Carnaval del Barrio brings music, juried art exhibition to Siler City

SILER CITY, N.C. — A vibrant celebration of Latino culture — complete with music, food and a juried art exhibition — will energize downtown when Carnaval del Barrio arrives on Friday, October 20, in Siler City.

Carnaval del Barrio, or Neighborhood Carnival, draws its title from a song in the Broadway musical, “In the Heights.” That Tony Award-winning show by Lin-Manuel Miranda will be performed next month at Jordan-Matthews High School.

The free community celebration from 6 to 9 p.m. highlights the upcoming musical and is part of the popular Downtown Music Series. It will be hosted at the corner of South Chatham Avenue and W. Second Street by Courtyard Coffee and Soda and the NC Arts Incubator. The event also will be sponsored by JMArts, the Jordan-Matthews Arts Foundation.

Live Caribbean and Latin American music will be provided by Saludos Compay, a band based in the Research Triangle featuring lead vocalist and guitarist Pablo Valencia, a native of Chile known for drawing on a variety of musical styles. Also scheduled to perform are Erich Lieth on keyboards, Jeff Brown on saxophone and Robert Cantrell on timbales.

Before Saludos Compay takes the stage at 7 p.m., cast members now in rehearsal at Jordan-Matthews will perform a number from “In the Heights.”

Music isn’t the evening’s only headline event.

“Prelude to The Heights,” a free, juried art exhibition by Jordan-Matthews artists, highlights works inspired by the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City, where the musical is set. Professional artists will judge the show, which is expected to draw between 50 and 100 works of art. First prize is $100; second prize is $50. Other works will be recognized as well.

“Students studied the Washington Heights neighborhood, including street scenes, people and graffiti, and chose images to inspire their work,” said art teacher Rahkie Mateen-Mason, who is a board member for JMArts. “They also were encouraged to showcase at least one of their own original designs that represents them as an artist.”

While music and art headline Carnaval del Barrio, there will be many more activities tied to the high school musical.

“Living in the Heights,” a 10-minute documentary about Washington Heights by multimedia journalist Kirby Pate, will be screening all evening. A graduate of Jordan-Matthews High School and New York University, Pate currently works in New York City as editor-producer for Backyard Media and producer of American Theatre’s “Three On the Aisle,” a new podcast featuring leading theater critics from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

Courtyard Coffee will be adding a special beverage to its menu for the celebration. The Vanessa, a light and sweet coffee with a touch of cinnamon, draws its name from a character and its inspiration from a lyric in the musical.

Tickets will be on sale for the Big Apple Raffle to raise money for the New York Arts Adventure, a spring break trip to New York City introducing JM artists to the world’s best theater, music and visual arts while providing new perspectives for their work.

One pair of tickets to “In the Heights” will be given away, and food trucks will be on hand selling local specialties.

“We are very excited to have JMArts participate in our Downtown Music Series,” said Joan Underwood, owner of Courtyard Coffee and one of the event organizers. “We always enjoy having young people involved in our events, especially when they are showcasing what they are doing in theater, music, painting and other arts-related projects.”

JMArts is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. More about the foundation, including how to become a member, is available online at

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