Beauty, born from tragedy
Tulsan opens arts foundation in Puerto Rico.
Cascia Hall alumnus Juan Reinoso started an arts foundation on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, after the death of his life partner.
When Tulsa native Juan Reinoso opened an arts foundation on a tiny Puerto Rican island in 2015, it was his response to a personal loss.
The Brittany Foundation for Dance, Film and Theatre in Vieques, Puerto Rico, honors his life partner, Brittany McGrath, who died unexpectedly the previous year.
The pair had traveled to Puerto Rico several times. Witnessing its beauty and its impoverished conditions, they hoped to do something for its residents.
In 2014, shortly after McGrath graduated from law school in New York, she and her father were killed in a car accident. “We had planned on creating something in Vieques, so this is in her honor,” Reinoso says of the school, which celebrates one of McGrath’s hobbies: dancing.
Within two years, Reinoso used his own money to offer 12 monthly classes, including ballet, hip-hop and choreography, and had 45 students. “My goal is to eventually provide a wide range of film and theater classes on the island and provide scholarship tie-ins to other prestigious organizations across the country,” says Reinoso, who is a writer/producer/director in film, theater and commercials. He splits his time between Brooklyn and Tulsa.
A 1993 Cascia Hall alumnus, Reinoso was born and raised in Tulsa, and is a first-generation American. His parents have artistic backgrounds and instilled in him the importance of education and the arts.
In August, Reinoso brought the Ballet of Puerto Rico, featuring Prima Ballerina Laura Valentín, to Tulsa for an event at Cascia Hall Performing Arts Center. The performance raised funds for The Brittany and for scholarships for qualifying Puerto Rican students.
However, on Sept. 20, 2017, the day after this interview, the foundation’s plans changed dramatically when Category 5 Hurricane Maria roared through Puerto Rico.
The Vieques middle school where The Brittany’s classes meet suffered some minor damage and became a shelter and relief assistance depot. The foundation was preparing to begin classes in October but was forced to temporarily suspend them due to the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
“We are in regular discussions with relief assistance to determine when the foundation can once again begin classes in the most productive manner for enough students to be able to even attend,” Reinoso says.
Meanwhile, he is meeting with benefactors and politicians to assist in the relief and recovery efforts. When asked what Tulsa can do, Reinoso says, “Plan vacations to Vieques. The tourist season was about to start, so the economy is ruined.”