Entertainment

Puerto Rican Art Groups Are Getting A Leg Up Thanks To This Foundation Created By The ‘Hamilton’ Family

Maintaining funding for the arts is a challenging enough task during the best of times. For Puerto Ricans, those “best of times” have long been gone. A backlog of corruption scandals coupled with the most devastating natural disaster in the island’s history has exacerbated the arts organizations resources. Two years after Hurricane Maria’s landfall on Puerto Rico, hope for maintaining the culture and arts of Boricuas has arrived.

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeffrey Seller, the play’s producer, have partnered with the Flamboyan Foundation to establish an art fund for struggling arts organizations in Puerto Rico.

The Flamboyan Foundation was established just earlier this year, funded by ticket sales from “Hamilton.”

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Even better, the $14.7 million that was raised for the fund were all raised by Puerto Ricans. The “Hamilton” cast and crew up and went to Puerto Rico for a 17-day run. The Flamboyan Foundation, named after the flamboyán tree native to Puerto Rico, established the arts fund in 2018. “The Flamboyan Arts Fund is an extension of our deep commitment to ensuring that Puerto Rico is thriving economically and socially,” Flamboyan Puerto Rico Executive Director Carlos J. Rodríguez-Silvestre said in a statement. “We cannot be more excited to partners with our 12 inaugural grant recipients as well as the new grantees that we will welcome following this round of applications.  This is just the beginning!”

So far, at least 12 grant recipients have been named.

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“It’s the first time that we have funds guaranteed for the beginning of the year so it’s been very important, Lolita Villanúa, executive director of Andanza told NBC News. Andanza is a dance company and school that has been giving back to Puerto Rico since 1998, but not without struggles. “The search for funds has always been very difficult,” she said. One year, the government gave Andanza just $8,000 for a full year of operations.

Villanúa felt the grant “was like a big prize on our 20th anniversary because we [have been] working tirelessly and intensely for the country.”

The trickle-down effect goes to benefit young scholarship students.

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One Andanza dance student, Paola Morales López is just 15 years old and wants to make a career out of dancing. “I feel super grateful because I see that they support me and that they believe in me,” Morales López told NBC News. “Andanza is like my second family.” Another 18-year-old ballet student, Gabriela Arroyo, said that, “Dance has helped me. It’s a form to escape reality, and it’s also a way to stay healthy.”

Of course, the “Hamilton” funds will also go to help local theaters stay open.

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Another grant went to a collective of seven artists who started the San Juan theater company, Y No Había Luz (“And There Was No Light”) when they were just students at the University of Puerto Rico. For the last 15 years, the group has continued to stay open, using their literal theater platform to advocate for social change and to humanize Boricuas.

Without the grant, Puerto Ricans may have never witnessed a play centered around an ancient tree that fell during Hurricane Maria.

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Y No Había Luz created the play “Centinela de Mangó,” which retells the experience of the town of Orocovis, which survived Hurricane Maria only to find the tree that symbolized the island’s identity had fallen. The company has been able to bring the play to New York City, as well, where many Hurricane Maria victims were directed by FEMA. The company wants to turn the story into a children’s book, forever immortalizing the tree’s meaning into words that will be passed down for generations.

With rent paid, the art grant recipients can dream even bigger.

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“For three years I can plan and create a healthier structure for my team. I can make dreams more long-term,” Yari Helfeld of Y No Había Luz told NBC News. She added, “My dad always told us that we should do what we wanted and not let anyone tell you what to do.” Thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda and the “Hamilton” family, dreams are being made a reality for art directors and young children alike. The arts will have a safe home in Puerto Rico for the foreseeable future.

READ: Puerto Rico, Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria, Is Losing Recovery Dollars To Fund Part Of The Border Wall

Mexican Artist Transforms 1,527 Deadly Guns Into Life-Giving Shovels To Plant Trees

Things That Matter

Mexican Artist Transforms 1,527 Deadly Guns Into Life-Giving Shovels To Plant Trees

botanicocln / veri_fp / Instagram

A Mexican artist and activist embarked on a project to gather as many firearms as he could from Culiacán, Mexico, the city with the highest death by gun violence rate in Mexico, and transform them into shovels that would instead plant trees. Artist Pedro Reyes, a Mexico City native, has long been using his art to illustrate how evil can be transformed into good, with the right perspective. While the United States has, by far, the highest number of firearms per capita (120.5 per 100 persons), Mexico ranks 60th in the world. Pedro Reyes wanted to do his part in getting the deadly weapons off the street.

