CarlosAlexis Cruz, associate professor of theatre and the program director for the forthcoming Master of Fine Arts in Community Centered Practice, has received the 2023 Bonnie E. Cone Professorship in Civic Engagement. Formerly the Provost's Faculty Award for Community Engagement, the Bonnie E. Cone Professorship in Civic Engagement was renamed in 2017 and is awarded annually to a tenured member of the faculty whose teaching and/or research “embody the University’s commitment to civic involvement, and whose work profoundly and systematically affects the relationship between UNC Charlotte and the larger community in a positive and meaningful way.” The award was conferred by Provost Alicia Bertone in a ceremony on Monday, April 10.
Cruz teaches physical theatre, including circus arts, at UNC Charlotte and has served as the chair of the College of Arts + Architecture Equity Council. In 2014 he founded the Nouveau Sud Circus Project with a McColl Award from the Arts & Science Council. Empowering individuals and communities that are often marginalized lies at the root of the community-centered contemporary circus company. Nouveau Sud had its debut production in April 2016 and has continued to mount shows that address social justice issues, particularly issues of immigration and race and ethnicity. In 2020, Nouveau Sud received the prestigious Creation and Touring Grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) for its production, La Bestia. (Read more about that production in this digital feature, Circus with a Purpose.)
“For as long as I can remember, I have constantly strived to be a community-first citizen, both in my personal and professional lives,” Cruz wrote in his letter to the nomination committee. “Very early in my career I realized that for me being an artist was beyond the art of representation and entertainment. I discovered almost immediately that my vocation belonged to empowering communities, to being a space and catalyst for unheard voices to have a place, and to always ensure that the arts would be a reflection and in direct conversation with the communities we are supposed to serve at any stage in my career path.”
As a Bonnie Cone award winner, Cruz will receive a stipend and faculty development funds annually for three years. He will also serve as Senior Fellow for Faculty Engagement in urbanCORE and becomes the university’s 2023 nominee for the UNC System-wide Governor James E. Holshouser, Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service and the national Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award from Campus Compact.
“The announcement that Carlos Cruz has received the Bonnie E. Cone Professorship in Civic Engagement thrills me to no end – yes, because exemplifies the University’s commitment to helping communities, but also for the way he goes about it: selflessly and with tremendous enthusiasm and creative energy, compassion and deep respect,” said Brook Muller, dean of the College of Arts + Architecture. “Carlos fondly uses the term ‘magical urbanism,’ and he puts it into practice, making those he works with, including myself, believe anything is possible.”
Cruz is the second faculty member in the College of Arts + Architecture to receive the award. In 2015 Professor of Architecture and Urban Design José Gámez, now associate dean for research and graduate programs, received the Provost's Faculty Award for Community Engagement.
Carlos Cruz, center, with Provost Alicia Bertone and faculty and staff from the College of Arts + Architecture. Photo by Kat Lawrence.