The exhibition “Puerto Rico Then and Now,” dedicated to examining and celebrating Puerto Rican culture and identity was a huge success!
Robinson Middle and Upper School students worked with Visual Arts teacher, Arlene Ruiz, to produce a spectacular exhibit in the Auditorium during Semana Puertorriqueña. The show opened on November 15 and was part of Noche Puertorriqueña, the closing celebration on November 17.
“Puerto Rico is going through a time of uncertainty and economic crisis, but it’s not the first time we’ve been through this,” noted Ms. Ruiz. She wants to use the Visual Arts to show her students that Puerto Rico has survived crises in the past and will continue to do so in the future. By incorporating all subject areas (Math, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts), “Puerto Rico Then and Now” shines as a true example of the IB philosophy of interconnectedness and creative critical thinking. Beyond that, Robinson students’ artistic talent continues to amaze every year! “Students are really motivated. They even had t-shirts made!” Ruiz added. The t-shirts had Puerto Rican sayings, like”Al mal tiempo, buena cara” (loosely translated: Put on a brave face during hard times); “Lo cortés no quita lo valiente” (Courtesy does not cancel courage); and “Soñar no cuesta nada” (Dreaming is free).
Students were asked to reflect on the questions “Why is culture important?” and “Do you think you would love yourself more if you learned about your heritage and culture?” Their responses were printed on large scrolls of paper at the entrance.
A giant paper Ceiba tree, sacred to Taínos, stood floor-to ceiling upon entering the exhibit in the Auditorium under the Chapel. This tree was part of a collaboration with Luis Muñoz Rivera Public School in Río Piedras and Delia Dávila Cabán Public School in Toa Baja. Bold paper animal sculptures of the animal characters from the classic Puerto Rican novel El Josco greeted visitors – a huge ox, a crab, a horse and a crane brought the gallery to life. Students interconnected the important figure of Puerto Rican artist Ramón Frade with other historical figures from the same time period, such as Ramón Emeterio Betances, and Abelardo Díaz Alfaro and Jack Delano.
Students studied Frade and his contemporaries through genre and visual arts principles, through literature and science, though history and language. Still-life paintings used the flowers of Puerto Rican literature as their subject and reflected Frade’s well-balanced compositions. This project also used botany, as did Frade, to carefully study the flowers and paint watercolors of them. Students worked with Science teacher, Miriam Medina, to collect and dissect the flowers they painted during Biology class. Like Frade, students painted landscapes that used distinctive topographical elements to reflect on Puerto Rican identity and work with composition, color and value. Architectural drawings showed how mathematics is central to the arts and our built environment. Older students worked on conceptual drawing and cultural commentary. They reproduced Frade’s iconic painting, El Pan Nuestro, (Our Daily Bread), adding contemporary elements to make a cultural critique and comment on the progression of Puerto Rican history. The photography component of the exhibit juxtaposed a photo of 1940s Puerto Rico by Jack Delano with one from the 1980s and another one from the present day.
Congratulations to the Middle and Upper Schools for putting showing the caliber of education, rigor and talent here at Robinson!
Enjoy the photos below!