El Museo del Barrio Names New Executive Director

Jorge Daniel Veneciano, who as the director of the Sheldon Museum of Art at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, increased its operating budget by 50 percent and established an African-American Masters collection, will become the executive director of El Museo del Barrio on March 1, museum officials said on Friday.

Jorge Daniel Veneciano

Jorge Daniel Veneciano

Mr. Veneciano, 55, inherits a museum with a budget of about $5.3 million that is considered a major center for Latino art and culture. But it has endured a tumultuous year that began with eight layoffs from its 41-person staff, two-month staff furloughs and a cutback in its days of operation, to four from six.

Mr. Veneciano succeeds Margarita Aguilar, who left in February. Having been the director since August 2011, she later filed a claim of gender discrimination and a hostile workplace with the New York State Division of Human Rights. Its officials dismissed the claim, but her legal battle continues with a new petition filed with the New York State Supreme Court. The museum said she was dismissed for poor performance.

In addition, the chief curator; the deputy executive director, who took over daily operations after Ms. Aguilar’s departure; and the development director have all left El Museo for other jobs. Tony Bechara, the chairman of the board of El Museo, said that Mr. Veneciano had “a broad, inclusive vision that will make El Museo a center of pride in our community and a source of cultural influence and inspiration in New York and around the world.”

When asked about the museum’s problems, Mr. Veneciano said in a telephone interview on Thursday that “it’s a pivotal moment in the organization’s history” and that the difficulties presented an opportunity to rebuild.

“I see the organization in a kind of renaissance,” he said. He added that he looked forward to filling the vacant positions and working with the East Harlem community that is home to El Museo, at 1230 Fifth Avenue, at 104th Street. He met with the museum staff on Friday.

On the positive side, the museum now has a budget surplus of $144,000, according to officials there. Its annual gala raised about $1.1 million, and the board raised $1 million through individual giving and a matching grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The Ford Foundation has also granted the museum $1.6 million over three years for a strategic plan.

Before taking his job at the Sheldon Museum in 2008, Mr. Veneciano was the director of the Paul Robeson Galleries at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., from 2005 to 2008. From 1994 to 1999 he was the curator of exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, according to his résumé.

“He’s very smart,” Pat Cruz, the executive director of Harlem Stage, said on Thursday. “I found him an excellent colleague during his tenure at the Studio Museum. Certainly, he is knowledgeable about art history and art-making across a broad spectrum.”

Therees Hibbard, the associate director of choral activities at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, said that Mr. Veneciano formed “wonderful collaborations with different departments” during his tenure.

Mr. Veneciano acknowledged the challenges of an institution that is still sometimes roiled by questions of identity. El Museo was founded in 1969 by Puerto Rican artists and activists, but expanded its mission in 1994 to reflect the broader Latino culture. The museum’s permanent collection contains pre-Columbian Taíno artifacts, as well as 20th- and 21st-century drawings, paintings, sculptures, prints and photography.

“Puerto Rican art and culture will always be the heart and soul of El Museo,” said Mr. Veneciano, who was born in Argentina but grew up in Los Angeles. “The imperative 40 years ago was to find a place for people who went unrecognized in society,” he said. “Today, the imperative is more about connectivity.”

Michael M. Kaiser, the president of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington and the founder of its DeVos Institute of Arts Management, which helps nonprofits, said that Mr. Veneciano “has vision and a real commitment to the various communities El Museo services.”

“He can assemble a team,” he said. Mr. Kaiser has been working with El Museo for the last seven months to develop a strategic plan. “It’s been a hard year, but there have been some real accomplishments,” Mr. Kaiser said of El Museo.

By   Published: December 13, 2013

Mural at the center of East Harlem Council race pitting Melissa Mark-Viverito vs. Gwen Goodwin

Newcomer claims incumbent ordered up a grotesque mural for her building. She’s  also claiming someone stole her campaign banner.

Graffiti artist David Sepulveda painted this mural on candidate Gwen Goodwin’s East Harlem building — and the would-be political leader believes that he was put up to it by Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Graffiti artist David Sepulveda painted this mural on candidate Gwen Goodwin’s East Harlem building — and the would-be political leader believes that he was put up to it by Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito.

As political scandals go, this one’s pretty fowl.

