Ágora Cultural Architects wins six-figure grant from The Mellon Foundation

A report by Lauren Williams for WBUR.

With the funds, the arts organization will create a Puerto Rican “cultural corridor,” which will impact artists in the Northeast and Puerto Rico.

Ágora Cultural Architects, an arts organization that supports Latinx talent, recently received a six-figure grant from The Mellon Foundation, one of the leading arts sponsors in the United States. The organization will create a Puerto Rican “cultural corridor,” which will impact artists in the Northeast and Puerto Rico.

After Elsa Mosquera Sterenberg moved to Boston in 2015, she began working with the Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción’s art program. It was here that she began to understand the landscape of the Boston arts scene. “I immediately gathered that there was an underrepresentation of Latinos, especially if you compare that to the amount of Latinos that there are in the city,” said Mosquera Sterenberg.

She decided to help fill the gap with her own organization, Ágora Cultural Architects. The organization writes and submits grant proposals for Latinx artists, aids in audiovisual, event, and publishing production. Ágora also supports artists’ audience development and provides services in music consulting. The organization’s first client was Silverio Pérez, an award-winning writer and musician. In 2019, he and Mosquera Sterenberg drove around New England in her car hosting small concerts and events. Every single event was full of people speaking Spanish, taking pictures and connecting with one another.

After the tour, Mosquera Sterenberg felt like the organization was moving in the right direction. “This is what we need to do. This is how people want to connect with Puerto Rican artists,” she said. Now, the organization is taking what they did with Perez’s tour to a new level with a project called Borri-Corridor. The Mellon Foundation paid attention and granted them awarded them a $700,000 grant.

Borri-Corridor will help bridge the gap between Puerto Rican artists living on the mainland and the island. Mosquera Sterenberg says the organization has created a two-part plan. First, Borri-Corridor will have an open call for artist proposals, from which they’ll select solo and group performers to join the organization on tour throughout New England. Ágora will support their production and promotion and connect them with cultural organizations.

The second element of Borri-Corridor will be an interactive map highlighting Puerto Rican cultural centers and their histories. This research tool will be available to the public. “It will help [artists] understand where they are, understand their audiences and understand a little bit about the history of those cultural organizations,” said Mosquera Sterenberg.

While Borri-Corridor is an artist-focused project, a primary goal is to share the variety and skill of Puerto Rican artists with mainland diasporic audiences. Part of the project’s success depends on how many cultural organizations are willing to get involved.

Mosquera Sterenberg hopes to reach diasporic populations throughout the U.S. “And by that, I mean Chicago and Texas and Georgia and Florida, along with New England and New York,” said Mosquera Sterenberg.

The artistic tour across the Northeast will begin in 2024, following the launch of Borri-Corridor’s interactive map. The grant will help with travel and production costs. “I just feel that it’s like confirmation that what we’re doing is valuable,” said Mosquera Sterenberg.

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