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Queens College Recognizes Students Artwork from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

“Acciones Que Levantan a Puerto Rico” (Actions That Speak Puerto Rico) exhibit had its opening reception on Oct. 9th, from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM in the Benjamin N. Rosenthal Library on the 6th floor.

 Chicas for Alejandro Foundation, along with Queens College and the Kupferberg Center for the Arts, hosted the exhibit for the one-year anniversary of the hurricane. 

The new display includes 50 works of art created by students from Puerto Rico from the ages of 12 to 17 who suffered through Hurricane Maria, a category 5 hurricane that took people’s homes, natural resources, power and caused flooding in Puerto Rico.

There are 80 art pieces in total; the rest of the 30 pieces, made by students ages six to 17, are located at Loisaida Center in Manhattan and are projected by two televisions in the gallery in the library.

The foundation was started by Alejandra Sofia Leizan Ryan, a young artist herself, who passed away in 2015 to “create awareness and fight bullying,” according executive director Francis Ryan, and curator of the Acciones exhibit.

“There’s a lot in our country that binds us together and all values came strong in this exhibit,” Ryan said. “The students are generation that survived this catastrophe and they will guide us and we will be fine in their hands,” Ryan stated.

Music plays throughout the gallery by Puerto Rican singer, Niz, titled “Isla Bendita” (Blessed Island) a composition and track, an inspirational song that became an anthem for Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria, according to Ryan, who was born in Puerto Rico and suffered through hurricane Maria.

Suzanna Simor, Director of the Art Library at Queens College, spoke about how she felt the art strikes her as coming “straight from the heart.”

“As I looked at the art work I could see every part of Puerto Rico from a young person’s approach and I see how it could help the children address Hurricane Maria and the tension that came with it. “

“The art was the only way the children could communicate after the hurricane,” she said. “Through it all, the students saw that the future of Puerto Rico will be okay.”

Originally 630 entries, the art pieces started being submitted within the first few weeks after the hurricane. The exhibit includes original paintings and drawings that exhibit bright colors, Puerto Rican flags, nature and family. Acciones was originally displayed in the atrium of the Plaza Las Americas mall in San Juan, Puerto Rico in May for one month before it was brought to New York.

Natalie Ovide, a junior majoring in Africana Studies, said she was amazed by the pure talent she saw in the art.

“I saw that this art exhibited hope and resilience,” Ovide stated. “I see strong children trying to rebuild their hope.”

The exhibit has been viewed by more than 260,000 people and has received recognition by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) according the Ryan. The exhibit is expected to move to Florida, Chicago, Washington D.C., Mexico and Argentina and Ryan says she is opened to have the exhibit in other areas and will work with any venue that wants to host.

Sabila Rana, a junior majoring in Psychology, said the artists in the exhibit displayed great talent.

“The art work showed me how Puerto Rico is trying to grow after everything they went through in the Hurricane,” she said. “I feel they are trying to tell us they need help and we should be there for them.”

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