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Centro Celebrates 40 Anniversary with Two Art Shows

By Clarisel Gonzalez

Over 200  supporters packed the September 20th opening of Centro’s two historic art exhibits on the theme Nuyorican. Both exhibits are available for viewing until October 31 as part of Centro’s ongoing 40th anniversary activities.

One show, entitled nu-YO-Rican, in the Hunter College East Harlem Art Gallery, spotlights five accomplished New York-based Puerto Rican artists. The second show, entitled Posters on the Wall: Our Nuyorican Story, in the lobby adjacent to the gallery – located in the Hunter College Silberman Building, 2180 Third Avenue at 119 St. in East Harlem – is built from the Centro Archives’ extensive graphics collection.

At the opening reception, Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab welcomed attendees and spoke to them of the important role they play in helping “to create, build and sustain Centro,” which she called an “incredible institution.”

“It is your presence that says so much,” President Raab said, adding that it was a great tribute to Centro’s work and its impact on the community. She also spoke about the Centro Library and Archives’ move to the Silberman Building which made this valuable resource more accessible to the El Barrio community. “We are in a place where we should be,” she said about the move uptown.

Centro Director Edwin Meléndez thanked President Raab for her ongoing support of Centro. He also thanked the Hunter College East Harlem Art Gallery and the many curators, artists and staff behind the two exhibits, which, he said, took a lot of vision and dedication.

A highlight on the opening afternoon was the Conversations with the Artists session, moderated by Susana Torruella Leval, art historian, curator and former director of El Museo del Barrio. Gil Cardenas, a scholar and Latino art collector, also sat in the panel along, with the five nu-YO-Rican artists participating in the gallery exhibit: Diógenes Ballester, Marcos Dimas, Sofia Maldonado, Rodriguez Calero and Adrian ‘Viajero’ Roman. The artists reflected on the theme of the show and whether they themselves identified as Nuyorican. They also spoke on the role of artists in education, social justice and cultural institutions.

Besides the exhibition, nu-YO-Rican includes the production of the Centro 40th Anniversary limited edition portfolio, composed of five fine, silk-screened works from the show, and a catalog for each show, which are available for sale. The income from the portfolio and catalogs are tools to help fund Centro’s year-long anniversary festivities and support the growth of Centro Library and Archives, which also will benefit from gifts of one piece of art donated by each artist.

Meléndez said this was the first time that artists joined forces to create a portfolio as a way to fundraise for Centro, which he called a “wonderful intiative by this group of artists.” As a thank-you gift, Meléndez presented each of the artists a limited edition portfolio.

Meléndez reminded attendees that artists who contribute to the Centro Archives donate their work to help document the story of the Puerto Rican experience in the United States and to help build our collections for future generations. With their contribution to the Centro Archives, he said, these artists have renewed that commitment.

Installation of Poster on the Wall and nu-YO-Rican