“Aquí vive gente: Museum of History and Community of Puerta de Tierra”, the inaugural presentation of a nascent community museum in San Juan, Puerto Rico by the grassroots art collective Brigada Puerta Tierra, attempts to ask questions about the caring of a legacy of neighborhood and collective action. It signifies a new approach for Storefront Art and Architecture (Storefront) under the direction of José Esparza Chong Cuy. Below as an extract from the press release. It is on view until September 7, 2019.
“This was all mangrove, Miranda, La Draga, Gandul, Culo Prieto, then everything was Puerta de Tierra. They took us out of the mangrove and the ranches and put water and light, and then they brought us back. They made the docks, the houses, the infirmary, the streets, and the epidemics were over, and they built schools and shops, and the train started passing by … ”— Elderly residents of Puerta de Tierra
Throughout the neighborhood of Puerta de Tierra in San Juan, Puerto Rico, murals with this refrain brighten the walls and convey to passersby the self-determination of a community that is taking agency over the future development of its neighborhood.
This vision of collective action and cultural preservation, born out of hope and necessity, has been channeled toward efforts to realize a groundbreaking new organization in Puerta de Tierra. Storefront for Art and Architecture is honored to host the Museum of History and Community of Puerta de Tierra (MHC PDT). Previously housed only in the minds and living rooms of community members, this nascent museum is presented publicly for the first time ever at Storefront’s gallery space.
The museum emerged after years of work by Brigada Puerta de Tierra (BPDT), a multigenerational group of artists and activists. It puts forth the vision that the lived experiences of the people of Puerta de Tierra matter, and that they can uniquely tell the rich and complex histories of a community undergoing intense urban pressures that would drastically alter the character of its social fabric.
Brigada Puerta de Tierra is structured as a horizontal organization that uses art and storytelling as a tool for education. The group has its foundations in grassroots and collective action; it was formed in 2015 as a response to the construction of the controversial Paseo Puerta de Tierra, a major redevelopment project that lacked citizen involvement. With the goal of reclaiming the neighborhood, BPDT has been active ever since. Its members have cleaned, maintained, and transformed abandoned sites in Puerta de Tierra through creative initiatives such as mural-making, gardening, and other outdoor programs that bring neighbors together.
The Museum of History and Community of Puerta de Tierra is BPDT’s most ambitious initiative to date. Over the last few months, Storefront has provided institutional support intended to help fulfill the museum’s mission (developed through self-led workshops) “to affirm, care for, and carry with pride and dignity the cultural legacy of the neighborhood through community participation, and to preserve the cultural heritage and collective memory of Puerta de Tierra.”
Currently without a long-term venue for the museum, Brigada Puerta de Tierra has been working toward rehabilitating and legally gaining access to the Edificio Infanzón, a historic building in Puerta de Tierra that has been abandoned for decades. After its presentation at Storefront, the MHC PDT will launch an international tour to create awareness of both the fragility and power of the neighborhood’s identity. Eventually, Brigada Puerta de Tierra aims to present the museum at its permanent home at the Edificio Infanzón.
Aquí vive gente: Museum of History and Community Puerta de Tierra by Brigada Puerta de Tierra. Storefront for Art and Architecture, 2019.
A Project by Brigada Puerta de Tierra (BPDT)
Collectively developed by members of BPDT and residents of Puerta de Tierra, with special thanks to www.puertadetierra.info.
Hosted by Storefront for Art and Architecture
José Esparza Chong Cuy, Executive Director and Chief Curator
Jinny Khanduja, Deputy Director
Jessica Kwok, Gallery and Operations Manager
Patrick Jaojoco, Development and Communications Associate
Iara Pimenta, Curatorial Fellow
Chialin Chou, Associate Curator of Archives
Interns: Lin Sen Chai, Ellen Eberhardt, Ramses Gonzalez, Hana Halilaj, Caroline Koh Smith, Ipek Kosova, Daniel Li, Adela Locsin, Amora McConnell, Karen Wan
Graphic Design Assistance by Estudio Herrera
Brigada Puerta de Tierra is the recipient of the 2017 Visible Award (Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto, Fondazione Zegna), funding from which has supported this exhibition
Aquí vive gente is the first exhibition of Building Cycles , a new year-long public program that will be launched by Storefront for Art and Architecture in June 2019. Founding support of Building Cycles is generously provided by Linde-Griffith Construction Company and the Graham Foundation.