The Artists in Claiming Places
Taller Puertorriqueño’s proposed move into new facilities, expanding it services to further its mission as an institution that promotes the understanding of Puerto Rican and Latino cultures, was the genesis for its 2012 – 13 exhibition cycle, Claiming Places: Unity, Ownership, and “Hogar” (Home). In the Puerto Rican barrios around Taller abundant affordable housing and work spaces is luring in artists, young professionals, and first time home buyers who are not Latino. Also coming into the mix are Latinos who are not Puerto Rican. This increase in demand and diversity in the area while not alleviating the needs of the Puerto Rican community there has set the stage for a full investigation of what it means for Puerto Ricans and the Latino community in general to claim a place as their own. This is within the context of the Puerto Rican neighborhoods of North Philadelphia, Mexican immigration, changing attitudes of the youth, and acknowledgment of varying aspirations and viewpoints within the Latino community. This conglomeration paired with the need and demand for better public services, employment opportunities and understanding set this investigative cycle in motion.
In constructing this cycle we started with the premise that affirming ones Latino ethnic heritage is a political statement and a form of placemaking. Just think of the controversy over Latino studies programs(1) in some quarters of the country, the underfunding of bilingual education(2) , and in the inability for politicians to find common ground on immigration reform (this despite a growing national consensus to solve this (3)), and see that Latinos who were not political feel nonetheless politicized by their very presence or absence. In this light, any action taken by Latinos in America to assert themselves and their heritage is place making, and artists, whose work may seem far removed from these discussions, are nevertheless drawn in. Pressures on the Latino community is also displayed by cutting public funding for social services for the most neediest and replacing it by Neo Liberal models that call for privatization and the marketing of culture (4) (while at the same time white washing any cultural distinctions by applying universalist calls for Latindad without acknowledging national distinctions (5).) This meant that for this cycle we had to cast a wide net to show the different views points of the Latino community, that which we have now, the immigrant, the contemporary, the next generation, and the transnational. This then is an unconventional exhibition cycle that was challenging to the artists who were, for some, asked to move away from the comfort zone of their disciplines and to think of the idea of what is their community and how they fit in.
The eight selected exhibitions for the cycle come from a variety of communities and disciplines. All these exhibitions highlight the distinct ways Latino artists are seeing their world and claiming place within their community. In the cycle we show works from artists and groups who reflected on the concept of claiming places. The exhibitions include:
- No Me Conformo [I don’t Conform nor Accept], 9/28 – 11/10/2012, César Viveros Herrera, born in Mexico, muralist and traditional Aztec and Mayan Performer;
- Aqui Estamos [Here We Are), 9/28 – 12/1/2012, Ahdanah (Leticia Roa Nixon), born in Mexico, photo journalist and author;
- Triangulations: Revisiting OYWPP, 12/7 – 1/19/2013, Merián Soto, from Puerto Rico, a choreographer and dancer;
- Dreams & Realities, 1/25 – 3/23/2013, Philadelphia student artists from Taller’s Youth Artist Program (YAP);
- Entre Sombras – Site of Memory, 2/8 – 3/30/2013, Esperanza Cortés, born in Colombia, installation artist and painter;
- CP LAB, 3/30 – 7/19/2013, Ariel Vazquez, born in Dominican Republic, an urban planner, and the Counter Narrative Society’s (CNS), from Chili and San Francisco, an artistic-research-activist unit;
- Futuro Metálico, 4/19 – 5/25/2013, Dino Vazquez, born in Puerto Rico, artist and vernacular architect;
- Photography Without Borders (PWB) The Exhibition, 6/14 – 7/20/2013, Tony Rocco and the children from North Philadelphia and La Florida, Colombia, photography exhibition.
Curated by Rafael Damast
1 “Rift in Arizona as Latino Class Is Found Illegal” – NYT 1/7/2011
2 “Suburban Chicago Schools Lag as Bilingual Needs Grow” – NYT 2/9/2012
3 “POLL AFTER POLL: AMERICAN PUBLIC WANTS IMMIGRATION REFORM WITH CITIZENSHIP,” Americas Voice Online, 1/23/13, An aggregate of polling data :http://goo.gl/34R8P
4 Arlene Davila, Barrio Dreams, 2004
5 Arlene Davila, Barrio Dreams, 2004 & Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies of the Historical Society of Philadelphia, Latino Philadelphia:Our Journeys, Our Communities, 2004