Puerto Rican Museum Chosen As ‘Anchor Site’ For Architecture Biennial

Original post by Mina Bloom found here: https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20170414/humboldt-park/puerto-rican-national-museum-chicago-architecture-biennial-2017

HUMBOLDT PARK — The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture was chosen as one of six “community anchor sites” for this year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial, which will bring folks from all over the world to Humboldt Park.

“We were elated,” said Billy Ocasio, CEO of the museum. “For us to highlight the gems of this community, it’s a great opportunity … it’s something that’s going to showcase [our] community to thousands of people around the world.”

The inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial launched in 2015 as a way to celebrate Chicago’s reputation as an architectural hub through events and programming at Downtown architectural institutions. It was considered a success with more than 500,000 visitors.

New this year are the six “anchor sites” in Chicago’s neighborhoods, including the Humboldt Park museum, thanks to the financial backing of the Chicago Community Trust.

While folks were encouraged to visit neighborhood gems in 2015, this is the first time neighborhood institutions are involved in a formal way, according to Todd Palmer, executive director for the biennial.

Palmer said the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture was an “obvious choice” because it fully represents Humboldt Park, the city’s largest Puerto Rican enclave. Plus, the building is an architectural beauty that, despite a 1994 fire that destroyed 40 percent of the roof and the second floor, was restored to its former glory.

Built in 1865 to house horse stables, the Queen Anne-style building, 3015 W. Division St., is on the National Register of Historic Places. Internationally renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen, who designed Humboldt Park’s namesake park, worked out of the first floor.

In 1995, community members banded together to restore the building with the help of the city. But it wasn’t until 2014 that the museum was able to officially open as a national museum, which has since gained the attention of many, including “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is of Puerto Rican descent.

“It’s an area that’s going through a lot of changing,” Ocasio said of Humboldt Park. “I think it’s great for people to understand the history behind Humboldt Park … and identify what’s going on around them.”

The remaining five “anchor sites” are the Hyde Park Art Center, the Beverly Arts Center, the DuSable Museum of African American History, the DePaul Art Museum and the National Museum of Mexican Art.

For more information about the Chicago Architecture Biennial, visit the website.

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