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A visit to El Museo del Barrio

On Saturday, November 7th 2009, ten students associated with UMass’s Bilingual Collegiate Program visited the historic El Museo del Barrio in New York City to tour the exhibit, “NEXUS New York: Latin/American Artist in the Modern Metropolis” which documents the artwork of Hispanic artists who lived in New York City before World War II. The exhibit focused on how Hispanic artists adapted to the city and responded to the rapidly industrializing environment. Among the many featured artists were Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Alice Neel, Miguel Pou y Becerra, Joaquín Torres-García, and Carmen Herrera.

“That’s so true,” commented sophmore Eddie Vazquez about one of Alice Neel’s paintings which depicting a Puerto Rican mother with three children of varying skin colors. The painting is called “The Spanish Family/La Familia Hispana” (1943). “No father,” said Vazquez noting the conspicuous absence of the father in the portrait.

“I really liked the works by Alice Neel and Carlos Enríquez as well,” said senior Gisel Saillant of the troubled artist couple whose work was on display. “Their exhibit showcased a visual biography of how they experienced and expressed art.

Overall, it was a valuable experience for a diverse group of students to see an exhibition that expressed a shared immigrant heritage and experience of creative adaptation. The trip also provided a space in which students new to BCP or UMass could bond with older students over an exciting experience of cultural enrichment.

Martin Meccouri