Reyes set out in Culiacán, Mexico, to trade civilian’s weapons for coupons for electronics, and residents traded 1,527 weapons.

Pedro Reyes’s project, known as “Palas por Pistolas” publicized the gun exchange on television ads and through local media.

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 All of this was made possible by the botanical garden of Culiacán, which has been commissioning artists to perform social impact interventions for years. Reyes made a proposal to the garden to organize a city-wide campaign for a voluntary donation of weapons. The commission was able to pay for television advertisements and liaise with local media to promote the project. Soon, the whole city knew that residents were invited to give up their guns in exchange for a coupon. Those coupons were then traded at a local store in exchange for domestic appliances and electronics.

Of the 1,527 weapons collected, 40 percent were automatic weapons, “exclusively” used for the military.

Credit: molaaart / Instagram

The second phase of the project was put on public display. All 1,527 guns were taken to a military zone and were crushed by a steamroller in a public act. Then, the pieces were taken to a foundry and melted down to its original form. Once again, the same metal that was transformed into guns became a ‘blank page,’ available to transform into absolutely anything. Reyes worked with a major hardware factory to create molds that would create exactly 1,527 shovels. 

Since they’ve been repurposed, 1,527 trees have been planted.

Credit: molaaart / Instagram

The shovels have been on display at a variety of art institutions. Admirers could read an inscription of the shovel’s origin story on the handle. Later, children and adults alike would feel the weight of what was once a gun in their hands as they dug up dirt to plant new life. Trees have been planted at the Vancouver Art Gallery, San Francisco Art Institute, Paris’s Maison Rouge, Lyon Biennial, Marfa, Texas, and Denver, Colorado.

“This ritual has a pedagogical purpose of showing how an agent of death can become an agent of life,” Reyes said of the project. 

Credit: botanicocln / Instagram

Like every other Reyes project to date, the gift is a change in perspective. For whoever might have been injured or died at the hands of those 1,527 guns, as many trees have been planted in their honor. Reyes breaks down the concept of a gun to what it is: human intention and scrap metal. With a simple shift in intention, that metal has created lasting memories for children and created oxygen-giving life on this planet.  

Since “Palas por Pistolas,” Reyes has also installed “Imagine,” a similar concept that instead turns guns into musical instruments.

Credit: Pedro Reyes

In April 2012, Reyes was given the opportunity to transform human intention once again. “I got a call from the government who had learned about Palas por Pistolas,” Reyes said. “They told me a public destruction of weapons was to take place in Ciudad Juarez and asked me if I was interested in keeping the metal, which would otherwise have been buried as usual. I accepted the material but I wanted to do something new this time. 6700 weapons, cut into parts and rendered useless, were given to me and I set out to make them into instruments.”

“A group of 6 musicians worked for 2 weeks shoulder-to-shoulder turning these agents of death into instruments of life.”

Credit: Pedro Reyes

Reyes said it was far more challenging than simply turning the metal into shovels. The metal had to create sounds. “It’s difficult to explain but the transformation was more than physical,” Reyes writes. “It’s important to consider that many lives were taken with these weapons; as if a sort of exorcism was taking place the music expelled the demons they held, as well as being a requiem for lives lost.”

Living in a community free of guns ought to be a human right. Many liberties that we enjoy today were considered utopian, and the first step taken into that direction was to Imagine.” Reyes continues to draw attention not only to where guns are used, but where they are made. It is an industry and one he continues to reclaim for life.

READ: Mexicans Are Questioning Their Government’s Decision To Release El Chapo’s Son After A Massive Gun Battle

Artist Ugly Primo Threw A Party In Los Angeles Featuring His Iconic Work

Entertainment

Artist Ugly Primo Threw A Party In Los Angeles Featuring His Iconic Work

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Ugly Primo has been capturing Latino pop culture moments in his vivid illustrations since early 2018, illustrating the “Suavamente” Elvis Crespo into fabric softener and Cardi B as a “Farti B cushion.” While we have no idea what Ugly Primo looks like, since he hides behind an actual cholo puppet, we know that, for the first time ever, Ugly Primo showcased his work.