Someone not only stole a campaign banner on City Council candidate Gwen  Goodwin’s building — but then painted a none-too-subtle mural of a bird with a  severed head that she says was commissioned by the incumbent, Melissa  Mark-Viverito.

The so-called “Chickengate” scandal burst into the open last Sunday, when  Goodwin, one of four hopefuls trying to unseat Mark-Viverito in East Harlem,  discovered the missing flyer and called cops, claiming she saw her landlord  steal the campaign banner.

Sepulveda (right with Alex Seel) is doing such massive murals all over Harlem and the Bronx.

Sepulveda (right with Alex Seel) is doing such massive murals all over Harlem and the Bronx.

“They stole my sign,” the enraged Goodwin told the News.

But this mystery goes back far further than last week.

Months earlier, Eastside Managers Associates, which owns Goodwin’s building  at 152 E. 100th St., volunteered the walk-up’s facade to Los Muros Hablan a  multi-borough project spearheaded by Mark-Viverito and the El Museo del  Barrio.

The project’s name is Spanish for “The Walls Speak.” And in this case,  Goodwin thinks they speak volumes.

Her building’s wall was handed over to David “RIMX” Sepulveda, who promptly  covered it with a colorful image a severed rooster-like head attached to a  wooden scaffold.

Gwen Goodwin (with David Corbin in a file photo) says Melissa Mark-Viverito is behind the massive mural.

Gwen Goodwin (with David Corbin in a file photo) says Melissa Mark-Viverito is behind the massive mural.

No one is commenting about the artwork — Eastside Managers, Sepulveda, the  museum and Mark-Viverito didn’t return calls — leaving Goodwin to have a cow  over this weird bird.

“This a picture of a bird who’s head has been severed from its body,” she  wrote in a mass email to supporters. “I have been told in the Puerto Rican  culture it means ‘problem solved.’”

Goodwin claimed the painting has connections to Santeria, a mix of ancient  African rituals with voodoo and some Catholicism. But Caribbean art expert Marta  Moreno Vega said Goodwin is no religion expert.

“This woman has issues,” said Vega, president of the Caribbean Cultural  Center African Diaspora Institute in East Harlem. “The bird has no reference to  the African religion.”

Told that she’s off base on Santeria, Goodwin tried to keep the focus on the  scandal and its feathery implications.

“I am running for City Council against Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was  responsible for commissioning this so-called art,” she said.

simonew@nydailynews.com

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/political-scandal-fowl-east-harlem-article-1.1445773#ixzz2dysjnu2e

Patience for Reopening Latino Cultural Space Is Gone

Two spaces inside the Julia De Burgos Cultural Center, a city-owned building in East Harlem, have been closed for over 18 months.

Two spaces inside the Julia De Burgos Cultural Center, a city-owned building in East Harlem, have been closed for over 18 months.

The Julia de Burgos Cultural Center, a city-owned building in East Harlem, has long been an important hub for the neighborhood’s Latino population. Named after a renowned Puerto Rican poet, the five-story building served as a place for local artists to showcase their work and residents to gather to celebrate birthdays, hold funerals, discuss community affairs and dance salsa.

“It was about all of us coming together,” said Marina Ortiz, founder of East Harlem Preservation, a group dedicated to preserving East Harlem’s culture and history. Ms. Ortiz said she used to visit the center regularly for almost 20 years, before New York City officials closed a large multipurpose space and theater there over a year and a half ago for renovation and to find a new operator.

Eugene Rodriguez, who lives in East Harlem, is part of a protest campaign to try to pressure the city into reopening the spaces.

Eugene Rodriguez, who lives in East Harlem, is part of a protest campaign to try to pressure the city into reopening the spaces.

“It was torn out from under us,” she said, adding that her efforts to determine why it was taking so long to reopen the two rooms had been futile. Other parts of the center remain in use, but work has not even begun on the renovation.

Having grown frustrated, a coalition of community leaders and artists plan to stage a series of street performances as a form of protest outside the Julia de Burgos center, starting Wednesday, to pressure the city.

“It’s not about one show; it’s about no show,” said Eugene Rodriguez, a playwright and longtime resident of East Harlem who is leading the effort. “Latino artists have no access to Latino institutions in the neighborhood. It kills me. It really kills me.”

Mr. Rodriguez, 65, swallowed, looked away and started to cry.

