Queens College Marks Anniversary of Hurricane Maria with Month-Long Exhibition of Art By School-Age Survivors of Storm on Puerto Rico

— Project is Funded by a Nonprofit that Perpetuates the Legacy of a Short-Lived Activist;
Show Opens October 9 With Reception —

Queens, New York, October 5, 2018—Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College will host an exhibition of 80 original works that students from Puerto Rico produced in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. The exhibition, Acciones Que Levantan a Puerto Rico (Actions That Lift Puerto Rico) ACCIONES, is sponsored by the CHICAS by Alejandra Foundation (CHICAS Foundation), a leading Puerto Rico-based social movement and nonprofit organization named for a girl who opposed bullying and social injustice before succumbing to an aneurysm at the age of nine. The show commemorates the one-year anniversary of the storm, which made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017. The works will be on view in the Art Center on the sixth floor of the college’s Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library from October 9 through November 9, 2018. A reception on Tuesday, October 9, at 5:30 pm, will formally open the exhibition to the public; to attend, RSVP to qcartcenter@qc.cuny.edu.

Featuring pieces created by Puerto Rican students from public and private schools, ACCIONES is the only hurricane-themed student art exhibit of its kind. “The collection communicates a profound sense of hope for the future and serves as a poignant reminder of the long road ahead to help Puerto Rico fully recover from the storm’s devastation. ACCIONES also reveals the values that best represent the people of Puerto Rico, such as service, family, empathy, solidarity, hospitality, culture, love of nature and resiliency,” said Frances I. Ryan, executive director of the CHICAS Foundation.

“Students and staff from Queens College participated in Governor Cuomo’s NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative by helping to clean, restore, and reconstruct homes on the island in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria,” said Queens College President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “By hosting this exhibition, we want to continue to honor Puerto Ricans’ courageous struggle and the positive message of recovery that the young people of the island are sending out into the world.”

The CHICAS Foundation envisioned the hurricane-themed art initiative as an important communication forum for Puerto Rican students, allowing them to express their emotions about life-changing experiences and to use art to begin the healing process. Teachers played a major role in the competition by encouraging students to communicate their feelings as they returned to school following the storm. Despite dire conditions—much of the island is still without electricity, water, telecommunication or road access—630 original works were submitted to the ACCIONES contest. A panel of artists, art teachers and community leaders selected 80 of the paintings for display. 

“The values expressed throughout the exhibit are consistent with those of our founder’s legacy,” adds Ryan. “The late Alejandra Sofía Leizán Ryan was a young activist and plastics artist who dedicated her life and talent to fighting bullying and social injustice.”

ACCIONES was recently recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its humanitarian contribution through the arts to help create awareness about the impact of Hurricane Maria on the island and the people of Puerto Rico.

About Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College
The Selma and Max Kupferberg Center for the Visual and Performing Arts (KCA) is an administrative umbrella for ten Queens College arts units—including the QC Art Center—that offer public cultural programming throughout the year. KCA’s mission is to provide high-quality, accessible and affordable cultural attractions to the Queens College community and the borough’s 2.2 million residents. The largest multi-disciplinary arts entity in the borough, Kupferberg Center for the Arts features world-class artists and performances at its main-stage campus venues, and showcases the talents of emerging and regional artists in off-site, neighborhood settings. A leader in the cultural renaissance of Queens, KCA connects residents of the most ethnically diverse region of the nation to their unique cultural heritages, showcasing these arts to a broader audience and validating the contributions each makes to the distinct nature of our campus and community.

About Alejandra Sofía Leizán Ryan and the CHICAS Foundation
CHICAS by Alejandra is the legacy of young artist and activist, Alejandra Sofía Leizán Ryan. Prior to her sudden death of an aneurism at the age of nine (Sept. 17, 2015), Alejandra devoted her life and artistic talent to fighting “bullying” and all forms of discrimination. The sadness and sense of hopelessness that “bullying” caused two of her cousins inspired Alejandra to dedicate her paintings to celebrate diversity. Her legacy of values and message of social justice continues through the works of the CHICAS by Alejandra Foundation.

For more about Queens college, visit http://www.qc.cuny.edu/Pages/home.aspx

Maria Matteo
Office of Communications
Assistant Director, News Services