Revitalizing Through the Arts: Meet Beta-Local

Flamboyan is working closely with twelve arts organizations on the island to preserve, amplify, and sustain the arts in Puerto Rico with an additional round of grantees to be announced this summer. This series will spotlight all twelve Arts Fund grantee organizations.


Old San Juan has long been known as a meeting space for artists. It is where the Escuela de Artes Plásticas (School of Plastic Arts) and the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (Institute of Puerto Rican Culture) are located. In addition, its cobblestone-covered streets mark it as the oldest part of the city. No wonder this is where Beta-Local has chosen to create a space for the experimentation of learning structures, discussion, and cultural production.

Beta-Local is a non-profit organization directed by artists, dedicated to supporting and promoting aesthetic practices and thinking in Puerto Rico through programs that promote the exchange of knowledge and transdisciplinary collaboration.

We asked the team at Beta-Local to answer five questions about their work. Read on to learn more about this organization.

 

What’s the story behind the creation of Beta-Local? What motivated you to found it?

Beta-Local was founded in 2009 by artists and educators Beatriz Santiago, José Cruz, and curator Michy Marxuach.  Currently, it is being managed by Pablo Guardiola, Sofía Gallisá Muriente, and Michael Linares, all of whom were initially participants in our programs. We encourage the exchange of knowledge, aid group efforts, and provide scholarships, workshops, a public library, and other resources for a wide range of collaborators.  As an organization, we firmly believe in the importance of free educational spaces now more than ever, given the deteriorating nature of the public school system in Puerto Rico.  Additionally, we are focusing our efforts to build relationships, create job opportunities, and provide professional development for cultural workers in order to counteract the effects of migration.

 

What are your main achievements?

Beta-Local aims to serve the island as a support network that connects and strengthens the artistic community and the cultural offerings in Puerto Rico by generating spaces of collaboration and learning.

We offer three programs:

  • La Iván Illich: this is an interdisciplinary platform of public programming where an exchange of ideas are facilitated through workshops, talks, exhibitions, publications, study groups, and other events.  This program is rooted in the idea that we all have something to teach and learn.
  • La Práctica: this is an investigative program with interdisciplinary events for artists, writers, cultural ambassadors, and individuals of other creative disciplines.  Participants convene in seminars where they share different processes and references.
  • The Harbor: On a monthly basis, we invite artists, curators, and thinkers from abroad to help develop projects in Puerto Rico, offer workshops or public talks, and serve as a resource for local artists.  In this manner, they coexist in our scene and broaden our network.

By convening artists to participate in these programs, we encourage the intellectual and professional development of diverse cultural agents and we serve as a space for the interaction and dialogue between different communities.  We are interested in the learning that takes place due to the generosity and diversity of experiences found in art because it is our understanding that these processes generate knowledge and new ideas.

After Hurricane Maria, we launched and managed an emergency fund for cultural workers, which yielded 109 scholarships valued over $405,000. The organization has taken advantage of the new connections it has made to advocate more deliberately for the support of these workers.  We have been invited to local and international forums to share our experiences and we have made it our responsibility as artists and as an organization to hold discussions about how we can best help support Puerto Rican art and culture in this time of crisis.

Over the last 10 years, Beta-Local has established a local and international network of collaborators who have enabled us to increase the impact of our work.  We are looking to create and inspire connections and projects beyond our organization and serve as a link between artists within and outside Puerto Rico.

 

What was the reality of your organization before receiving the Flamboyan Arts Fund grant?

Even though our organization increased its budget after the passing of the Hurricanes, all the aid we received then was solely for use that year, which left us in the same weak economic state the organization found itself in before it received the emergency funds.  Even so, this year we were able to take advantage of some of the new connections we made in this process and gain access to help from local and foreign foundations.  This new support from the Arts Fund will ensure our organization’s economic stability for the next three years.

 

How are you using the funds you received?

The funds provided to us by the Flamboyan Arts Fund will be directed towards the continuation of our three major programs, in addition to the creation of a new co-production fund.  This will allow us to continue to develop relationships and projects with past collaborators and beneficiaries of the emergency fund in different parts of Puerto Rico.

 

What do you think about this collaboration between Flamboyan Foundation, Lin-Manuel Miranda, his family and the producers of Hamilton to create this Fund to support arts and culture in Puerto Rico?  

We believe that it is essential for a robust fund to exist that is specifically designated to the support of the culture and arts of Puerto Rico.  We hope that the collaboration that emerged after Hurricane Maria is long-lived.  The cultural workers on our island occupy a unique place in the protection of our identity as a people, the narration of our history, and the proposal of alternatives to social and political issues.  Talent and need are in abundance and it satisfies us to know that a fund like this exists to directly support the sector.  Apart from this, it also satisfies us to know that this is an effort being promulgated directly from the Puerto Rican diaspora.

 

Look out next week for another opportunity to meet a Flamboyan Arts Fund inaugural grantee! Learn more about the Arts Fund @ http://www.flamboyanartsfund.org.


Neeltje van Marrissing Méndez is the Senior Director of Communications in our Puerto Rico office. Learn more about her at http://flamboyanfoundation.org/team_members/neeltje-l-van-marrissing-mendez/.