Monday, April 13, 2009

Brazilian Arts Foundation



I’m a sucker for social entrepreneurs. There’s something so inspiring about people who possess the business acumen to start entire endeavors from scratch. But rather than use their prowess to accumulate large amounts of personal wealth, they choose to do something to improve the world.


That pretty much encapsulates Mauricio Campos, the artistic director of the Brazilian Arts Foundation on 11th Street (nestled between Dacapo's and Stardust Antiques).


In the early 1990s, he was a professional skateboarder on the streets of San Paulo, Brazil. Today, he runs a non-profit organization dedicated to providing cultural education and building community through the preservation and sharing of Brazilian culture.


He first came to the United States in his early twenties to learn about another culture and another place. And, of course, to skate. He ran an import/export business selling skateboarding products, which had him traveling back and forth between Brazil and the U.S.


It was during one of these trips back to Brazil when he first took a Capoeira class. “It was instant,” he says. He was captivated by “the freedom of movement.”


As his passion for Capoeira grew, so did his desire to share his experience with others. He started renting space in different buildings throughout the city and teaching classes. He found that the city of Houston really “embraced and welcomed all cultures.”


In 2006, he secured the location on 11th Street, where his passion took root and blossomed. He found that he had to lose everything he had in Brazil to realize the true value of it. Being away from his culture made him appreciate everything it had to offer.

In a way, we can thank Mauricio’s homesickness for the fact that we now have a little piece of Brazilian culture nestled between an antique shop and a cafĂ© on 11th Street. The Brazilian Arts Foundation provides classes in Capoeira, Capoeira for Kids, Music/Maculele/Capoeira, Portuguese, and Roda classes, as well as a Samba Workout. Classes occur Monday through Saturday. You can find their class schedule on their website.

The Brazilian Arts Foundation also works with senior citizens, as well as schools, in their effort to promote "education, good health and vibrant culture." Further, they perform across the city and host events, such as the BAF Brazilian Movie Night Series, which is free to the community.


How many of us can honestly say we wake up each morning, invigorated by the opportunity to live out our passion and do it in a way that makes the world better? Wow.


In addition to running a non-profit in The Heights, Mauricio also calls this neighborhood home. He says, “You can feel the tradition and the history.” He’s lived in different areas of Houston throughout the years, but appreciates The Heights because it’s residential and you can “see people walking around and hanging out with their kids.”

If you don’t see Mauricio working long hours at the Brazilian Arts Foundation, you might catch him skateboarding in a neighborhood park.


So, for your next staycation, why not experience Brazil right on 11th Street? The first class is free, and the movie nights are always free.


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