As most people know through news coverage if not personal connections, Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico virtually in shambles last September, and restoring and rebuilding has been slow going, at best. Residents continue to face many difficulties, not least of which are life’s basics: electricity; food, water and other goods; safe housing; and jobs. Many left the island for safer living conditions and quality of life in Orlando and elsewhere. Whether their moves were temporary or permanent, they left behind the lives they knew. And that includes Puerto Rico’s arts and culture. What happened to it since the storm hit? Like the citizens of Puerto Rico, the arts are resilient, but they still need help.
A sense of community emerged from The Museum of Art of Ponce to help residents in the aftermath. Fortunately the exterior of the museum didn’t suffer much physical damage, inside is as if nothing ever happened. And thanks to its own power plant was able to open its doors to the public 7 days after the disaster. The museum provided a refuge of sorts: residents could come in, enjoy cooled air, and leave stress behind for a while.
Another side of the post-storm art scene is art-focused and active. In 2017 in the old town of Ponce, the Ponce es Ley event allowed artists from around the island to come and make art to enrich the town and bring attention back to it. Once that project was finished, the community was invited to a “treasure hunt”: find all the murals around the town. As a result of bringing the together this way, Ponce re-established itself as the center of the community.
Unfortunately, most of the murals became discolored, some have cracks, and some are no longer distinguishable. The damaged murals need to be restored, but there seems to be little chance of that happening in the foreseeable future.
Around the island other art projects have been underway, such as the Yaucromatic II project, intended to restore the town of Yauco and to include the community. The artists began working on this project on July 1st, 2018 and finished on July 14th, 2018 with an event open to the public. With the aid of the community, artists decorated 16 homes and recreational areas to make the town one big mural. And this past summer, the Art Truck Expo 2018 created by the group Santurce es Ley welcomed six artists from the island to decorate trucks donated by area workers. The purpose of the event was to show that the Puerto Rico art scene is coming back full force.
Thanks to Ponce es Ley, Yaucromatic II and other art projects being done in Puerto Rico today allow residents and tourists to explore a colorful Puerto Rico after the calamity . . . and to show the ones who had to leave that Puerto Rico needs help from its people to keep it colorful, vibrant and strong.
This article is by Iris Cintron of Ponce, PR, who is a contributing writer for ArtScene Press.
Linda Saracino, the editor of ArtScene Press, also contributed to this article.
Image 1 caption: Corazon by David Zayas, photo credit Iris Citron.
Image 2 caption: Manatee by BORDALO II, photo credit Iris Citron
Image 3 caption: Calle Amor, Ponce, PR, Artist Javier Cintron. Photo credit Iris Citron
Image 4 caption: Artist Don Rimx, photo credit Iris Citron