Saturday, December 8, 2012

Personalizing Place in the Latino Community

North 5th & Lehigh,  El Centro de Oro
 Latino communities transform public places in their communities into personal ones. These transformations fit with the idea of making a home, for a specific place is more than a house or address; it is the space plus the emotional and intellectual connections that were built into it over time. In the book Diálogos, Placemaking in Latino Communities, the writers discuss one definition of place as referring to “territorialized local communities, collective memories associated with territory, claims of authenticity by local actors, phenomenological associations with locales, and social relationships among people in territorial communities.”[1] In other words, place connotes a community’s shared history and experience. The Latino communities of Philadelphia demonstrate this with the music blaring from windows, the murals they choose to put on the sides of their buildings, and the colors with which they embellish their shops. It is, too, in the names they use to identify their areas (el Barrio, el Centro de Oro) and in the names of institutions and businesses that string neighborhoods together (HACE, Centro Musical, Roberto Clemente High School, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Taller Puertorriqueño). It is also marked in the colors and patterns of their national symbols that adorn their busineses, like the white cross with the alternating red & blue of the Dominican Republic’s flag, in the bands of green, white and red of the Mexican flag or in the sky blue, white and red stripes of the Puerto Rican flag. Each can be read as a multifaceted proclamation of identity, of coming from one region, of having staked a claim in this area, in this space and for this moment in time.

Betsy Casañas mural, "Cruzando el Charco," N. 5th  and Dauphin
Taller Puertorriqueño (Taller) recognizes its connection to the community. It knows that through its work it has been questioning the misnomer of "Badlands" to the area it is in, and reclaiming the pride of culture and contributions of Latinos in this community. With its Meet the Author Series[2], its Annual Arturo Schomburg Symposium[3] and collaborations with universities and colleges, Taller crosses boundaries, challenges stereotypes and inspires civic engagement. In its youth education programs it fosters knowledge of arts, cultural history and critical thinking; its 20 years of association with the Philadelphia Art Museum is a great indicator of being a leader in using art as a bridge to cultural and community understanding. It knows it has been playing a role as an anchor of the neighborhood’s identity, and as a resource and gateway to and for the Latino community. Students and patrons, both from around the city and within the neighborhood, come to Taller to learn about the city’s Puerto Rican roots and its ever-increasing Latino diversity. More importantly within its programs, it offers context and a safe place to discuss and confront very delicate and volatile issues such as gentrification and the long history of prejudice and classism towards Latino's in this country. To better understand Taller’s place and its place-making role in the Latino community of Philadelphia, we must look to its

Flag Raising 9-2011 2
Raising the Puerto Rican flag in Taller  Puertorriqueño

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Photos of El Sol Sale Para Todos Screening

Photos the discussion after the screening of el Sol Sale Para Todos on Saturday.   The discussion topics ranged from the problems of Mexican faces with immigrating to the US, to the Mexican organizations started to address these trouble and integration with the Latino community of North Philadelphia.  There were even discussions about how the younger generations in the US loosing is their ability to communicate comfortably in Spanish.

In attendance was Dalia O'Gorman, from Casa Monarca, as well people from the Norris Square Neighborhood Project.  The Executive Director of Taller Puertorriqueño, Carmen Febo San Miguel introduced documentarian's Laura Deutch, Carlos Pascual Sanchez, and Leticia Roa Nixon.




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Saturday, Special screening and talk: El Sol Sale Para Todos

Special screening & talk of the documentary El Sol Sale Para Todos. 
Admission is Free.  3PM, Saturday, December 1, 2012.  
The event take place at Juia de Burgos Bookstore at 2721 N. 5th Street.  
Laura Deutch, Carlos Pascual Sánchez and Leticia Roa Nixon will discuss the making of the film after the screening.

El Sol Sale Para Todos chronicles the rapid growth of the Mexican community in the historically immigrant neighborhood of South Philadelphia. Told through the first hand experiences of the main subjects who have been a formative part of this development over the last 20 years, a collective story of the community unfolds. However with growth and assimilation, come problems, resistance and efforts to organize. El Sole Sale Para Todos presents stories and fragments from the subjects’ memories, reflections and perspectives about the complexity of searching for a better life in a country that is not one’s own.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TRIANGULATIONS: Revisiting OYWPP, Merián Soto

Poster for the show.

