Staff & Teaching Artists

STAFF

Omar Torres-Kortright

Executive Director

Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center

Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Omar Torres-Kortright has been working as a music promoter in Chicago since 2003 when he founded Agúzate, an organization dedicated to the promotion of independent Latin music in Chicago with an emphasis on Afro-Latin culture. Through Agúzate, Omar collaborated and co-curated events with the most distinguished international music programmers in Chicago, including Old Town School of Folk Music, Sound Culture, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and Hothouse.

After extensive work in the field of culturally-appropriate healthcare both locally with Lurie Children’s Hospital (2004-2015) and nationally with the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (2012-2014), Omar decided to work more closely with the Puerto Rican community and the cultural sector. He joined SRBCC as Executive Director in 2015 after serving 5 years on the Board of Directors and volunteering for almost the entire time that he has lived in Chicago (2000-Present).

Since Omar’s arrival at SRBCC, the organization has faced monumental challenges. From the devastation caused by Hurricane María in Puerto Rico, to the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic and an ongoing wave of civil unrest in the United States, triggered by the murder of George Floyd. These historic challenges came with new opportunities to restructure and refocus SRBCC’s efforts. Under Torres-Kortright’s leadership, SRBCC created the Chicago Hurricane Aid for Puerto Rican Arts, served as leading organization and fiscal sponsor for  the Puerto Rican Agenda, organized a series of arts-focused  COVID-19 vaccination events for youth, produced the Abrazo Virtual Series to keep the arts alive during the pandemic, and earned the prestigious Chicago Cultural Treasures award in 2021. This new funding allowed SRBCC to make significant improvements to its home base in Hermosa and launch a brand new series of arts education initiatives, as well as life-changing opportunities for profesional artists of color, including artist-in-residence and international exchange programs.

Brenda Torres-Figueroa

Director of Educational Programs

Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center

Brenda Torres-Figueroa, is an interdisciplinary artist, curator, and art educator born and raised in Puerto Rico working mainly between performance art, installations, and public art. In the year 2000, she graduated from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, and soon after moved to Chicago to pursue her Masters in Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Brenda is also an alum of Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (‘02) and had participated in and developed multiple collective exhibitions and performances both in Chicago and Puerto Rico. Her return to Puerto Rico in 2004, enabled her to develop an art teaching methodology based on contemporary interdisciplinary and collaborative practices also informed by her curatorial experience at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Santurce. Since her permanent return to Chicago in 2008, Brenda has been devoted to her art education practice, raising her two daughters and branding her designs through Freedom Effect and Between Rags & Dolls. 

Brenda is bringing her vast experience in arts and education to design and launch SRBCC’s new programs, including Bomba, Caribbean Cooking, Interdisciplinary Media, and Music Production for young adults.

Teaching Artists

 

Ivelisse “Bombera de Corazón” Diaz 

La Escuelita Bombera de Corazón

La Escuelita Bombera de Corazón Bomba Youth Program at SRBCC 

Ivelisse Díaz was born and raised in Humboldt Park, the heart of Chicago’s Puerto Rican community. At the age of five, she began studying Bomba under the mentorship of her uncle Eli S. Rodriguez at the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center. Soon she was performing as a member of “Yubitas,” the youth Bomba group. At the age of 14, Ivelisse was one of the lead vocalists on Grupo Yuba’s album Chicago Sabe a Bomba y Plena. Her passion for teaching grew and in 2009 she founded her own Bomba dance school, La Escuelita Bombera De Corazon, which has been providing classes to a diverse population in Chicago for a decade. She is a co-founding member and lead vocalist in Bomba con Buya. She has traveled with the group and as a soloist to places like California, New York, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, and Ghana, to name a few. In the Spring of 2016 she made her debut with her first Latin House track named Rosalina at Chicago’s biggest House Party at Millenium Park and in 2019 was a Musical Consultant and lead vocalist for Nickelodeon’s cartoon series Santiago of the Seas.  In 2017, she had the honor of being awarded the 3Arts Make a Wave grant. In 2019, she was 1 of 10 to receive the main 3Arts Award. With 27 years of learning and continued studies, Ivelisse has become a well-known vocalist, dancer, and leader within the Bomba community in Chicago and beyond.

 

Roberto Pérez

Caribbean Cooking with Urban Pilón en Casa

Roberto Pérez is a chef, musician, and researcher of Afro-Caribbean traditions. He is one of the founding members of acclaimed Afro-Puerto Rican music group, Bomba con Buya, and the co-founder of educational culinary initiative, Urban Pilón. 

