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María DeCastro Blake 
Community Service Award
2006 Honoree

Isabel Nazario
Associate Vice President for Arts & Humanities, Rutgers University

Isabel Nazario is Associate Vice President for Academic and Public Partnerships in the Arts and Humanities at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She was appointed to this newly created office in September 2004. Prior to this position, she was founding director of the Rutgers’ Center for Latino Arts and Culture, and executive director of the Office for Intercultural Initiatives.

As Associate Vice President, Nazario is responsible for developing and supporting faculty-led co-curricular arts and humanities projects, community-service learning programs, and public scholarship initiatives that lead to innovative partnerships between Rutgers and local, state, national, and international organizations. Reporting to the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, she has university-wide responsibilities, with offices in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden. Some of the programs under her charge include the Bildner Faculty Fellows Diversity Project, the Transcultural New Jersey Arts and Education Initiative, the Rutgers Undergraduate Research Fellows, the Transcultural New Jersey Public Service Art Program. In partnership with the Institute for Arts and Humanities Education, she co-directs the Community Artists Training Series, a statewide artists-residency program.

The highly acclaimed Transcultural New Jersey Initiative is the unifying theme for museums, libraries, and education institutions working together to examine the state’s demographic landscape through a series of visual art exhibitions, collaborative public art works, performances, and community-based service learning programs that promote the cultural contributions of underrepresented populations in the state. The initiative led to an innovative award-winning partnership with New Jersey Network (Public Television). Isabel Nazario and Susan Wallner, a producer at NJN, developed a documentary of the initiative and told the story of the creative contributions made in New Jersey by Latino, black, Caribbean, African, Asian/South Pacific and Native American artists. The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences nominated The New American Art documentary for a 2005 Emmy Award for "Outstanding Community Outreach Campaign." A two-volume catalogue, produced by Ms. Nazario’s office with the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, received excellent reviews by local and state newspapers as well as national and international journals.

Over the course of her professional career, Isabel Nazario has organized and curated numerous exhibitions that received excellent reviews by art critics from The New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Home News Tribune. Selected exhibitions included The Visual Imaginary of Latino Artists in New Jersey, held in 2001 in the Mason Gross School of the Arts Galleries; co-curated the Cross-Currents of the Mainstream exhibition, held in 2004 in the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum. At Rutgers, over the years Isabel has raised support for exhibitions, public service programs, and student scholarships from such sources as the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, The Rockefeller Foundation and The Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

Isabel Nazario has received many awards in recognition for her professional contribution in the arts and humanities. In 1997, she was one of seven Hispanic women in the nation to be awarded Hispanic Magazine's Women's Health and Science Award for developing an innovative arts and health education program for black and Latino youth. In 2002, she was recognized as a national leader for advancing Hispanic arts by El Diario La Prensa, a daily newspaper for Hispanics in the United States. In 2005, Hispanic Magazine named her one of the most influential Latinas in the nation in the arts and humanities.

Before coming to Rutgers in 1992, Isabel Nazario held positions at the New  York State Council on the Arts, CUNY, Queens College, and Hunter College. At Queens College, she developed the first courses on Latin American and Caribbean art history for the Art History and Puerto Rican Studies Departments, courses that she subsequently taught at both colleges. At Rutgers, she developed and taught a course on Latin American Art History through the Latin American Studies Program, and co-taught a new course in the Visual Arts Department of the Mason Gross School of the Arts entitled, "The Response of the Creative Mind to Gender, Race, Class and Identity," funded through a Rutgers Dialogues grant.

Isabel Nazario’s personal and professional development is marked by her bicultural life experience, coming of age during the civil rights movement, and a life-long commitment to community social action and arts advocacy. Isabel Nazario (Alvarez-Martinez) was born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on a farm located by a sugar cane field, where her father cut cane, and her mother raised five siblings. At seven years old, Nazario and her sister were sent to the United States where they attended school and returned to the island every summer. She attended junior high school, both in Puerto Rico, and the South Bronx. She auditioned and was accepted at the High School of Music and Art in NYC. She dropped out of school to have her first child and later attended the night school to complete her studies. Nazario has three children and has been married for 36 years to Julio Nazario, a photographer and academic administrator.


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