City officials contend the changes will benefit the neighborhood and local cultural groups. But many residents and activists say they view the delay as part of the marginalization of East Harlem’s working-class Latino population and the city’s disinterest in preserving the Puerto Rican identity of a neighborhood undergoing a slow but steady gentrification.

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Crossing 96th Street’s Great Divide

20130602ALBUMss-slide-7Q4V-articleLargeNinety-sixth Street was long the border between the Upper East Side and El Barrio, Spanish Harlem. To the north, the train tracks beneath Park Avenue leapt above ground, and Carnegie Hill’s regular grid and uniform prosperity gave way to a patchwork of public housing and poverty. Today, the old divide is less visible, and the blocks to its north are intriguingly animated by contrasts and surprises.

ALONG FIFTH AVENUE, elegantly fronted apartment buildings, medical complexes and museums run in a virtually continuous row up to 110th Street. There, 1 Museum Mile, a luxury condo designed with funky trapezoidal windows by Robert A. M. Stern Architects, will eventually house the Museum for African Art.

RAPHAEL MONTAÑEZ ORTIZ, an avant-garde artist, founded El Museo del Barrio in 1969 to introduce the neighborhood’s Puerto Rican culture into the city’s school curriculums. It moved from one public school to another until landing in its current home, on 104th Street, in the mid-1970s; its collection now includes more than 6,000 Latin American artworks. The building was once an orphanage, and its charming Heckscher Theater, decorated in the 1920s with fairy tale murals intended to delight young foundlings, dates from that time.

02stop-map-thumbWideOPPOSITE THE MUSEUM, fin de siècle gates open onto the Central Park Conservatory Garden. The Italian, French and English sections have their own horticultural moods. At the heart of the English garden is a fountain dedicated to the author Frances Hodgson Burnett; the bronze boy and girl could be straight out of her book, “The Secret Garden.” Plenty of real children come to enjoy the blooms. Abdoulaye Fall, from Senegal, brings his son Elijah, 9, after school. “He likes to run among the fountains,” he said.

THE CARVER HOUSES, a 1950s public housing project named for George Washington Carver — who, born a slave, became director of agricultural research at Tuskegee Institute — stretches across 14 acres along Madison Avenue, from 99th Street to 106th. On Park Avenue, a stone viaduct supporting elevated train lines further disrupts the usual street pattern. But Lexington’s streets are bustling, and community gardens fill formerly vacant lots.

COLORFUL MOSAIC FLOWERS welcome readers to La Casa Azul, a Latino book shop on 103rd Street, between Lexington and Park Avenues. This weekend, Aurora Anaya-Cerda will celebrate her store’s first anniversary with an exhibition of five artists’ interpretations of Frida Kahlo in the gallery space one floor below. Outside, there’s a back garden for other cultural programs.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD IS CHANGING rapidly. The P.S. 109 building, at 99th Street, is becoming an “Artspace” with affordable housing for artists and 10,000 square feet for community arts organizations and nonprofits. But change brings loss as well as opportunity. With this in mind, the East Harlem Cafe will host East Harlem Preservation’s annual fund-raiser on June 5.

Legendary painter Manny Vega is back in East Harlem doing what he does best: creating another mural masterwork

Award winning artist and muralist Manny Vega is creating a memorial mural to a Spanish Harlem icon, the late Dr. Antonia Pantoja. Vega, a sculptor, painter, illustrator, printmaker, costume and set designer, is also highly sought as an instructor at El Museo del Barrio, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the American Museum of Natural History and the Caribbean Cultural Center.

Award winning artist and muralist Manny Vega is creating a memorial mural to a Spanish Harlem icon, the late Dr. Antonia Pantoja. Vega, a sculptor, painter, illustrator, printmaker, costume and set designer, is also highly sought as an instructor at El Museo del Barrio, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the American Museum of Natural History and the Caribbean Cultural Center.

When he was a kid, Manny Vega used to sneak into the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“At 11 years old I used to make the trek from Third Avenue and 97th St. to the Met,” Vega said. “I used to sneak in look at all the Greek statues. I would go regularly. The guards would see me and say, ‘This kid is here again?’

“I would get home and get a whipping from my father, and then the next day do it again.”

Manuel Vega Sr. probably thought he had reason to worry about his eccentric son, who picked up sewing by watching his mother Elena, a seamstress, make clothes on the machine next to his bed and was partial to playing Conga drums around the neighborhoods in the Bronx and East Harlem the family called home.

