One of the reasons why I love to visit Chicago is to explore its ethnic neighborhoods and museums. I’ve blogged about this city’s Polish Museum of America, the National Hellenic Museum, the Swedish American Museum, the Ukrainian National Museum, etc. Perhaps the only ethnic group without a visitable museum is the Irish. They do, however, support their Irish American Heritage Center. The best up and coming culture center in Chicago is NMPRAC, the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture founded in 2001.
As 2015 began there were more than 4.8 million Puerto Ricans living in the United States. Approximately 3.8% of Chicago’s total population is Puerto Rican. There are only 3.6 million Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico! This huge number makes them the 2nd largest Latino population in the United States. It’s time they had their own national museum, and NMPRAC is well on its way to becoming just that. So far, it’s the only venue of its kind in the entire country.
The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture is at 3015 West Division in Humboldt Park near one of Chicago’s larger Puerto Rican communities. Humboldt Street temporarily becomes Paseo Boricua there.
During Phase 1, Chicago’s Puerto Rican elite spent more than $6 million turning Humboldt Park’s stables into a lively heritage center devoted to their culture. Built in 1896 in Queen Anne style, this spacious 19th century building is definitely one of the main reasons for visiting. It’s beautiful. Visitors enter from 10 am to 4 pm from Tuesday to Friday via the fine brick archway that was part of the original carriage entrance. Inside, they can see 2 galleries with temporary displays of cultural artifacts, performance venues, and vivid art like the carnival figure above throughout. NMPRAC sponsors a films in the park series, neighborhood festivals, mostly contemporary art exhibitions, etc. When Ruth & I were there, we saw ongoing preparations for a weekend wedding, enthusiastic art classes in session, lots of ethnic pride, etc. Phase 2 will add a cafe, a gift shop, and a central gallery. I hope the latter will become a relatively permanent space featuring examples of Puerto Rican art and design. I’d like to hear some current Puerto Rican music too that isn’t like West Side Story.
The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture is about the present and the future. It’s motto is “Where Preservation Meets Inspiration”.