El Corazón Cultural Center: North Philly’s new arts destination

The new El Corazón Cultural Center. (Photo by Simón Bolívar.)

“The building has this amazing character — it’s colorful and full of life,” says Carmen Febo-San Miguel, the Executive Director and CEO of Taller Puertorriqueño, which opened its new El Corazón Cultural Center in December.

Taller Puertorriqueño is an organization based in North Philadelphia that uses art to promote development across its community and throughout the Latino Diaspora. After 11 years of fundraising, the new building had its grand opening in December 2016.

“There were people here from all walks of Taller’s life, from people of the early Taller, to people who have been connected throughout the years. Then of course, funders and supporters, artists, the mayor, and a number of political figures. It was incredible,” Febo-San Miguel says.

Coming up at Taller

The new building is ready for visits during gallery hours. Although the organization recently had several inaugural events, the public can look forward to more events coming up. On January 6, 2017, Taller will host its annual Three Kings Day celebration, and a new exhibition will open on January 27. Then in February, the organization will host its 21st Annual Arturo A. Schomburg Symposium, a daylong event that focuses on art and scholarship related to the African Diaspora across Latin America. Although the format for these events will be similar to the past, the events will be in a space more conducive to wide-ranging artistic and cultural exchange.

In addition to being able to increase the reach of its ongoing signature events, Taller will be expanding its youth programming. According to Febo-San Miguel, the building allows Taller to nearly triple the number of youngsters they have traditionally reached. The organization recently entertained a tour of 150 kids, numbers it hopes to continue hosting in the new larger space.

Positive representations of Latino identity

Rafael Damast, the Exhibitions Manager and Curator at Taller Puertorriqueño, is excited about the opportunities that the new building will foster.

“My responsibility is framing the program that will not only align with Taller’s mission as an outlet for Latino artists, but also with arts in general,” says Damast.

Currently, the two-part exhibit Nuestro Tema: Llamada y Respuesta (Our Theme: Call and Response) is on display (here’s the BSR review of the show). First, the “Call” consists of works from artists that have previously been featured at Taller. Then, the “Response” includes works from outside artists and community members. This exhibit aims to create connections and dialogues across the community, and also pays homage to Taller’s roots: an organization launched in a basement with a mission to use arts for positive representations of Latino culture and identity.

A community accomplishment

“We want the gallery and the organization to be a place of dialogue and beauty that enriches the lives of the people in the neighborhood and advances the discussion of taste, Latinidad and the American experience,” adds Damast.

“Our vision of this building is that it’s going to be transformative for this community, both on an individual level, and community level. There is a sense of ownership that this community is entitled to,” says Febo-San Miguel.

Everyone involved in the 42-year history of Taller has in one way or another been a part of the effort to open this building, she continues.

“This is an accomplishment for this community, and I hope it’s also a catalyst to overcome some of the negative feelings that people have for this community. And then, that many members of the Philadelphia-at-large community venture to North Philadelphia to visit here, and other places in the community as well.”

Taller Puertorriqueño’s El Corazón Cultural Center is now open at 2600 North 5th Street, Philadelphia. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm; the gallery closes daily from noon to 1pm. Visit online for more information on Taller’s educational programming, or call 215-423-6320

Below: The grand opening of the new center. Photo by Simón Bolívar.

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