For a community like ours there will always be a utilitarian aspect to the arts, especially when it comes to documenting our experiences. From street murals to music to really any form of artistic expression, art helps us to honor the past while sharing something with future generations. In this week’s episode of Puerto Rican Voices we present three segments highlighting stateside Puerto Rican groups that are working to do just that.
First up, we present the Monument Art Project of New York, which brings together several internationally acclaimed muralists to paint in places like El Barrio in East Harlem, and in the South Bronx. In this segment the organizers speak to us about the significance of the striking murals that honor and inspire the Puerto Rican communities they represent. Ultimately, they hope to unite the Puerto Rican communities on the mainland and the island by creating art in both places.
Next up, we feature the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance of Chicago (PRAA). Founded in 1998, the PRAA was created to raise awareness, knowledge, and access to the Puerto Ricans stateside. The organization offers educational programming and provides a venue to showcase emerging talent. By doing so, the Alliance hopes to celebrate and promote the rich artistic expressions of Puerto Rican culture. We speak to Carlos Hernandez, founder of the organization, about the history of it and take a look into their recent push to expand musically by offering Puerto Rican cuatro lessons.
Finally, we present the Semilla Arts Initiative of Philadelphia. Co-founded by Betsy Casanas, the Semilla Arts Initiative is a grassroots initiative that uses art as a catalyst for social change. The initiative seeks to transform the look and feel of public spaces by introducing mural art. By doing so, they hope to create safe spaces that nurture a sense of self-esteem and Boricua pride. In this segment Casanas speaks to her process, background and the relevance of public art within the Philadelphia based Puerto Rican community.
That’s it for this week’s episode of Puerto Rican Voices! We hope you’ve enjoyed the season thus far and continue tuning in. Remember, every single episode of the series is available streaming online and it’s never too late to catch up. As always, feel free to take the conversation online using the hashtag #Boricuasonline. See you next week!
© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices on 11 March 2016.