Ugly Primo invited everyone to the Primos Playhouse to, well, party. Ugly Primo’s Instagram bio has long advertised himself as a “retired quinceañera DJ,” and people finally got to hear him spin. After DJ sets by J Valentino, 2DEEP, Mija Doris, and Brü, the puppet, or the man behind the puppet, took to the stage. Best of all: it was free.

Of course, Ugly Primo’s version of a gallery was called a Playhouse, so you know it was fun.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Twitter

Held in downtown Los Angeles, a free DJ event with dope art is my kind of night. Our favorite primo tweeted that, “There will be exclusive merch, art installations, music by some friends, and drinks for my 21+ borrachos. Hope to see you there!”

Ugly Primo is kind of *excellent* at creating unique merch.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Twitter

It seems like the world’s coolest puppet is pretty close with San Benito, and worked with the trapetero to create on-brand chanclas for Bad Bunny fans. They’re reportedly too holy to be weaponized for the chanclazo. You may have seen Ugly Primo’s art on up-and-coming artist Cuco Puffs’s most recent album cover, too. It’s weird how Ugly Primo is everywhere, but nobody has seen him.

Ugly Primo might just be our favorite primo after the artwork he’s gifted us this last year alone.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Instagram

During the height of Nio Garcia, Ozuna, Darrel, Nicky Jam, Casper Magico and Bad Bunny’s “Te Bote” classic, Ugly Primo blessed America with an auspicious illustration. In an effort to motivate his fans to get out and vote, he released an image of a very orange Donald Trump at a podium stickered with “Yo voté,” followed by a “Te bote” stamp of disapproval. His blessing on the midterms did give us Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We need more illustrations, Primo.

If only a Mercado de mucho, mucho amor existed.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Instagram

Internationally-acclaimed astrologer Walter Mercado may have passed earlier this week, but he’s been long honored by Ugly Primo. For Mercado’s haters, they love the idea that his predictions and, “sobre todo, mucho, mucho amor” was up for sale. For everyone else, we loved what Mercado was selling – his genderless fashion sense and exuberant love for his fans.

When Cumbia legend Celso Piña passed, he was immortalized in vibrant colors as well.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Instagram

The cumbia artist, known as El Rebelde del acordeón, passed on August 21 at just 66 years old from a heart attack. The Mexican accordionist pioneered a fusion of tropical salsa sounds with cumbia and regional mexicano.

When Cardi B was freely expressing her flatulence on the ‘gram, Ugly Primo immortalized the pop culture moment.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Instagram

“Farti B is steaming hot. Swipe for some 💨💨💨,” Ugly Primo captioned his June edition to his works, alongside a hilarious anthology of Cardi B’s most recent fart sprees. “Damn, I farted but that was a very low fart, so y’all can’t hear it. It’s one of those farts that like, they don’t really stink, it’s just air,” Cardi told her Instagram fans back in June 2019. “I gotta fart so bad. I’m about to air it out. I farted, I farted, I farted, I farted,” Cardi said. “Oh it STANK. You smell it, Ashley? It’s gonna hit you though. You smell it?” she asked, cackling.

Ugly Primo has helped us envision a world made for Latinos, here in America.

@uglyprimo / Instagram

Ugly Primo’s artistry is embedded in Latinizing mainstream items, like slapping “Tigers of the North” on a box of frosted flakes, with a guitar playing tiger and more. We get to imagine what a Trader Jose’s might look like, and even though Los Angeles is plentiful with Hispanic grocer’s, Ugly Primo uses the brand recall of a national chain to make that experience feel like the true cornerstone of American identity that it is. We belong here. We’re not going anywhere.

LA, if you’re looking for a party, it’s at the Primo Playhouse.

@uglyprimo / Instagram

Let’s show Ugly Primo all our support, hope we meet Ugly Primo in the felt (or flesh, let’s be real) and see what “exclusive merch” he’s drawn up for us.

READ: Ugly Primo Is One Latino Artist Everyone Who Loves Pop Culture Should Know About