“I was always the artist in the group,” Vega said. “It came from watching my mother sew, watching my sister do bead work. It was just monkey see, monkey do.”

Papa need not have worried.

Manny Vega was gifted.

Better still, people recognized the kid’s gifts.

His High School for Art and Design teacher, Marshall Davis, tracked down Vega in the hallway, while the student was cutting his printmaking class, and dragged him back.

“He said, ‘Manny, there are a lot of artist who don’t have the spark that you have,’” Vega said. “‘You gotta know that you have it. Technique is technique, but the spark is what we live for. So please, don’t cut my class.’

“That was the first time I think in my life I felt an acknowledgment,” he said.

It happened again when Vega, living a “gypsy lifestyle” among the emerging East Harlem art and music scene in the mid 1970s, came across a white guy, Hank Prussing, standing high on a ladder on 104th St., creating his famous mural called “The Spirit of East Harlem.”

“I yelled up at him that he should let me help him with that,” Vega said. “He came down the ladder and asked me if I knew how to hold a paint brush. I said sure, and next thing I was up the ladder, too.”

Vega, 56, has since created dozens of murals and mosaic murals in public and private spaces throughout the city, most notably at the Pregones Theater in the Bronx, at the 110th St. subway station and on E. 106th St. between Lexington and Third Aves.

The community group originally asked him to paint the mural of Julia De Burgos, the famed Puerto Rican educator and activist, and budgeted about $1,000 for it, Vega said. He instead proposed the now-iconic mosaic mural, and suggested they solicit public donations toward a $20,000 budget.

“I said, ‘Let’s create a campaign and pass the hat around,’” he said. “We came up with the money like that, because the community wanted it.”

Last month an East Harlem group announced that Vega would create a memorial mural for the late Puerto Rican educator and ASPIRA founder Dr. Antonia Pantoja. The final location for Pantoja’s mural is still being determined, but Vega created a limited-edition engraving of Pantoja, which he will sell to raise money toward the estimated $100,000 project.

“What I love about Dr. Antonia was that she considered herself a Puerto Rican New Yorker, and that that configuration is a unique, special one which merits recognition,” Vega said. “This image of Antonia is going to influence a whole new generation of young folks in what it means to be a community activist, to be a person of service.

“That image has to be perpetuated, because it is also a legacy of our humanity.”

A sculptor, painter, illustrator, printmaker, costume and set designer, Vega is also a highly sought instructor who has taught at El Museo del Barrio, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the American Museum of Natural History and the Caribbean Cultural Center.

Influences on Vega’s work are myriad, but none more pronounced than Candomblé, the Afro-Brazilian religion he has followed since a 1984 visit to a temple in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, and his late wife, Ana Araiz, a latin music promoter who died of brain cancer in 2001. Vega slips a crab, Araiz’s astrological sign, into much of his work in memorial to her.

He created a colorful mosaic mural of her, which keeps watch over his studio work space.

“I was born for this,” said Vega, noting that he doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon. “Hard work, for me, is what I pray for. Hard work is the biggest blessing in my life, because hard work has presented limits for me to shatter.

“Hard work has made it possible for me to recognize how I have been a contributor,” he added. “Not just be the person in the audience being entertained, but that I can take what comes to me and recycle it.

“It’s important to me that people recognize that. That they can contribute. I always say, did you ask yourself?

“Then how you gonna know?”

crichardson@nydailynews.com

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/manny-can-do-legendary-painter-plans-newest-mural-article-1.1251626#ixzz2KR3tcmeh

Maoz Vegetarian Comes to Central Park’s Harlem Meer

MANHATTAN — Falafel balls and Belgian fries by way of Amsterdam have arrived in Central Park’s Harlem Meer.

The Dutch chain Maoz Vegetarian opened in a kiosk a few weeks ago at East 106th Street and Fifth Avenue, marking the company’s seventh New York City location.

Maoz Vegetarian opened at the end of May at Central Park's Harlem Meer. (Facebook/Maoz Vegetarian)

Maoz Vegetarian opened at the end of May at Central Park’s Harlem Meer. (Facebook/Maoz Vegetarian)

The Parks Department, which has been diversifying Central Park’s food options beyond hot dogs and pretzels toward healthier, and often, more gourmet, offerings, officially welcomed Maoz on Wednesday to its new spot near such cultural institutions as El Museo del Barrio and the Museum of the City of New York.

