past event

The Michelle Smith Arts & Culture Series: A Conversation with Manuel Oliver

Manuel Oliver’s “GUAC: My Son, My Hero” tells the story of Manuel and Patricia Oliver’s family in the year following the murder of their son Joaquin “Guac” Oliver in the Parkland shooting. “GUAC” combines elements of testimony theater with standup comedy, video and live painting in an intimate, devastating and loving piece of social justice theater.

Join us for a conversation and excerpts from Manuel’s work along with the team behind this protest piece, Executive Producer, Yael Silver and Political Strategist, Emily Tisch Sussman; moderated by Erika Mallin, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Arts Program.


Manuel Oliver immigrated to Parkland, Florida from Venezuela, and has dedicated himself to a particular brand of not-so-subtle activism. He and his wife Patricia Oliver founded a non-profit advocacy group called “Change the Ref,” that empowers young people to speak out against gun violence, spark change in their communities, and support change in how the NRA interacts with lawmakers. Manuel uses his artist training and guerilla advertising instincts to keep focus on his son, Guac, the sixteen other lives lost during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, and the more than forty-thousand victims of gun violence in the US each year. Manuel’s biggest project has been a year-long art installation for which he and his team created twenty-two murals, sculptures, 3D printed likenesses, and paintings of Guac all over the country: each feature seventeen holes punched through the portraits to represent every life lost in the MSD shooting.

Yael Silver is a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer. Credits include Once On This Island (Broadway 2018), Jagged Little Pill and the UK tour of Rock of Ages. She is a human rights and climate activist who has devoted her career to working at the intersection of arts and social justice. Benefits include “From Broadway With Love: A Benefit Concert for Parkland”, “Broadway Fights Back with March For Our lives” and she is the executive producer for “So Much To Say: Songs for Everytown” a benefit album. She has worked with notable Broadway stars such as Chita Rivera, Hailey Kilgore and composers Stephen Schwartz and John Kander. Yael is the CEO and Founder of Yael Silver Productions and Head of Artist Development at Yellow Sound Label.

Emily Tisch Sussman has been at the forefront of the progressive movement for more than 14 years and is a leading Democratic political strategist. She’s been a senior advisor to organizations driving progressive change – most recently Swing Left, Funny or Die: Glam Up the Midterms, and Vote Vets. As Vice President of Campaigns at the Center for American Progress, she shaped key efforts to resist the Trump administration’s harmful policies, in addition to working with CAP’s youth outreach to cultivate young activists on several issues, including gun violence prevention. Emily is the host of Your Primary Playlist podcast.

Event information
Fri Sep 27, 2019
12:00pm - 1:30pm EDT
Aspen Institute
Washington, DC