Along with his leadership and administrative experience, Dean Ramón H. Rivera-Servera brings a significant grant project with him as he moves from his previous position at Northwestern University to lead the UT College of Fine Arts.
Rivera-Servera launched the Puerto Rican Arts Initiative (PRAI) in 2017 to help artists rebuild and develop new work after hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated the island. In the immediate aftermath of the storms, Rivera-Servera worked to raise funds to support artists in Puerto Rico, securing $150,000 from Northwestern University and an additional $500,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Puerto Rican Arts Initiative created a platform to commission a group of Puerto Rican artists and paired them with mentors over a period of two years to create new work and to connect them to universities and museums, where they could deliver workshops and translate their work to broader communities while building new professional connections and opportunities.
As the project kicked off its second phase in spring 2021, the UT College of Fine Arts became a new project partner as Rivera-Servera began transitioning into his new role as dean. The project also secured an additional $750,000 in funding from the Mellon Foundation.
“We’re interested in artists who are working with their communities and organizations to build up their collective efforts,” Rivera-Servera said. “This includes a number of artists who take decommissioned or abandoned schools or residential or commercial buildings and reactivate them by creating cultural centers, artist studios, galleries, theaters and so on. We attached that infrastructure to affects or feelings because those buildings provide space for gatherings but also allow for the emotional commitment to the collective.”
With this new support, the project’s second phase will sponsor 10 new performance and ephemeral practice platforms to be led by 11 Puerto Rican artists. They may each invite between four and 10 additional artists to assist with or collaborate on their work. The new funding also supports six short-term projects involving a lead artist inviting two partners into collaborative practice. A series of workshops designed to advance knowledge and technique around performance art practices and other ephemeral arts will also be integrated into the offerings.
The artists selected to lead PRAI’s second-phase platforms are Eduardo Alegría, Edrimael Delgado, Sofía Gallisá Muriente, Jorge González, Teresa Hernández, Lydia (Puchi) Platón, Pó Rodil, Rubén Rolando and Carlo André Oliveras Rodriguez, Gisela Rosario Ramos and nibia pastrana santiago. The new group of artists will work with the Puerto Rican Arts Initiative through the end of 2022 and will receive more than $40,000 in support, including $20,000 in sustenance stipend and $17,500 in project support. This entails a micro-residency program to activate additional artists and additional support for travel to advance their work in collaboration with university and surrounding communities in Chicago and Austin.
The artists selected to lead PRAI’s projects are Vanessa Hernández Gracía, María José, Alejandra Martorell, Kairiana Nuñez Santaliz, Awilda Rodríguez Lora and Lío Villahermosa. The projects will receive $9,000 in support each, including support of two micro-residencies for artistic collaborators within each of the projects.