Jumatatu Poe self documents. Photo: Pepón Osorio (2007)

Merián Soto
December 7th to January 19th, 2013
at the Lorenzo Homar Gallery
December 7th, 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.

Triangulations, Soto’s first one-person exhibition features two, three-channel video works created from a number of performance-documents from the award–winning One Year Wissahickon Park Project   (OYWPP). The videos were generated through a process wherein the performer documents her/his own performance. Triangulations recaptures the intersection of movement, sound, place and time in OYWPP.

OYWPP was a series of branch dance performances in Wissahickon Park throughout 07-08, featuring dancers Shavon Norris, Olive Prince, Jumatatu Poe, Noemí Segarra, Merián Soto, and percussionist and composer Toshi Makihara. It was designed around the concept of working with the four seasons, in four sites, for four performances in each site for a total of 16 performances. Performances lasted 45 minutes and were held Sunday mornings at 10:30 AM, to take advantage of the crisp morning air and angled sunlight. The 16 performances were completed in all sorts of conditions including temperatures ranging from 20 to 98 degrees, rain, snow, sleet, and high winds. OYWPP was awarded a ROCKY (Greater Philadelphia Dance & Physical Theater Award) in 2008.
Installation view.  Front Gallery
A brief video of the exhibition is presented here.

Triangulations: Revisiting OYWPP continues Soto’s Branch Dance Series that began in 2005. The series has included dozens of solo “guerilla” performances in Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Park (2005–06), the award-winning year-long seasonal project One Year Wissahickon Park Project or OYWPP (2007–08), critically acclaimed staged works, the performance/installation Postcards From the Woods (2009 Live Arts Festival), two year-long “sister” projects of four seasonal performances: Wissahickon Reunion in Philadelphia, and Branch Dances at Wave Hill in New York City, and most recently the monumental and critically acclaimed SoMoS that concluded Taller Puertorriqueño’s Café Under the Stars Performance Series

The branch dances are simple, yet powerfully communicative, works centered on consciousness in performance and in practice. They are grounded in a meditative dance practice involving the detailed sequencing of movements through the investigation of gravity through a dynamic shifting of balance and alignment. The placement of the body in nature, either real or simulated, triggers recognition of ourselves as nature. 

Merian 4:6:08-2

More information on her Branch Dances can be found at:

Merián Soto began working with video in the mid-1970’s, collaborating with video artist Edín Vélez on early experiments with interactive video. In the early 1980’s, Soto studied and performed with Elaine Summers, an original Judson Dance Theater artist, co-founder of the Experimental Intermedia Foundation and pioneer of dances in projected environments. Soto has collaborated extensively with award-winning visual artist Pepón Osorio on large-scale performance works incorporating videos such as No Regrets (1987), Historias (1992) and Familias (1995), as well as with filmmaker Irene Sosa— Así se Baila un Son (1999), Prequel(a): Deconstruction of a Passion for Salsa (2002), and La Máquina del Tiempo (2004). In her recent Branch Dance Series, she has expanded her work with video using nature footage to create immersive performance environments in critically acclaimed works such as States of Gravity & Light (2007), Postcards From the Woods (2009) and SoMoS (2012). Soto is a PennPAT roster artist and an Associate Professor of Dance at the Esther Boyer College of Music & Dance at Temple University.

Reception for Triangulations

Videos in the exhibition: 

Triangulations: Revisiting OYWPP
Concept- Direction- Editing: Merián Soto
Music: Toshi Makihara
Projection Consultant: Lauren Mandilian
Sound editing: Cicada Brokaw Dennis
Assistant to Merián Soto: Melisa Putz
Photos: Pepón Osorio


10/7/07, Livezy Dam,   8:42 min.
Dancers:  Noemí Segarra, Olive Prince, Danielle Kinne, Shavon Norris, Merián Soto
Camera: Noemí Segarra, Shavon Norris, Merián Soto

2/24/08,  Bluebell Meadow  4:57 min.
Dancer & Camera: Jumatatu Poe

3/09/08,  Mt Airy Avenue 7:16 min.
Dancers: Merián Soto & Jumatatu Poe
Musician: Toshi Makihara
Camera: Merián Soto & Jumatatu Poe

6/8/08,  Livezy Dam 8:42 min.
Dancer & Camera: Jumatatu Poe

3/9/08,   Cathedral 6:40 min.
Dancer and Camera: Shavon Norris

2/20/10, Lake Erie 6:52 min.
Dancers: Beau Hancock, Caitlin Quinn, Merián Soto
Camera:  Merián Soto

One Year Wissahickon Park Project: Summer, 2008 22:00 min.
Directed by Merián Soto
Camera and Editing:  Laura Zimmerman
Dancers: Olive Prince, Noemí Segarra, Shavon Norris, Jumatatu Poe, Merián Soto
Musician: Toshi Makihar

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Video Interview with Cesar Viveros on his show

César Viveros Herrera from Taller Puertorriqueño on Vimeo.

