Latino Life in Philly

Colorful canvases highlight Puerto Rican culture at new art show in West Kensington

Called “Tu Eres Puerto Rico,” the exhibit was three years in the making.

Shawnick Rodriguez is having her first show at Taller Puertorriqueño this spring

Shawnick Rodriguez is having her first show at Taller Puertorriqueño this spring

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY
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Only about 2.8% of art displayed in major U.S. museums is by Latino artists, according to a 2019 study out of Williams College, with the grand majority of those artists being men.

Puerto Rican artist Shawnick Rodriguez finds inspiration in trying to change that narrative.

“It’s time for us to represent our culture more and more, so that we’re able to be seen and heard,” said Rodriguez, who produces under the name Art by SIR. “So that people can understand who we are and why we are so prideful.”

The boricua artist from Camden is hosting her first show this spring at Taller Puertorriqueño in West Kensington. There’s an opening party on Saturday (find details below).

Titled “Tu Eres Puerto Rico,” the exhibit showcases Rodriguez’s bright and colorful works on canvas. The collection draws from her heritage, including the flag and national flower, the Flor de Maga, as well as the native Taino people and the country’s tropical landscape.

Rodriguez has been planning for the show since last October, and is thrilled to be partnering with Taller Puertoriqueño. “They represent Puerto Ricans, who we are — and not only that, but who we are in the arts,” she said.

Dominic Moret, the center’s cultural enrichment and facility rentals manager, is excited for the opening weekend party, where he’ll get to see how people react to the way that Rodriguez speaks about her work. It’s an integral part of the experience, he said.

“When people say ‘I want the art to speak for itself,’ I think it’s disingenuous,” Moret told Billy Penn. “If you as an artist are able to stand by your work, it all becomes a cohesive message.”

Rodriguez is also looking forward to that personal connection. One of her biggest supporters is traveling from Connecticut to see the show.

“It means so much to me,” said the millennial artist. “It humbles me in so many ways,”

The name for the collection, which Rodriguez has been working on since 2018, came from a brainstorming session with her mother. “Tu Eres Puerto Rico. We are Puerto Rico,” she remembers her mom saying. “We represent it with so much pride, that’s what your paintings represent. It’s not just hitting one part of us, it’s hitting every single crevice of who we are.”

Through her work, Rodriguez said she’s learned about various Latino cultures, and is planning on expanding her scope to represent the Latin American experience as a whole.

“I want to represent us as loud and as powerful as possible,” Rodriguez said.

The birthday party-slash-show opening at Taller Puertoriqueño goes down 7 to 10 p..m. Saturday, April 30. Tickets are $50, available online or at the door. Expect DJs, homemade pastelillos, a coloring station, and a surprise gift for all guests.

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