Kensington: Taller Puertorriqueno Prepares for New Art Facility

Los Pleneros de la 21 kicked off the summer of events with Cafe Under the Stars.]

What’s more fun than an energizing concert performed in the city you live in? A free concert takes place right in your community.

On a Friday evening in April, Taller Puertorriqueno kicked off its summer event series  with a live performance by Los Pleneros de la 21 right in North Kensington. The outcome of this event exceeded expectations.

“The event was just wonderful. We can give it a 10, and it went beyond our expectations in terms of audience,” said Executive Director of Taller Puertorriqueno Carmen Febo San Miguel.

Los Pleneros de la 21 kicked off the summer of events with Cafe Under the Stars.

This series of summer events are presented free to the community, funded with help from the Knight Foundation to market Taller’s new art center at 2621 N. Fifth St. By hosting a variety of events in a vacant parking lot located on Fifth and Huntingdon streets in Kensington, the staff at Taller Puertorriqueno said they hope to shed light on the expectations of what’s to come.

Café Under the Stars is the name of this series of seven, innovative performances, which, except for one event, will be staged on the lot of the site of Taller Puertorriqueno’s future $10.5 million state of the art facility.

Collaborating with Pregones Theater, Familia Rojas, Intercultural Journeys, AMLA, Casa de Venezuela and Feria del Barrio, the summer events began with Los Pleneros de la 21 concert and will end with the presentation of Merian Soto on Oct. 12.

Carmen Febo San Miguel stood by a poster of the new Taller Puertorriqueno art facility.

“What we’re trying to do with this is to warm up the place so that people get familiar with our new space,” said Cynthia Hernandez, the marketing and communications director at Taller Puertorriqueno. “We are trying to engage the community and to get them to participate in their culture and Latino background.”

With about $4 million left to raise for the new facility, Febo San Miguel said he expects that this last chunk of funding will be the hardest to obtain.

“This is an effort that is going to involve all of the community’s involvement in order to make it a reality,” Febo San Miguel said about raising the rest of the money. “Afterwards, we can all celebrate together in our accomplishments. In the meantime, we all need to work very hard in order to get it done.”

The community gathered to watch Los Pleneros de la 21.

When do they expect to get it done?

“This is still a very fluid process because there are still significant dollars that need to be identified,”  Febo San Miguel said.  “I think we have a path and within that path, if we are able to be successful in the goals that we have set for ourselves, we could be breaking ground by July of 2013. Now that would be a best-case scenario.”

Blending Latino talent and the community, award-winning work will be presented side-by-side with local and emerging talent.

The new Taller Puertorriqueno will contain classrooms with improved technology, dance and theater studios, and an outdoor patio. The new facility will aid the expansion of cultural outreach programs and cultural education programs.

As far as what people should expect from the new building, Febo San Miguel said, “It will be a beautiful structure that has all the comforts of a modern arts facility and people in the community will really enjoy it.”

The new facility will also include a multipurpose room for performances to take place and will be able to rent for events, meetings and even weddings.

The gallery at Taller Puertorriqueno is open and is located only a minute from the venue where the summer events are being held down no North Fifth Street.


Currently, the gallery is featuring an artist from New York. The “Take A Bite” exhibit spotlights David Antonio Cruz and his costumes, paintings and crops that he used throughout his most recent video.  After working on “Take a Bite” for almost a year, Cruz is now focusing solely on his painting.  He said h credits his friends for all his support, especially when it comes to his video projects.

“They put up with a lot,” Cruz said.  “They are very patient and they trust me, so they are in a lot of my work.”

This multifaceted exhibit includes sculptures, costumes, sounds, paintings and video. The exhibit will be available through June 2 at the Taller Puertorriqueno gallery.

“I am very flexible with my work,” Cruz said.  “I usually have one big grandiose idea, which eventually changes as I look for locations and start filming. But I don’t mind letting my plans stray off track a little in order to catch unexpected scenes. I love the surprises.”

Surprises are one thing that Executive Director Carmen Febo San Miguel and artist Cruz have in common. Both are building their communities through art; Cruz is already working on his next project and Febo San Miguel promises, “There is so much more to come.”

For more information about the upcoming summer events and the exhibit at the Taller Puertorriqueno Gallery, visit]

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