“The addition of Maoz Vegetarian to the menu of options offered to visitors of Central Park continues to provide those of all tastes a choice meal when experiencing the park,” Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said in a statement.

“Moving beyond classic New York City cart foods, visitors of different tastes can now extend their time at Central Park with a vegetarian choice with some of Maoz Vegetarian’s delicious options such as the falafel sandwich.”

Also on the menu will be Maoz’s popular pita with salad, sweet potato fries, muffins, fresh squeezed juice and mint lemonade.

Maoz signed an 8-year contract for the space, according to the Parks Department, which said the establishment will be open at least through mid-November every year. It will operate seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (subject to seasonal changes and weather related circumstances).

“The public wants a greater variety of food other than hot dogs,” Glenn Kaalund, a project manager in the Parks Department’s Revenue Division, told the Upper East Side’s Community Board 8 at a meeting last year, explaining the agency’s efforts to cater to different palates.

Park-goers can now find anything from Sigmund’s artisanal hand-rolled pretzels in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the upscale Rouge Tomate’s grass fed bison burger or Morroccan chicken sandwich at East 60th Street and Fifth Avenue.

“Tourists love hot dogs,” Kaalund said. “But those of us that are local — not many of us make a stop at a hot dog stand.”

Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20120613/carnegie-hill/maoz-vegetarian-comes-central-parks-harlem-meer#ixzz1xicSekMr

A curator’s mission: Keep art exhibits at East Harlem’s El Museo del Barrio informative and interesting

El Museo del Barrio curator Rocio Aranda-Alvarado strives to put on exhibits that are historic as well as contemporary

Here’s how Rocío Aranda-Alvarado describes her mission as curator at East Harlem’s El Museo del Barrio.

Rocio Aranda-Alvarado, curator of East Harlem's El Museo del Barrio  Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/a-curator-mission-art-exhibits-east-harlem-el-museo-del-barrio-informative-interesting-article-1.1048138#ixzz1ptnpLZAf“It requires a lot of intellectual curiosity, and you have to care about how you’re conveying your message to the public,” she said. “You want them to come away with a complete story about something they might not have known about or cared about before.

“You have to make them interested, make them want to learn more and acknowledge the importance of whatever it is they just saw.”

El Museo del Barrio’s massive and varied collection is almost tailor made to that end, she said.

“The museum’s mission comes from the collection, which has pre-Colombian objects in it, Colonial objects in it, modern and contemporary objects as well as objects that fall into popular traditions, handmade objects made by artists who were not trained in a traditional way.

“So we have to pay attention to all those things,” she said. “We have to do shows that are historic as well as shows that are contemporary.

“In a way, the historic shows are more important because they contribute to developing a history of art that is more inclusive,” Aranda-Alvarado said. “It’s not just about what was going on in Europe. It’s about what was happening here also.”

Aranda-Alvarado discovered a love for art when she was a 16-year-old volunteer at the National Gallery in Washington, DC. She worked the Sunday shift with her mother, Elsie Alvarado, riding in together from their Silver Spring, Md. home.

The family had immigrated to the United States from Chile in 1974 and lived on the West Coast and in the Midwest before settling in Maryland.

Volunteering at the National Gallery most often meant giving directions to the nearest bathroom, but what hooked Aranda-Alvarado was the behind the scenes tours of the museum departments.

“I remember once we were about to visit the department of prints and drawings, and we saw a print by the German Renaissance Artist Albrecht Durer,” she said. “To be there, three feet from the unframed print, was an amazing experience.”

(Following tradition, Aranda-Alvarado took her mother’s surname but added her attorney father’s, Patricio Aranda. Her husband, James Congregane, is facilities manager at the Bard Graduate Center.)

Aranda-Alvarado would go on to earn a bachelor’s Degree from the University of Maryland, a master’s from Tulane University, and a Ph.D. from City University of New York, each in a specialized area of art history.

She teaches an introductory art class at CUNY and joined El Museo in 2006 after nine years at the Jersey City Museum.

And she’s glad to be there.

“I love my job, I love my colleagues,” Aranda-Alvarado said. “My favorite part of my job is visiting with an artist in their studio and listening to them talk about what they think, where the ideas come from, why they do the work they do. Because making art is one of the hardest things you can do. Artists follow their paths because its something they love and something they can’t stop themselves from doing. They take our culture and kinda make sense of it.

