Is culture in the western area being lost?

By: Emmanuel Torres Rodríguez

On October 16, a panel hosted at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez discussed the status of the art scene in the western area from different artist’s perspectives, along with possible alternatives on how to help rebuild and improve our identity as a community.

The panel, composed by Baruch Vergara, art professor at UPRM and director of the local in campus gallery, Lorraine Rodríguez, dance teacher at Ballet Escenario, and Andrea Méndez, student at UPRM and a dancer at UPRM, shared their experiences on many of the struggles they have had to withstand to be able to emerge as artists in the western area.

The press conference  held on October 16, 2014, presented the perspectives of different artists on the local arts scenery.

The press conference held on October 16, 2014, presented the perspectives of different artists on the local arts scenery.

When people think about culture in Puerto Rico, they instantly think about San Juan, and the metro area without realizing there are many cultural events happening in different parts of Puerto Rico. The western area is no exception, and Mayagüez is a town with a very rich culture, as was defended by the three panelists in the conference.

Accessibility is an issue when bringing people to different events. Mayagüez is an area populated mainly by students, and therefore accessibility and budget become a big problem. Rodríguez depicted this scenario at the press conference to compare the metro area to Mayagüez: “If you have a lot of community members that have a lot of time, shows are going to be full, but if you have a lot of people that are working two jobs plus school, the shows are not going to be full.”

However, she also said that, “selling ballet to Mayagüez is not that hard,” since a lot of the shows are filled by the families of the members of the group.

In contrast, the director of UPRM’s gallery said that it is very hard to bring people to the gallery. He said that people see “galleries or shows like a boring place to go, with no fun and no beer,” and this affects gravely the amount of people who visit places like the art gallery. “A fitting mechanism of diffusion for the art gallery does not exist,” Vergara said, noting that students themselves have to take the initiative to pursue their own cultural enrichment.

Despite their different artistic focus, panelists agreed that there are many opportunities to expose your work and do art in the western area, but it is definitely harder than in the metro area. Regarding pursuing a career in dancing, Méndez said that it is harder because “there is a broader variety of options in the metro area compared to Mayagüez,” but “it is definitely doable.”

Vergara added that the campus gallery has a very good reputation and has opened the doors to many people including himself.

Panelists Baruch Vergara, Lorraine Rodríguez, and Andrea Méndez before starting the press conference.

Panelists Baruch Vergara, Lorraine Rodríguez, and Andrea Méndez talked about possible alternatives on how to help rebuild and improve our artistic identity as a community.

An article published by Forbes on 2011, argues that technology is “designed to give us more control over our lives is actually taking control away.” With the many benefits of having all the information you want in front of you with just a simple search, it is easy to lose yourself in technology. The Web 2.0 revolution, as Matt Linderman calls it in an article published in 2007, is taking over our identity as a community due to accessibility. “Instead of Mozart, Van Gogh, or Hitchcock, all we get with the Web 2.0 revolution is more of ourselves.”

Méndez said that “people don’t understand the amount of talent that is being brought to us,” and prefer staying behind a computer rather than going out and exploring the different art expressions.

Rodríguez added that “we don’t give a chance to our culture and prefer listening to foreign artists like Justin Bieber instead.”

The press conference concluded leaving the audience with a broader perspective on the status of the art scene in Mayagüez, and the western area.

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