Miguel Luciano, Pimp My Piragua, 2009. Courtesy of USF Contemporary Art Museum
At a time when funds are carefully being monitored and dispersed throughout the arts sector during COVID-19, the National Endowment for the Arts has approved more than $84 million in grants for the 2020 fiscal year. One such grantee is none other than USF Contemporary Art Museum, who was recently awarded $25,000 to help find the upcoming exhibition Constant Storm: Art from Puerto Rico and the Diaspora that will be opening next fall.
Though people from the Southeast are all too familiar with hurricanes, no one knows them as well as the people who live on islands. The upcoming exhibition at USF CAM will feature both individual and collaborative responses to the Category 5 Hurricane Maria -- which made landfall in September 2017 and is considered the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Jeanne in 2004 -- by artists from Puerto Rico and the diaspora.
“We have a big interest in Latin American and Caribbean art. I had been thinking about this around 2016 -- before Hurricane Maria -- and started realizing that we weren’t paying enough attention to our constituency. We had done a lot on Cuba, but I thought it was important to bring some attention to Puerto Rican culture in this area,” says Noel Smith, the Deputy Director and Curator of Latin American and Caribbean Art at the University of South Florida’s Institute for Research in Art.
Part of this NEA grant will cover a commissioned documentary-style video piece by Sofîa Gallisá Muriente and Natalia Lassalle- Morillo titled I-4. These two artists will be embedding themselves in Central Florida, researching and exploring the communities of Puerto Ricans who have been displaced to cities throughout Florida, including Orlando and Kissimmee.
“Another thing we’re very excited about is that we’re making a big effort to make all of our exhibition bilingual through this grant,” Smith says. “While having the money is great, it is even more wonderful to feel like you’re doing something important, competitive, and be recognized across the country.”