“East Harlem has a rich art scene, from graffiti, street art and murals throughout the neighborhood to the monthly shows mounted by Taller Boricua at the Julia De Burgos Latino Cultural Center and the well-known artists who still live in the neighborhood, like Diogenes Ballester.

“Artists continue to live here, and new artists come all the time, so there is a vibrant art community,” Aranda-Alvarado said.

As curator Aranda-Alvarado organizes El Museo’s exhibits, which are usually either from the permanent collection, which stay up for about a year, or temporary exhibitions mounted in five of the museum’s galleries, which stay up about six months.

In June, El Museo will join with The Studio Museum in Harlem and The Queens Museum of Art to mount a show that was six years in the making.

That exhibit, “Caribbean, Crossroads of the World,” will feature more than 435 art pieces gathered from Europe, Central and South America, the Caribbean and all across New York and the United States, to explore six broad themes — including tobacco and sugar crops, water, race, and languages — which shaped the history and making of art in the Caribbean.

The exhibit “involved two years of traveling research where curators from the Studio Museum, Queens Museum and El Museo went to different parts of the Caribbean to meet with artists, art museums, art historians, and museum colleagues,” Aranda-Alvarado said.

The show is so huge it will involve three opening nights – El Museo del Barrio, June 12; The Studio Museum on June 14, and Queens Museum of Art on June 17.

“It’s something that has not been done before,” Aranda-Alvarado said. “It’s not like there was a gap in the scholarship, because there are many Caribbean scholars. It’s just that there was kind of a need to bring some people together and bring objects together to tell the story.

“We felt it was a great project to focus on because our mission is Latin American, Caribbean and Puerto Rican art,” she said. “This exhibit dovetails with our mission and it expands our purview into the non-Spanish-speaking Caribbean.”

For more on the museums hosting the Caribbean exhibit, see the websites, www.elmuseo.org; www.studiomuseum.org; and www.queensmuseum.org.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/a-curator-mission-art-exhibits-east-harlem-el-museo-del-barrio-informative-interesting-article-1.1048138#ixzz1ptnbRnMZ

New York’s Spanish Harlem- A Place of the Past?

Issues like child abuse, domestic violence; sexual abuse, rape, mental illness, and drug and alcohol abuse are real life disasters hardly ever spoken of in polite Latino society. What would the nosey neighbors think? Worse yet what would they say? And when one is Gay in a family, one conceals who one is because of what others will think and if they do respond it most likely be the worst possible condemnation, a horror show of dogmatic religiosity. As Latinos, many of us live in denial, sweet, heavy, exhausting denial in order not to deal with reality that we are less than perfect. What would God say? Worse yet, what would God gossip about us?

Living in lies, half-truths and concealing reality has been a way of dealing. This is a small start for New York Latinos: Spanish Harlem, El Barrio is slowly becoming non-existent. Because of gentrification, the once thriving Manhattan Latino community will one day be no more. Because of artists, politicians and developers, this community is on life support and will one day die and fade away. Even with the housing projects, the poor people there will slowly be moved out and El Barrio will be no more.

Latinos must come to terms and come to grips with the reality that people have moved in and taken over. And very few Latinos have done anything to stop it in the last 15 years.

The gentrification began years ago when El Museo del Barrio, which was first created by Puerto Ricans, became co-opted by wealthy museum mavens who changed the museum’s mission from a community-based organization to a Spanish arts museo. Where were the voices of protests? Where was the real little boy to say the Emperor has no clothes?

Ten years ago in 2001, El Barrio was bustling with Latino life. Events like Julia’s Jam at Julia de Burgos Cultural Center were packed with appreciators of poetry and music. “Siempre” newspaper was the community newspaper to read. A small community shopping mall opened. Summer street festivals teemed with people. Latino life thrived for only a short time during a final crescendo of good feeling before vultures flew overhead signaling that the corpse was ready for devouring. The cancerous consumption commenced. No one now wants to believe that the end is near.  Someday soon El Barrio as one remembers it will be no more, a thing of the past, only living in memories.

