El Museo del Barrio in New York. Photo: William Alatriste.

Facing Criticism, El Museo del Barrio Instates Community Outreach Initiatives

Earlier this year, community activists sharply criticized El Museo del Barrio in New York for being out of touch with its roots as an institution founded by a coalition of Puerto Rican educators, artists, and activists. Demonstrators who held an action at the museum in June called for change, and in March, more than two hundred people signed an open letter demanding institutional reforms. Following the pushback over programming, hiring, and other issues, El Museo del Barrio revealed that it is forming a community advisory council and is launching various outreach initiatives.  

“This year we have had the opportunity to reflect on our rich history, and also hear from artists, East Harlem residents, and visitors on our importance and legacy as the first Latino cultural institution in the United States,” museum director Patrick Charpenel said in a statement. “Today, we are invigorated by this passionate energy and delighted to announce a robust schedule of exhibitions and programming in the coming months, strives in community engagement, and our newly acquired space in the building. We are confident that these initiatives will provide us with the opportunity to further unpack the Latinx experience in this country.”

In addition to the new advisory council, which will aim to establish an ongoing dialogue with residents of East Harlem and other communities, the museum’s upcoming “transformational season” will include the expansion of the museum’s footprint with the acquisition of 2,200 square feet of space in its building, which it plans to turn into a space for experimental projects, screenings, performances, panels, and other events; the development of more Latinx programming; and the launch of a $5 membership offer.

The institution also revealed that, in an attempt to diversify its board of trustees, Monica Tavares will become a member and additional trustees will be elected in the coming months. A native of the Dominican Republic, Tavares lives in East Harlem and works as associate vice chancellor at the City University of New York.