When thinking of Puerto Rico’s attractions, the beach, the food, the nightlife and outdoor adventure will arguably be the first things to come to mind. But Puerto Rico is much more than that. Puerto Rico is also the art mecca of the Caribbean, thanks to its celebrated museums and emerging contemporary art scene. Nowhere is this more evident than in Santurce, one of the most popular districts of San Juan.
Santurce’s name comes from a port town in Spain’s Basque Country, where Pablo Ubarri, the first count of Santurce was born. Ubarri, an engineer, was sent to the island to help in the construction of a railroad system between San Juan and Río Piedras, right through the center of Santurce. This railroad is what gave way to Santurce’s gentrification. Throughout the years, the district continued to grow mainly due to its proximity to San Juan and other subu
rbs. Together with Condado and Miramar, two very popular districts, Santurce has become a cultural hot spot for art, music, cuisine and the creative community.
If Puerto Rico is the art mecca of the Caribbean, Santurce is the epicenter for art connoisseurs and aficionados. Boasting two of the three largest and most important fine art museums in the island and countless small galleries and art spaces, Santurce is becoming a force to be reckoned with. The main advantage of Santurce is that all of these wonderful experiences are packed into a relatively small and pedestrian-friendly area, which means that you can walk from one place to another or use the readily available and inexpensive AMA public transportation service. From classical paintings dating back to the 1700′s to contemporary street art exhibitions, Santurce has something for everyone. Here are a few of the can’t-miss museums and galleries:
Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
Considered to be one of the most prestigious art museums in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, the Puerto Rico Museum of Art is a 130,000-square-foot neoclassical building right in the heart of Santurce. It houses a collection ranging from 17th century art to contemporary installations by prominent local and foreign artists. On the other side of a towering five-story stained glass window, lies an amazing outdoor garden equally as impressive as the art that hangs inside. Two pieces you must not miss are Arnaldo Roche Rabell’s 12-foot-tall and 24-foot-wide triptych “The Garden of Intolerance”, an ode to his beloved brother, and Santurce native Pepón Osorio’s “You don’t cry at the barbershop”, an installation about culture, social situations and stereotypes of the Puerto Rican community in New York. Edible works of art are also served in the newly inaugurated Laurel Kitchen so don’t forget to stop by and enjoy Iron Chef Mario Pagan’s nuevo Caribe cuisine. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for students with proper ID, and on Wednesday’s, admission is free from 2pm to 8pm! Click here to get directions from your hotel
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo
A few minutes from the Puerto Rico Museum of Art lies the Contemporary Museum of Art. Originally a public school, the MAC (as locals call it) is a Georgian-style architecture building that dates back to 1918. It’s known for its reddish-brown brick facade, an uncommon sight in Santurce. Once inside, the open-air inner patio provides a great setting to reflect upon the artwork you just gazed at or just a good spot to look up at the sunny skies through the glass ceiling. The permanent collection features artwork by distinguished Latin American artists, as well as Puerto Rican greats by the likes of Lorenzo Homar, Carmelo Sobrino and Myrna Báez. Since it’s a non-profit organization, a donation of $5 is suggested. Click here to get directions from your hotel.
C787 Studios & La Respuesta
These two art spaces are in the forefront of Puerto Rico’s street art movement. Ranging from graffiti to photography to t-shirt design and everything in between, these two spaces provide a venue for up-and-coming talent to showcase their work. C787 Studio’s black and gold exterior and La Respuesta’s quirky facade murals are a testament to what you will see inside. Along with other local galleries in the area, C787 Studios and La Respuesta hosted an event called Santurce Es Ley, a cultural event intended to promote local artists and turn Santurce into Puerto Rico’s art district. For information on gallery showings and special events, please visit their sites.