Puerto Rico is an island steeped in contradictions—the idyllic tourist mecca is where unpredictable forces of nature, a stagnant economy, and a corrupt government complicate everyday life for locals.
After Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica, St. Croix and Puerto Rico in 2016, journalists compared Puerto Rico to Greece, Detroit, and New York of the 1970s, prompting myriad articles about its economic woes and the population’s resilience. The art scene became more visible as Puerto Rican artists stepped into the frey with their creative projects. Some institutions stepped up, too. Notably, El Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico (MAC).
Sitting in the heart of the Santurce district of San Juan, the Museum of Contemporary Art became a beacon of hope for the surrounding community in the wake of the storm, serving as an educational resource and offering space for the performing arts, and channeling life-sustaining resources to residents.
In 2019, when we venture to Puerto Rico, we head to the Museum to meet Director Marianne Ramirez Aponte. She led MAC’s pro-active role following the hurricane. Early in 2021, the Museum’s contemporary art curator Marina Reyes Franco shares an update—revealing MAC’s sustained commitment to generate cultural opportunities for local artists and residents of all ages.
In this segment of our Puerto Rico Rising series, two community leaders share a few of the creative projects they generate to enable others to rise—both emotionally and physically—above the challenging everyday circumstances that limit opportunities for Puerto Ricans to survive and thrive.
Sound Editor: Anamnesis Audio | Special Sound: Live Performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art, September 27, 2019
Related Links: El Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico (MAC), Marina Reyes Franco, ATLAS SAN JUAN: TROPICAL DEPRESSION, Art in America, Oct 1, 2018.
The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico (known as ‘the MAC’) was born in 1984, out of the will of Puerto Rican artists and others in the cultural community who recognized the urgency to create a fresh model for exhibiting and promoting contemporary art on the island. The Museum is the only local institution on the island expressly dedicated to the study, collection, preservation, exhibition, and promotion of art produced since the mid-20th century in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Latin America, and its diasporas.
Marianne Ramírez Aponte holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History of Art and Engraving from the University of Puerto Rico, and a Master’s Degree in Puerto Rican and Caribbean Studies from the Center for Advanced Studies of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, where she is pursuing doctoral studies. Since 1995, she has worked as an educator, museologist and curator. She directed the Department of Education and Exhibitions of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico (MAC), and also worked as Director of the Department of Exhibitions and Collections at the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico (MAPR). She has been Professor of Appreciation and History of Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Puerto Rico and at the University of the Sacred Heart and a guest speaker at numerous prestigious universities and organizations. In 2008, she was appointed Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico. She is the creator and curator of the program of cultural equity and social justice El MAC en el Barrio. She is co-founder and the current president of the Puerto Rico Museum Association.
Marina Reyes Franco is a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico (MAC). She received a BA in Art History from the University of Puerto Rico and a MA in Argentine and Latin American Art History at IDAES-UNSAM in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2010, she co-founded La Ene, an itinerant museum and collection. Some recent projects include De Loiza a la Loiza, a MAC en el Barrio public art commission by Daniel Lind Ramos; Resisting Paradise, at Publica, San Juan and Fonderie Darling, Montreal; Watch your step / Mind your head, ifa-Galerie Berlin; The 2nd Grand Tropical Biennial in Loiza, Puerto Rico; Caliban, MAC in San Juan; C32: Sucursal, MALBA in Buenos Aires, and numerous exhibitions at La Ene. As curator and researcher, she has focused on the work of Esteban Valdes, artistic and literary manifestations on the frontier of political action, and the impact of tourism in cultural production in the Caribbean. She received the 2017 CPPC Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean and was nominated for Independent Curators International 2014 Independent Vision Curatorial Award.