The Mellon Foundation and the Centro de Economía Creativa (CEC) announced Maniobra – a newly launched $8 million cultural employment initiative created to facilitate stable employment opportunities for artists while strengthening the administrative bandwidth of community-based cultural organizations across Puerto Rico. In its inaugural stage, Maniobra – named in reference to “the work of one’s hands” – is providing support including salary, training, health and other benefits, and more to 37 artists and 25 artist-centric organizations across 12 municipalities.
Puerto Rican artists play critical leadership roles within their communities, yet often live in a state of financial precarity, earning a median annual income of approximately $16,000 for their work, with 46% generating less than $12,000 annually. Through Maniobra, CEC and the Mellon Foundation underscore the labor of artists as valued work, while modeling remuneration that reflects artists’ formal education, experience, and contributions to society.
“This initiative shines an important light on the economic state and personal well-being of the artistic community and centers both as priorities for philanthropy and cultural policy,” said Javier Hernández Acosta, Founder of the Center and Dean of the School of Arts, Design and Creative Industries at the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. “Equity and salary justice within the arts had previously been relegated to a secondary agenda item, but we are now thrilled to work with the Mellon Foundation to advance this important work through real action.”
Maniobra provides participating organizations with the financial support needed to hire at least one full-time artist and $20,000 yearly budget to support the organization’s programming and creative projects over the entirety of the three-year initiative. The funding will not only strengthen organizations’ artistic programming and financial stability, but will also serve as a pilot that could be expanded in the future and has the potential of driving philanthropic support to a more holistic approach.
“Lifting up and celebrating the creativity of Puerto Rican artists, writers, and performers means granting them the resources they need to pursue their callings, supporting the archipelago’s artistic and cultural organizations, and broadly fostering the work and preservation of Puerto Rican culture at a time when stable employment and funding for these efforts has been imperiled,” said Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Mellon Foundation.“We are honored to support Maniobra, and excited to see the work that comes from this remarkable initiative.”
Prior to the launch of Maniobra, CEC and the Mellon Foundation collaborated on artists-centered initiatives including the development of Nido Cultural – a platform created to support management services for artistic and cultural production in Puerto Rico, as well as on an initiative aimed at Mapping of Cultural Work in Puerto Rico. Maniobra was inspired by Creatives Rebuild New York (CRNY) – the $125 million Mellon Foundation-backed initiative created to help reactivate the creative economy of New York State and secure the future of its artists.
The artists selected for Maniobra, which commenced in early April, were selected by an advisory team of key stakeholders from the local artistic community. Considering the diversity of practices and approaches across the islands, collectives and organizations were selected based on their rich experience in artistic and cultural work.
“In addition to supporting these artists, we also expect to strengthen the work of the collectives and organizations by providing technical and managerial support as well as operational budgets for the execution of the initiatives,” said Sonia Méndez, Program Manager of the Centro de Economía Creativa, Inc. “It also represents a unique project that not only offers the artist a salary, but also fringe benefits and health care coverage.”
*Photo: Gustavo Castrodad