The first line of gentrification has always been the artists who come into a low rent community, bringing their art and making life so quaint with bars, coffee shops, galleries, poetry readings and art happenings. The neighborhood soon gets better services in spite of the fact that, after years when Latinos and African Americans lived there, no one noticed or cared. Soon the artists can’t afford to live in a community they helped change.

The community was heralded in the press as being new, up and coming, then landlords raised rents. Developers began building, not for members of the community. No, they’re on their way out but for the more affluent.

Latino Barrio politicians have sold out the community for development, slowly putting herself out of business because when there are no more Latinos who will vote and the politician’s usefulness gone, then it will be time to vote for someone new. The kind of gentrification coming to El Barrio is the same that has come to central Harlem, with large corporate outlets on every corner. Today, no one wants to recognize that the Apaches are being moved from the Reservation – again.

But, Latinos in El Barrio live in a cloud of purple haze. Maybe this is the only way to get through the day – a big, generous spoonful of denial to make reality go down right. Denial might be good for the psyche because to face all of life’s harsh realities square on could be mentally damaging. We might become depressed leading us to feelings of powerlessness then we turn to the bottle, the drugs or worse the needle. In denial, hurt, alone in a hospital we’ll say “the Devil made me do it.” Makes more sense than facing the truth.

Don’t Miss the 34th Annual Three Kings Parade – East Harlem

Thursday, January 6th, 10:30 AM, beginning at East 106th Street and Park Avenue.  The 34th Annual Three Kings Parade (sponsored by El Museo Del Barrio) will walk down the blocks of East Harlem this Thursday so don’t miss out on catching a glimpse of Melchor, Caspar and Balthazar followed by several camels strolling up Third and Lexington Avenue: LINK.

 

El Día de los Reyes is the Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus in Latin countries and tradition has it that those children who leave their polished shoes under their beds, in preparation for the arrival of the kings of Europe, Arabia and Africa, will receive gifts the next day.  In Puerto Rico, the custom manifest itself as leaving hay in a box under the bed to feed the camels. 

Come early to check out the crowds, costumes and various floats since the route is only for about a dozen blocks and the entire parade runs well under an hours time.

 

Luis Camnitzer At El Museo del Barrio in Harlem

El Museo del Barrio is proud to announce that Luis Camnitzer, a traveling exhibition exploring five decades of work by the conceptual artist and writer Luis Camnitzer organized by Daros Latinamerica, Zurich, will be on view February 2 – May 29, 2011.

Curated by Hans-Michael Herzog, director of Daros Latinamerica, and Katrin Steffen, co-curator, this fascinating retrospective includes approximately 70 pieces dating from 1966 to the present, assembled from the Daros Latinamerica Collection. The exhibition is part of El Museo’s FOCOS series, which highlights mature, under-recognized artists.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to present Camnitzer’s compelling work to our New York audiences, and to collaborate with Daros Latinamerica for the first time in this endeavor so closely allied to our own mission,” states Deborah Cullen, Director of Curatorial Programs at El Museo del Barrio. “Luis Camnitzer is an artist who has been critical to the New York art scene since the 1960s when he moved here, and his influence on the broader Latin American and conceptual field is profound.”

At the heart of his work lies the idea that artists are … ethical beings sifting right from wrong and just from unjust

A pioneer of conceptual art, Camnitzer takes a firm socio-political stance. At the heart of his work lies the idea that artists are not first creators of paintings or sculptures, but rather primarily ethical beings sifting right from wrong and just from unjust. He works in a variety of media—including installation, printmaking, drawing, and photography.

“Camnitzer has developed an essentially autonomous oeuvre, unmistakably distinguished from that of his U.S. colleagues by its exquisite feel for context and contingency, acerbic wit, ludic qualities, ironically metaphorical polyvalence, as well as its solid socio-political commitment,” notes Herzog. “The Daros Latinamerica Collection is proud to enjoy the largest collection of Camnitzer’s work, and is thrilled to share with El Museo’s audience this profound insight into his artistic life.”

A fully illustrated catalogue in English and Spanish published by Hatje Cantz Verlag accompanies the exhibition. In addition to a conversation between Luis Camnitzer and Hans-Michael Herzog, the publication includes essays by Sabeth Buchmann, Antonio Eligio Fernández (Tonel), Michael Glasmeier, Maren Welsch, and Camnitzer, along with a preface by Cullen.

El Museo del Barrio, 212.660.7102, www.elmuseo.org