By ARNALDO J. LÓPEZ
I choose to lead from a place of learning and generosity. This idea was first impressed upon me by my mother, who was a teacher in Puerto Rico’s urban public school system, and by my grandmother on my father’s side, with whom I lived formative years in the rural mountainside town of Adjuntas. Each week she took time to read and write personal letters for other women whose family members had scattered away for reasons of work and duty and ambition. From those memories I draw a deep sense of belonging through service and my first curious insight into the beckoning call of change.
Change was the battle cry of 2020. From climate crisis to coronavirus to Black Lives Matter, people are sounding the sirens, exposing the root of what’s wrong with prevailing power and economic systems, and urging each other to do better. 2020 accelerated the long and hotly contested processes of public remembrance and acknowledgment, of protest and recognition, of owning up to and then dismantling the levers of white supremacy, of examining the optics and the lens through which we often fail to see what’s up.
I am humbled and grateful to be part of a cultural community that has been walking this walk for decades. Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater is part of that something bigger and unstoppable. The joy and conviction in our work is testament to the affective ties that bind art, artists, and community at every level. We are the proverbial village it takes to make change and seed lasting transformation. Our work on and off stage is possible only thanks to the learning, generosity, and leadership of many. Together we make it happen!
Temporary physical distance won’t faze us. We prevail in the collective spirit of colleagues, virtual theatergoers, friends, donors, and supporters for whom Pregones/PRTT lights a path. It is in this spirit, and as we near a hopeful new calendar year, that I am pleased to share recent developments related to organizational stability and sustained creative output:
Pregones/PRTT recently hosted a festive Virtual Toast to mark the successful launch of Primera Fila | Front Row, our new and important monthly donor initiative that is fueling vital activity by theater, music, dance, and film/media artists of color. The special event featured two luminaries who call our company home: singer-songwriter Danny Rivera and trombonist-composer Papo Vázquez. Friends and donors in attendance via Zoom also got a special sneak peek at our next big campaign and celebration!
We are pleased to acknowledge new and increased funding commitments for artistic programs, creative workforce, and diverse community engagement forthcoming from the Howard Gilman Foundation, including one-time support to meet the escalating technical costs of online programming; the Hispanic Federation’s Nonprofit Emergency Assistance Fund; the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation’s Regional Resilience Fund; The Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation‘s Performing Arts program; the National Perfomance Network’s Creation Fund, for bi-coastal co-commission of new work by multi-disciplinary artists Kendra Ware, Martha Gonzalez, and Virginia Grise; and, in the form of first-time grants, The Miranda Family Fund and the Lily Auchincloss Foundation.
The ongoing work of Pregones/PRTT’s ensemble and associate artists was also amplified through salient partnership with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) and its Off Broadway in the Boros: Pop-Ups; NYC & Company’s Virtual NYC Curator Collections, developed in partnership with MOME and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and featuring Broadway playwright Matthew López; the extended public access viewership network of BronxNet Community Television; the Esperanza Arts Center in Philadelphia, PA, and its Virtual Latino Arts Festival 2020; and the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts (MIFA) Victory Theatre, in collaboration with New England Public Media and Nueva Esperanza in Holyoke, MA.
GRACIAS. Each and every one of these and other current relationships is a valued vote of confidence in the role Pregones/PRTT plays in the performing arts and cultural sectors, both in and beyond New York City.
Urgent field conversations that merit mention in the same breath include this year’s Learning Exchanges of the Mosaic Network & Fund in The New York Community Trust, where I served on the Steering Committee and was part of the lively Investment P2P breakout group. Having arts and philanthropy leaders jointly address structural disinvestment in communities of color, with its concomitant trauma, is determinant in our capacity to map routes towards healing and reparations. Deep gratitude to Co-Chairs Maurine Knighton and Kerry McCarthy for their commitment to this necessary work, and to all the participants who gave generously of their time, knowledge, and energy.
Equally pertinent is the explicitly intersectional and multigenerational LxNY | Latinx Arts Consortium, co-launched this year by Pregones/PRTT with colleagues from BAAD! Bronx Academy of Arts & Dance, Bronx Documentary Center, Caribbean Cultural Center and African Diaspora Institute, El Museo del Barrio, Flushing Town Hall, The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center, and Repertorio Español. Charged and challenging as befits the crises of the moment, our dialogue is also tempered by trust, mutual understanding, and a shared vision for collective impact. GRACIAS to the Ford Foundation for supporting the present phase in development of what will grow into a lasting network with benefits for many. Shout-out to graphic artist and illustrator Richard Alexander Caraballo for taking on the design of our forthcoming new brand—stay tuned for more!
Looking ahead to 2021, I take comfort in knowing Pregones/PRTT is appreciated for its creative fruit and promise, for its rootedness and lofty ideals, for its always welcoming and collaborative disposition, and for its uncompromising charge forward. ¡Juntos lo hacemos realidad!
For related inquiries, please email [email protected] or call 718-585-1202.
Arnaldo J. López, Ph.D., Managing Director
Screen capture from the October 2020 Stage Garden Rumba Digital physically distanced outdoors pop-up performance by composer and trombonist Hommy Ramos at Sunshine Community Garden in the South Bronx.