The Mellon Foundation in New York has partnered with the Centro de Economía Creativa in San Juan to establish Maniobra, a three-year, $8 million cultural employment initiative that aims to “facilitate stable employment opportunities for artists while strengthening the administrative bandwidth of community-based cultural organizations across Puerto Rico,” according to a release.
Maniobra will provide 25 cultural organizations in 12 cities across Puerto Rico the funds to hire at least one full-time artist as well as an additional $20,000 yearly budget to fund programming for each of the three years. Each of the selected 37 artists will receive an annual salary of approximately $58,000, as well as career training and health and other benefits.
The artists began at their respective organizations last month. The name for the initiative Maniobra translates from Spanish to “maneuver,” but in this context, it is also a play on words that translates to “the work of one’s hands.”
According to a study by CEC, artists in Puerto Rico earn a median annual income of $16,000, with nearly half earning less than $12,000 annually. Maniobra is inspired by another Mellon-backed initiative, Creatives Rebuild New York, which distributed some $125 million in funding, with 300 artists receiving an annual salary of $65,000 for two years as part of it.
Since 2018, the Mellon Foundation has disbursed $22.8 million in grants to support Puerto Rico’s cultural infrastructure. In 2021, CEC received a grant for $105,500 to conduct a 12-month study titled “Mapping Arts and Cultural Work in Puerto Rico.”
In a statement, CEC founder Javier Hernández Acosta, who is also dean of the School of Arts, Design and Creative Industries at the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan, said, “This initiative shines an important light on the economic state and personal well-being of the artistic community and centers both as priorities for philanthropy and cultural policy. Equity and salary justice within the arts had previously been relegated to a secondary agenda item, but we are now thrilled to work with the Mellon Foundation to advance this important work through real action.”
The organizations selected to participate primarily include visual arts organizations, including two of San Juan’s most closely watched spaces: Beta-Local, which has hired three artists, and Km 0.2, which has taken on two artists.
Other organizations tapped include the editorial workshop La Impresora in Isabela and Parceleras Afrocaribeñas por la Transformación Barrial in Carolina, which looks to create community projects that “promote cultural, artistic and ecological projects of social justice and anti-racism,” according to its website.
In a statement, Mellon Foundation president Elizabeth Alexander said, “Lifting up and celebrating the creativity of Puerto Rican artists, writers, and performers means granting them the resources they need to pursue their callings, supporting the archipelago’s artistic and cultural organizations, and broadly fostering the work and preservation of Puerto Rican culture at a time when stable employment and funding for these efforts has been imperiled. We are honored to support Maniobra, and excited to see the work that comes from this remarkable initiative.”
The full list of artists and organizations follows below.
Organization (City): Artists (Artistic discipline)
Agitarte (San Juan): Deborah Hunt (Visual and performing arts) and Marian Annette Rodríguez Morales (Visual arts)
Agua, Sol y Sereno (San Juan): Cristina Vives Rodríguez (Music and performing arts) and Kenneth Salgado Barreto (Visual and performing arts)
Archivo de Vieques (Vieques): Sofía Gallisá Muriente (Visual arts) and Diana Ramos Gutiérrez (Cultural agent)
Barrioization (Manatí): Rubén Rolando Solla Rosario (Visual arts and cultural agent)
BEMBA PR / Taller Lumpen (Mayagüez): Cristian J. Laracuente Vázquez (Visual arts)
Beta-Local (San Juan): Michael Linares Vázquez (Visual arts), nibia pastrana santiago (Performing arts), and Pablo Guardiola (Visual arts)
Casa de Arte y Cultura Playa Ponce (Ponce): Diógenes Ballester (Visual arts)
Casa Pueblo Adjuntas (Adjuntas): Hector Danny Torres (Visual arts) and Verónica Aponte Sepulveda (Visual arts)
Casa Silvana (Humacao): Edwin Velázquez Collazo (Visual arts and cultural agent)
Colectivo Ilé (Caguas): Angellie González Jorge (Performing arts)
Colectivo Moriviví (San Juan): Raysa Raquel Rodríguez García (Visual arts) and Sharon N. González Colón (Visual arts)
Corporación Piñones se Integra (COPI), Loíza: Malcom Ferrer Andino (Visual arts) and Maricruz Rivera Clemente (Cultural agent)
El Ancón de Loíza (Loíza): Juan Pablo Vizcaino Cortijo (Visual arts)
El Cuadrado Gris (San Juan): Osvaldo “Ozzie” Forbes (Cultural agent)
El Lobi (San Juan): Vanessa Hernández Gracia (Cultural agent)
Hidrante (San Juan): José López Serra (Visual arts and cultural agent)
Km 0.2 (San Juan): Karlo Andrei Ibarra (Visual arts) and Roberto “Yiyo” Tirado (Visual arts)
La Casa de los Contrafuertes, Proyecto de Artista, Inc. (San Juan): Charles Juhász-Alvarado (Visual arts)
La Impresora (Isabela): Amanda Hernández (Literature) and Nicole Delgado (Literature)
LaBoriVogue (San Juan): Edrimael Delgado Reyes (Performing arts)
Taller Malaquita (Bayamón): Rosenda Álvarez Faro (Visual arts) and Zuania Minier Jiménez (Visual arts)
Parceleras Afrocaribeñas por la Transformación Barrial (PATBA), Carolina: Carla Denise Santiago Quirós (Performing arts)
Taller Comunidad La Goyco Inc (San Juan): Mariana Reyes-Angler (Cultural agent)
Taller Libertá / Vuelta Abajo (Mayagüez): Ketsia Camacho Ramos (Cultural agent and literature) and Noa Dimedetti (Visual arts)
Taller Salud (Loíza): Saudi Morales Rodríguez (Performing arts)