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Mellon Foundation grants Northwestern University arts initiative in Puerto Rico

Mellon Foundation grants Northwestern University arts initiative in Puerto Rico


San Juan, Puerto Rico

A year after Puerto Rico was hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria, 10 emerging and 10 established artists from the island will kick off a two-year arts development project spearheaded by Northwestern University that aims to stabilize the financial security of community-based artists and jumpstart arts activity on the island.

The Puerto Rican Arts Development initiative is made possible by a $500,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The project begins in August with a summer professional development retreat at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The 10 artist and mentor pairs will participate in training sessions on resourcing and sustaining a practice, portfolio development, artist talk presentations and workshop leadership. The initiative also includes artistic residencies at Northwestern and other colleges and universities, a commissioned project in Puerto Rico and a final project presentation.

The 10 emerging artists selected for participation in the project are early- to mid-career Puerto Rican artists working in performance and interdisciplinary community engaged art.  The artists include Alejandra Martorell, Mickey Negrón, Kairiana Nuñez-Santalíz, Pó Rodill, Awilda Rodriguez-Lora, Edgardo Rodriguez, Felix Rodriguez-Rosa, Llaima Sanfriorenzo, Noemi Segarra and Lionel Villahermosa.

The 10 mentors are established artists active on the island and include Eduardo Alegría, Petra Bravo, Teresa Hernández, Karen Langevin, Nibia Pastrana-Santiago, Chemi Rosado-Seijo, Gisela Rosario-Ramos, Awilda Sterling, Bernat Tort and Viveca Vázquez.

The Mellon Foundation grant furthers the work seeded by a $100,000 post-hurricane investment by Northwestern in 2017 that paid the stipends for eight San Juan community-based artists, funded a workshop series and restarted a month-long performance art residency program.

The project lead for the Puerto Rican Arts Development initiative is Ramón H. Rivera-Servera, professor of performance studies in the School of Communication at Northwestern.

The September 2017 hurricanes resulted in the most damaging environmental disaster in the history of Puerto Rico. In the six-month period following the summer storms more than 400,000 Puerto Ricans left the island territories. Significant infrastructural, agricultural, environmental, health and economic challenges remain. The cultural and artistic sector was especially hard hit as theatre, exhibition and workshop spaces went dark and artists who depended on employment in the service sector lost jobs at closed establishments.

 When the Puerto Rican Arts Development initiative concludes in August 2020, the project will have provided critical financial stability to the participating artists, advanced their creative practice and equipped them with the necessary skills to succeed professionally.

The project will also allow the communities at Northwestern, the greater Chicago region and the U.S. to learn about the issues affecting the lives and practices of artists in the both post-hurricane disaster and the debt crisis, and help this network of support to identify best practices for living and working under the current conditions on the island.



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