miami Book Fair’s 40th Anniversary and one of their biggest upcoming events, the Freedom Tower’s Centennial celebration in 2025.

“This role really connects all those pillars in the community. At the Miami Film Festival’s 40th Anniversary we had so many special moments, particularly when Actor Nicolas Cage, a special guest at the festival, engaged with students throughout different campuses during the Miami Film Festival,” said Chicuén.

As MDC Cultural Affairs Executive Director, she also supports the leadership overseeing the Freedom Tower’s renovation “as well as plans to transform it into a center of innovation and culture. I feel honored to be entrusted with that role.”

Chicuén’s full circle moment began when she was a dual enrollment student at Miami Dade College during high school. She then had her first tenure as an employee in 2015 as Special Projects Assistant to the Miami Dade College President. “That helped me learn so much for my current position,” she said.

At the “Somewhere in Queens” premiere on opening night of the 40th Miami Film Festival are (L-R) Miami Dade College Executive Director of Cultural Affairs María Carla Chicuén, Director of Programming at Miami Film Festival Lauren Cohen, Ray Romano who directed and starred in the film, Vice President for External Affairs & Strategy and Chief of Staff at Miami Dade College Maryam Laguna Borrego and Miami Dade College Board Member Dr. Anay Abraham. Image courtesy of Miami Dade College

As head of the Cultural Affairs Department, Chicuén will, as mentioned above, oversee the Miami Film Festival, Miami Book Fair, Freedom Tower Centennial Celebration as well as the College’s other varied cultural venues including Koubek Center, Museum of Art & Design and Live Arts Miami.

Equally important to her is Miami Dade College’s long-standing commitment to education for all individuals.

“I think we have an incredible opportunity, perhaps unique in the city, to reach every household in Miami and offer both a quality education as well as foster cultural awareness. Both are equally important to the growth and development of our community,” said Chicuén.

Her rich and varied background, both educationally and professionally, have prepared her handsomely for her current role.

Since childhood, she had a curiosity and excitement for the arts and all its forms. Her grandmother was a pianist, and the piano was at the center of all the family gatherings. “We always came together around music, it was by far the most powerful force bringing us together,” she said.

Arriving in the United States from Cuba as a teenager, she recalls adapting to life here and having to learn English. The arts played a significant role in her learning a new language.

“I remember enrolling in theater classes and it being an incredible experience, finding a personal space but also a way to improve my English,” she said. “And as a lover of the arts I was also involved in different dance groups and wrote poetry. I participated in scholastic during high school and was a founding member of the Hispanic theater troupe in college at Harvard University.”

Her writing eventually led to her publishing “Achieve the College Dream,” which she “presented at the Miami Book Fair years ago and I also enrolled in workshops which helped me engage with the creative community,” she said.

María Carla Chicuén, Executive Director of Cultural Affairs, Miami Dade College. Image courtesy of Miami Dade College

She’s already excited about the Miami Book Fair in November where they’ve already announced another stellar lineup of writers including Award winning Poet Laureate Richard Blanco, Award winning author and Miamian Edwidge Danticat and Actress Kerry Washington.

“We’re anticipating another incredible fair and are excited to have already unveiled our poster. We’re calling this the next page of our Book Fair,” said Chicuén

Along with the three major milestones of the Film Festival, Book Fair and Freedom Tower, she also has her eyes on Koubek Center, Miami’s multicultural center by and for the community where they present a consistent schedule of Spanish programming and Live Arts Miami where they showcase a rich diversity of performers.

“Both Koubek and Live Arts are very accessible and truly showcase the diversity of our community. Koubek, reflects Little Havana’s community heritage,” she said.

The future looks brighter than ever at Miami Dade College under Chicuén’s directive, continuing to grow their role “as a pioneer and the founder of Miami’s thriving arts and culture scene. We have incredible artistic talent at MDC and are a pipeline for our students and that’s what I hope to foster, ultimately providing more collaboration in the field of arts and culture between our college and our partners.”

For Chicuén this role is truly a dream come true and a real privilege in her goal to ensure everyone in the community has access to the arts.

Click on the following links to learn more about Miami Dade College’s organizations, events and venues:

Miami Film Festival

Miami Book Fair

Live Arts Miami

Koubek Center

Museum of Art & Design

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