Here is an interview conducted with Viveros before the opening of his show, No Me Conformo, at Taller Puertorriqueño.  He discusses the reasoning behind the name of his show and what it takes for him, as an immigrant, to be fully integrated into America society. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Monarca and the Communal Mural Wall

Monarca kids at work on the mural
Friday, November 9th, the kids of Casa Monarca came to Taller to see the exhibitions and work on Viveros's communal mural wall.   Viveros started the mural in white with a necklace made out of the symbols of the months taken from the Mayan calendar sprouting from the back of his stone Kulkan's head.

Detail of child at work

The kids enjoyed working on the mural and learning about Mayan and Aztec history.

The kids enjoyed painting on the wall
The exhibition ends on November 10th.

Group Shot

The finished wall.

Casa Monarca and Aquí Estamos

Ahdanah talking about the people in her photos
Casa Monarca brought their students to Taller Puertorriqueño on Friday, November 9th,  to see Leticia Roa Nixon's (Ahdanah), and César Viveros Herrera's exhibitions.
Ahdanah discussing her documentary El Sol Sale Para Todos
Ahdanah discusses with the children the stories behind her photographs and documentary.  She explains that how overcoming great difficulty, these people from Mexico had come to make Philadelphia their home.  She highlights to them their connection with the people in the photographs and them being here.

Ahdanah in white

Friday, November 9, 2012

Visit from Memories in the Making to No Me Conformo

This morning Dora Viacava and Alicia Mino brought a group from Memories in the Making (Memories) to work on the communal mural that is part of César Viveros' No Me Conformo exhibition.  Memories is a program of Taller's that brings each week specially trained artist to work with the elderly who have been afflicted with memory loss or dementia to work on art.   The art making for the elderly  helps to ground them and maintain connection to their surroundings.

Memories in the Making
Bringing them together to work on Viveros's communal wall was a blending of experiences.  Viveros's exhibition is a Teocalli,  a temple or God house where all who come can contribute.

A member of Memories points the section she worked on
Created from Viveros memories, our impressions through touch, all the work can be handled by the public, by participating in either the Day of the Dead altar or on the mural, be left.  Direct interactions become a dialogue with what he begun.  The people become in active in the experience.  Their thoughts, their feelings in that moment of painting on the wall gets recorded in the work.

No Me Conformo for Viveros is a statement of not giving up what make him who he is. For this group of citizens, it something that they are familiar with.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Taller's Day of the Dead Celebration

Day of the Dead Altar.
The back drop is skull rack, his Tzompantli that he created in 2008
On Friday, November 2nd, at 5:30PM  Cesar Viveros as part his exhibition, No Me Conformo, brought the Mexican national holiday and tradition, the celebration of the Day of the Dead to Taller Puertorriqueño.  The celebration of the holiday falls on November 1 and 2nd, which coincides with the Christian Holidays, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.  This is example of syncretism of distinct traditions.

Viveros preparing his altar
“The belief is that for two days, there is a path to the other world that allows the souls to return and taste some of the things they used to enjoy,” Viveros said.

Taller's Executive Director, Carmen Febo San Miguel in front of the altar
In his exhibition, Viveros shares a private custom with the public.  This is in continuation with his theme of his exhibition,  of creating contexts where the audience conforms to his expectations and views as a Mexican immigrant. In this case it the following of the celebration of the Day of the Dead.  A tradition the predated the European colonization of the Americas.

Day of the Dead in Mexico is a family event, that is celebrated with altars and visits to the tombs of love ones.  It is comprised of sugar skulls, portraits of the loved ones, momentos, candys and foods as ofrendas (offerings).  The colors are usually festive, and death is made fun of.  Viveros has described this day not only as a time to remember your loved ones but also as a celebration of life.

