Revitalizing Through the Arts: The Puerto Rico Art Museum

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.


Nestled in the heart of busy Santurce, the Puerto Rico Art Museum is the guardian of one of the island’s most prominent art collections. The silence of its halls lets you know this is a space designed for the contemplation of beauty.

The mission of the Puerto Rico Art Museum is to enrich the life of the general public by providing a space to learn about, appreciate and enjoy the visual arts of Puerto Rico and the world. With 24 exhibition halls, its dynamic and innovative permanent and temporary collections offer visitors the opportunity to explore the works of a diverse selection of artists, historical periods and themes, allowing them to discover the development of local and international art.

The Museum also houses a very busy education department. In the workshops you can see (and hear) children and adults interacting with artists and creating pieces of their own.

We asked the Museum’s team to answer five questions about their work. Read on to learn more about this Arts Fund grantee.

 

What’s the story behind the creation of the Puerto Rico Art Museum?

In 1995, the Tourism Company of Puerto Rico began to conduct several studies with the goal of creating “El Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico” (or MAPR, for short).  The government agreed to restore the Municipal Hospital of San Juan in order to house the MAPR.

In the midst of the construction, the first exhibit of the museum was created. Its title was Spaces in Transition – Transition in Spaces.  In that same year, the museum received the first art piece for its permanent collection.  This piece was titled The Virgin of Solitude of Victory and was created by the renowned Puerto Rican artist, José Campeche.

On June 30, 2000, the MAPR was inaugurated to the public along with an exhibition titled The Treasures of Puerto Rican Art.  This exhibition was a result of a joint collaboration between the main cultural institutions of Puerto Rico, the Musée d’Orsay, and 50 private collectors.

 

What are the Museum’s main achievements?

The MAPR, a center for the cultural heritage of the Puerto Rican people, opened its doors 19 years ago with the goal of making the knowledge, appreciation, and enjoyment of the visual arts of Puerto Rico and the world accessible to all.  Since then, the MAPR has received over two million visitors through its doors.  The Museum has also presented over 100 exhibitions of both local and international artists, given a range of workshops, courses, seminars, investigative and educational programs, concerts, talks, and symposiums.  Together, these events have impacted the lives of students, teachers, families, and members of the community in a positive manner.

The MAPR offers educational and artistic programs that enrich the lives of both international and local individuals.  The Museum offers experiences for people of all ages in a way that allows each individual to enjoy and become familiar with different manifestations of art.

After Hurricane Maria in 2017, the MAPR led efforts to rescue the historical and cultural heritage of Puerto Rico.  The Museum allotted provisional space to help other museums in the community by safely storing their works of art.  Countless museums and institutions saw themselves unable to store their own collections because they did not have adequate humidity and temperature controlled spaces to house them.  The Museum became a sanctuary for over 100 pieces of art, in the hopes of preserving the island’s artistic history for future generations.

 

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

At about noon on Tuesday, November 7th, almost 50 days after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, electrical power was restored to the Museum-but the celebrations were short-lived.  That same night, torrential rains poured over San Juan. Due to the damages of the surrounding landscape and the clogging of drainage systems, massive floods erupted.

It was on this day that the MAPR suffered its greatest devastation yet. The Museum’s education department, which served hundreds of thousands of students, families, and teachers over the 17 years of its existence, was totally destroyed.  In the course of several hours, over four feet of water did away with all of its equipment, materials, art workshops, workspaces, and audiovisual rooms.

The unprecedented restoration and rebuilding costs that the Museum had to take on were monumental: the damages caused by the Hurricane to the gardens and the infrastructure; the cash disbursement needed to maintain the generator in order to preserve the art pieces; the transportation, materials, and labor of the Museum staff leveraged in the rescue of the Puerto Rican heritage; the work that still needs to be done to restore damaged pieces of art and this new and adverse situation, have all dealt a strong economic blow to the MAPR, which was already struggling before the storm due to Puerto Rico’s frail economy.

 

How are you using the funds you received?

The funds received by the Museum are being used to reconstruct the space damaged by the floods, which will become the Educational Innovation Center of the MAPR.

 

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?  

It has been the ideal collaboration at the perfect time.  For years, the Flamboyan Foundation has been carrying out a miraculous deed by helping the education, arts, and culture of Puerto Rico.  The collaboration of the Foundation with the Miranda Family and the Hamilton production has helped amplify the possibilities of aid in Puerto Rico and has shed light on both the need for help that many cultural and artistic institutions find themselves in and the great talents and expressions of art that can be found in Puerto Rico.

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/.