Urban Pilón is a culinary movement with a mission: to honor and preserve cooking traditions from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Latin America, while using completely natural, healthy ingredients. With this mission in mind, Roberto serves not only as chef, but as storyteller, sharing the stories of our ancestors through his cooking, classes, and demonstrations. His popular Caribbean cooking courses showcase these stories by teaching both classic and original recipes along with the history behind them.

In addition to his work as an educator, Roberto has found great success in event catering and dinner hosting, and awarded “International Mealsharer of the Month” by the platform Mealsharing.com. His cooking classes have been featured in the Spanish-language channel Univisión and several of his original recipes have been showcased in Puerto Rican television. He has catered for the cast of Hamilton, Snapchat, and cooked in countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

Luis Tubens, a.k.a “Logan Lu

Interdisciplinary Media Project: Storytelling

Luis Tubens, a.k.a “Logan Lu”, was born in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood and raised in Logan Square. In 2014, he earned a B.A. in Communications, media and theater from Northeastern Illinois University. He is the 2017 Artists-in-Residence at Oak Park Public Library. Luis has performed poetry across the United States including with the GUILD COMPLEX, Tia Chucha Press, and the National Museum of Mexican Art, as well as toured Mexico City in 2016. He has also held workshops for the residents of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and students in the Chicago Public Schools. On stage, he has opened for notable acts including Saul Williams and Calle 13. In 2014, Luis Tubens joined the acclaimed Mental Graffiti National Poetry Slam Team which represented Chicago at the National Poetry Slam. He is the author of Stone Eagle (2017) published by Bobbin Lace Press, Chicago. Currently, Luis is the resident poet for ESSO Afrojam Funkbeat (2016 Best New Band and Best International Music Act,Chicago Reader) and is featured on both of their last two albums. 

Diana Quiñones Rivera

Interdisciplinary Media Project: Storytelling

Quiñones Rivera completed a fellowship with Kartemquin Film’s Diverse Voices in Docs in 2016.  The same year, she directed the music video for Zeshan B’s “Cryin’ In The Streets”. The video premiered in 2017 and was featured in Rolling Stone magazine, American Songwriter, Impose magazine and the Chicago Reader.

In 2017 Quiñones Rivera screened the first episode of her new docu-series, Darling Shear, at the NewFest Film Festival in New York City and the DuSable Museum of Chicago. The first season is available on OTV. She obtained a B.A. in Film and Literature at University of Puerto Rico, a Post Graduate certificate in Filmmaking at London Film School and an MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College, NYC. 

“A storyteller, a questioner of culture and practice, a seeker of movement and potency… Quiñones Rivera’s immersion in the intersection of dance, music, and film creates a distinctive and inviting thread for her viewers and subjects alike.”

Michael Rodríguez

Afro-Latin Percussion / After School Programs Co-Instructor

Music Production Co-Instructor

Musical Director, Los Pleneros de Don Segundo 

Co-Director of The Ruiz Belvis Collective

Michael has dedicated most of his professional life to building community-based education programs focusing on  Afro-Latin percussion in Chicago. He founded El Ritmo School of Latin Percussion in the early 2000’s to teach free weekly percussion classes in Humboldt Park, Hermosa, and Logan Square.  Michael plays for a number of local bands, including Los Pleneros de Don Segundo, and Shades of Time.

 

Afro-Caribbean Jazz Program Instructor

Musical Director of The Ruiz Belvis Collective

Adrian Ruiz started playing piano at the age of 16 in his high school Jazz Band which is where he discovered his passion for music. He won the Ravinia Jazz Scholar award his junior and senior year in high school.

A student of piano giant Willie Pickens, from The Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, Adrian started playing professionally at the age of 19. His young career includes a 2006 recording with internationally-renowned Chicago trombonist Vincent Gardner.

In the last 10 years, Adrian Ruiz has shared the stage as pianist for the top tier of Salsa and Jazz, including Frank Catalano, Von Freeman, Luis ‘Perico’ Ortiz, Ernie Adams, Frankie Vázquez, Frankie Negrón, Alison Ruble, The Drifters, Tony Vega, Pedrito Martínez, Víctor Miranda, Grammy-Nominated Angel Meléndez and his Mambo 911 Orchestra, and Grammy Winners Roberto Vizcaino, and Raul Pineda.