The altar will be up until the end of the exhibition on November 10th.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Leticia Roa Nixon (Ahdanah): Aquí Estamos

September 28th to December 8th, 2012 
El Vestíbulo

Carnival at Penn's Landing, 2012
Digital Print, 12 " x 15" 
Ahdanah was born in Mexico City and has lived in Philadelphia since 1985. She has a B.S. in Communications from Universidad Iberoamericana. Since 1992, as a photojournalist for Hispanic newspapers, she has been documenting the diversity of Latino immigrants in this city. / Esta exhibición documenta las vidas de mejicanos en Filadelfia, sus historias personales y sus esperanzas.

Immigration Reform
We Are America, 2006
Digital Print, 12" x 15"

 Leticia is the publisher of the blog “Las Recientes Noticias” (LRNews). She is a certified court interpreter for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and is a volunteer at the Latino Partnership Initiative, JUNTOS, and Casa Monarca.

With Laura Deutch and Carlos Pascual Sánchez, she produced the video documentary, El Sol Sale Para Todos (The Sun Shines for All), in partnership with JUNTOS and thanks to a Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant (April 2009). She has also published Aquí Estamos/Here We Are, a bilingual book of South Philadelphia Mexican immigrants’ oral stories.

Ahdanah was co-editor of Mirrors and Windows/Espejos y Ventanas, Oral Stories of Mexicans of Kennett Square. She is finishing her book, Arándanos, Oral Stories of Philadelphia Puerto Rican Blueberry Pickers, to be self-published in 2012, and has published two biographical books for children, Blueberry Lady and The Mexican Lindbergh.

In 2009, with Dalia O’Gorman, she co-founded Casa Monarca, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserve and promote Mexican art, culture, and traditions through artistic and educational programs in South Philadelphia.

César Viveros Herrera: No Me Conformo

Poster - No Me Conformo
Poster for No Me Conformo

September 28th to November 10th, 2012
Lorenzo Homar Gallery

West wing view of the gallery

For this exhibition, César Viveros Herrera asked for the Lorenzo Homar Gallery to be painted a deep red so he could recreate a temple or “teocalli” of out of the memories of his youth. Born in Tejería, Veracruz, Viveros, working from the recollections of his childhood where he would come across ancient artifacts from past civilizations in his father’s cornfields, recreates precious iconographic pieces to construct an ancient place that is still alive and real. It is a world populated with relics of Coatlicue, the Aztec Mother God, to Kukulkan, the feathered serpent, and ancient ruins. To many of the people of his town, these relics did not seem valuable, but to him, the artifacts awoke an intense interest in learning about pre-Columbian civilization and his personal connections to them. Viveros perceives that connection with civilizations from the Olmecs to the Mayans, the Aztecs and Mexico, and with him here, a connection to Philadelphia. 


As a muralist, Viveros applies his keen sense for seeing these connections to each community he makes a mural for. He is able to listen to the people, opening himself to them so to comprehend their needs and desires. In this show, he is listening to his own voices, his present context, and his cultural and ancestral influences. Over the coming weeks, he will use the walls of the gallery to create a personal mural. On November 2nd, he will conduct a ceremony for the Day of Dead. During the reception, guests can go to a computer station, provide their name, and, by using the Mayan calendar, decipher their Mayan name. 
Reception for No Me Conformo.  Participants working on the mural. 
César Viveros Herrera has been painting murals in Philadelphia for the past 10 years in a wide range of communities. His photorealistic murals offer fantastical collages, often covering entire sides of buildings to create a reflective sense of place for the particular community it depicts and with whom he deeply engages. One of his murals is New Fire (Fuego Nuevo), on Girard near 3rd street, and Cops and Kids at S. 20th St. and Point Breeze Ave. He is also the president of the Mexican Cultural Center.

Other post on Viveros is here.

Interview with Viveros is here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

On Claiming Places

The series will start this coming Friday:

On Friday September 28 5:30 to 8:00pm

1) Philadelphia muralist and painter Cesar Viveros will open his new exhibition at Taller– No me conformo – will introduce the public to Cesar’s iconography and narrative, his challenges and resistance to those.

2) Leticia Roa Nixon’s photography chronicles the lives of people from Mexico living in Philadelphia, each photo sharing a tale of immigration and adjustment.

Hope you can join us.