In “An Artist on How the Met Is Reaching Beyond the Museum with a New Civic Engagement Residency,” Seph Rodney (Hyperallergic) interviews Puerto Rican artist Miguel Luciano, who speaks about the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s initiative to support partnerships for artists who have a social practice focus. The artist responds to questions to explain what this initiative means to him and his work. Rodney writes:
In June, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it was launching an initiative to support partnerships for artists working and living in communities within the five boroughs of New York City. Their announcement designates a Civic Practice Partnership as the main component of this initiative, and two artists—choreographer and performance artist Rashida Bumbray, and multimedia visual artist Miguel Luciano—were chosen to inaugurate the project. The initiative also includes a “Civic Practice Seminar,” which is a five-month “experiential learning program” that includes visual artists, musicians, and writers, all of whom are described as “socially mindful in their practice.” Both Bumbray and Luciano will partner with the Met to fulfill the goals of this initiative — the most central of which is, over the course of the next year, to create their own projects that will act as bridges between the museum and the communities with which they work.
SR: First, can you tell us what this initiative is about?
[. . .] ML: For me, what the project will be about is sort of yet to be determined. But the idea of the residency is really unique in that it really focuses on community-centered practices and artists who are working in communities. Which is different from a residency that people think of typically with an art organization or institution, where one is situated at the institution, creating work in a studio. It’s really not like that at all. It’s really focused on supporting the practices of artists who are already connected to and engaging with their own communities.
In my case, I live in East Harlem and been working with communities here for quite a while. Right now I’m working on a project that commemorates, the activist history of the Puerto Rican community here in East Harlem, specifically looking at the Young Lords — the 50 year anniversary of the Young Lords, which is this year and next year. [I am] looking at the way that our communities, historically, have responded in times of crisis. and this is a project that is in partnership with El Museo Del Barrio.
The larger part of the project is connecting this post-Civil Rights activist history in the Puerto Rican community with what’s happening on the island today, linking these two histories and creating conversations between them. [Now] we’re in sort of our research phase, with this new Met program and the first few months of the residency were set up in a way that would allow us to do research at the institution, research in our own communities, and sort of develop a project or program or series of programs that would culminate sometime during the year. [. . .]
SR: One more question. The initiative is called a Civic Practice Partnership [ and the Met’s press release explains that the partnership is a “collaborative residency program,” which is the “leading component” on their initiative] and you’ve mentioned a connection with the community, and another term that comes up, which I suppose, means essentially the same is “social practice.” What does civic partnership, community-based, or social practice mean to you?
ML: I guess it means a lot of things. I think in my own work, it doesn’t always manifest in objects and a lot of what I’m thinking about is actually about creating different forms of exchange and supporting different kinds of activities in our community that generate exchanges. I’m also thinking a lot about celebrating the culture that is here and it’s always been here and that the cultural practices of our communities are vital and remain vital. So a lot of what I’m thinking about in my own practice are ways of highlighting, the art and cultural practices that exist in our community every day, focusing on how those things are expressed here locally in my own neighborhood.
[Miguel Luciano, “Pimp My Piragua” (2009) a performative, public art project that commemorates the traditions of Puerto Rican / Latinx street vendors and bike clubs, through a customized pushcart-bicycle made for selling piraguas (shaved ice refreshments); photo by Jehangir Irani.]
For full interview, see https://hyperallergic.com/449152/metropolitan-museum-of-art-civic-practice-partnership/