December 9, 2020

Aquí vive gente: Museum of History and Community of Puerta de Tierra Brigada Puerta de Tierra at Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York

MHC PDT is the first iteration of the nascent community museum envisioned by the grassroots art collective Brigada Puerta de Tierra in the neighborhood of Puerta de Tierra in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Brigada Puerta de Tierra was the 2017 Visible Award recipient, funding from which has supported this exhibition.

MHC PDT is a new cultural institution that seeks to preserve the memory and heritage of the neighborhood of Puerta de Tierra in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Initiated by a collective called Brigada Puerta de Tierra and led by community members from the neighborhood, the museum utilizes a horizontal model of governance in which its activities are determined collectively and based on community interest.

About the Exhibition

Aquí vive gente (people live here). Throughout the neighborhood of Puerta de Tierra in San Juan, Puerto Rico, murals with this refrain brighten the walls and convey to passersby the self-determination of a community that is taking agency over the future development of its neighborhood.

This vision of collective action and cultural preservation, born out of hope and necessity, has been channeled toward efforts to realize a groundbreaking new organization in Puerta de Tierra. Storefront for Art and Architecture is honored to host the Museum of History and Community of Puerta de Tierra (MHC PDT). Previously housed only in the minds and living rooms of community members, this nascent museum is presented publicly for the first time ever at Storefront’s gallery space. 

The museum emerged after years of work by Brigada Puerta de Tierra (BPDT), a multigenerational group of artists and activists. It puts forth the vision that the lived experiences of the people of Puerta de Tierra matter, and that they can uniquely tell the rich and complex histories of a community undergoing intense urban pressures that would drastically alter the character of its social fabric.

Brigada Puerta de Tierra is structured as a horizontal organization that uses art and storytelling as a tool for education. The group has its foundations in grassroots and collective action; it was formed in 2015 as a response to the construction of the controversial Paseo Puerta de Tierra, a major redevelopment project that lacked citizen involvement. With the goal of reclaiming the neighborhood, BPDT has been active ever since. Its members have cleaned, maintained, and transformed abandoned sites in Puerta de Tierra through creative initiatives such as mural-making, gardening, and other outdoor programs that bring neighbors together.

The Museum of History and Community of Puerta de Tierra is BPDT’s most ambitious initiative to date. Over the last few months, Storefront has provided institutional support intended to help fulfill the museum’s mission (developed through self-led workshops) “to affirm, care for, and carry with pride and dignity the cultural legacy of the neighborhood through community participation, and to preserve the cultural heritage and collective memory of Puerta de Tierra.”

Currently without a long-term venue for the museum, Brigada Puerta de Tierra has been working toward rehabilitating and legally gaining access to the Edificio Infanzón, a historic building in Puerta de Tierra that has been abandoned for decades. After its presentation at Storefront, the MHC PDT will launch an international tour to create awareness of both the fragility and power of the neighborhood’s identity. Eventually, Brigada Puerta de Tierra aims to present the museum at its permanent home at the Edificio Infanzón.

Read more about the exhibition, installation, and collaborators here.


Affiliated Programming at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City
On Sunday, June 14th, Brigada Puerta de Tierra took the gallery to the streets, using murals and banners from Aquí vive gente to advocate for the Museum of History and Community of Puerta de Tierra at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City. Members of Brigada Puerta de Tierra marched alongside Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and community groups from New York and San Juan.


About Storefront for Art and Architecture

Storefront for Art and Architecture advances innovative and critical ideas at the intersection of architecture, art, and design. Storefront’s experimental programming provides alternative platforms for dialogue and collaboration focused on issues of the built environment and the future of our cities, territories, and public life. Since its founding in 1982, Storefront has presented the work of over one thousand architects and artists.