CLEMENTE SOTO VÉLEZ CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL CENTER
Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center
107 Suffolk Street
New York, NY 10002
Tel: (212) 260-4080
Jan Hanvik, Executive Director
Hours open to the public
Art Gallery: Monday-Thursday, 4:00–10:00 p.m.
History of the Institution
Named after the respected Puerto Rican poet, the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center was created to nurture and aid in the development of the Puerto Rican and Latino arts in the Lower East Side.
The Clemente was founded in 1993 by Edgardo Vega Yunqué, Nelson Landrieu, and Mateo Gómez. At the time, Teatro La Tea, established by Landrieu and Gómez, was the only functioning theater in the building that now houses the Clemente. Less than a year later, after much hard work and payment of an outstanding debt of over $30,000, the devoted trio acquired the lease to the city-owned building, on 107 Suffolk Street from Solidaridad Humana, a community-based education and human services organization.
The Clemente is located at 107 Suffolk Street, between Rivington and Delancey Streets; it is the foremost architectural landmark in that part of the Lower East Side still known as Loisaida. The Dutch Neo-Gothic building is a former public school (PS 160) constructed in 1898 by the Board of Education of the City of New York. By the mid-seventies the building had ceased to serve as a public school. From 1984 to 1990 it housed Solidaridad Humana, a revolutionary community-based education program that was comprehensive and bilingual.
As with most Latino arts centers and organizations throughout the country, the Clemente has struggled against many odds to keep its doors open. Lack of funding, benefactors, or patrons to support Latino arts programs present hardships. Nevertheless, the space is steadily being improved with the intention of making the Clemente a focus of Latino art and culture in New York City.
Currently the Clemente houses twelve resident companies and fifty-three individual artists, of which one-third are Latino / Hispanic.
Scope and Content
The archival records of the Clemente are mostly self-generated. They include the organization's operation records, which are comprised mainly of occupancy agreements and documents regarding the building's operations and maintenance. The Clemente also holds one linear foot of artist files regarding its resident artists.
There is no formal archival policy in place. The Clemente keeps application materials sent by artists soliciting studio space. These materials include artists' letters of interest, press on solo or group exhibitions, and resumes. Promotional materials on exhibitions and cultural events held at the Clemente are mostly limited to emails and flyers.
The Clemente can mediate the access to the archival records of resident companies.
Overall holdings of archives and research material: Thirty-five linear feet
Overall holdings of archives and research material on Latino art: Thirty-two linear feet
Inclusive dates of files: 1984–2005
Bulk dates: 1993–2005
Languages in which records are written:
Holdings: Primary Sources
Archives of institution's history and operation related to Latino art:
Thirty-one linear feet
The Clemente keeps information such as occupancy agreements, donation information, bills, checks, brochures, and some artist file materials.
Archives of manuscripts of other institutions related to Latino art:
The main office of the Clemente holds solely records on their operations. However, most of the resident companies in the Clemente building, including Teatro La TEA and SEA hold their own archival records. The contact information for the resident companies can be found on the Clemente website.
The organization has digital images documenting the work of many of its resident artists. These images will soon be made accessible through the Clemente's website.
Exhibition catalogues published in-house that include work by Latino artists:
The Clemente has not published any catalogues, but flyers and postcards are printed for most of the exhibitions they organize.
Films by or about Latinos:
The Clemente does not actively collect films, although there are some in its archive. Some Latino film companies like Cine Huracán and MoxieFilms, and independent filmmakers including Vlamyr Vizcaya, Luis Castro, and Isabel Bigalow hold studios at the Clemente. The organization can facilitate contact with these artists and companies in order for researchers to have access to their productions and archival materials.
Vertical file materials related to Latino art: artist files, brochures, pamphlets, clippings:
One linear foot
Artist files document the resident artists at the Clemente. They include materials on Sira Ayensa, Natalia Campos, Luis Castro, Anibal Cicardi, Silvio de la Cruz, Rafael Mendez, Freddie Molina, Miguel Trelles, and Rafael Tufiño, among others. Files are created as an artist becomes a tenant of the Center and are updated as he or she builds a base exhibition portfolio.
There are no finding aids to the Clemente archives.
Currently there is no space designated for researchers, but there is a conference table that can be made available when it is not being used by the staff.
Archival records are accessible by appointment only.
For more than a decade, the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center has served as an important incubator for the arts in the Lower East Side. It has provided workshop and exhibition space for numerous Puerto Rican and Latino artists, as well as to artists of other cultural backgrounds. The archival holdings that are of interest to researchers are currently limited. Nonetheless, the Clemente is starting to develop an archive in the hopes of documenting the artists who hold working space there.
Relations to other Latino and Latin American organizations:
Currently the Clemente houses twelve resident dance, theater, film, and performance companies. These include:
La Tea (Latin American Theater Experimental & Associates) Theater Company is the oldest resident theater at the Clemente. Founded in 1982, La Tea is committed to nurturing and promoting Latin American literature, music, and visual art.
SEA Society of the Educational Arts, Inc./Sociedad Educativa de las Artes, Inc. was founded in 1985 in Puerto Rico, and has been operating in New York since 1993. SEA is a not-for-profit Hispanic/Bilingual Arts-in-Education Organization dedicated to the empowerment and educational advancement of children and young adults.
Fantastic Experimental Latino Theater (FELT) was founded in 1994, to strengthen and develop social and cultural awareness of Latinos in New York City. FELT addresses social and economic issues affecting the health and general well being of New York City's Latino population.
HOLA Hispanic Organization for Latin Actors is a Hispanic arts service organization committed to exploring and expanding available avenues for projecting Hispanic artists and their culture into the mainstream of the Anglo-American industry, culture, and society.
Mark DeGarmo Dancers/Dynamic Forms, Inc. was founded in New York City in 1982 by choreographer, dancer, arts educator, and artistic director Mark DeGarmo and incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1987.
Afro Brazil Arts (ABA)/Capoeira Angola Palmares Academy, a non-profit organization founded in 1991, expands the circle of people who express themselves through art with capoeira instruction, performance, and the production and distribution of educational material.
Féraba is an African dance and percussion ensemble. The members of Féraba originally came from Austria, Japan, the United States, and West Africa and brought their diverse cultural backgrounds with them to this growing eclectic company.
Arts for Arts
LES Visual Arts Collective
In addition, the Clemente has served as a venue for the Latin American Dance Festival and exhibitions from Organization of Puerto Rican Artists (O.P. Art).