El Museo del Barrio is the only Latino museum in New York City to focus on Puerto Rican, Caribbean and Latin American art. El Museo del Barrio is home to numerous exhibits in their Permanent Collection, exhibitions, and cultural celebrations, and it encourages public engagement and outreach in the Latino community.
During the late 1960’s, a group of people found themselves
concerned about the stark lack, and possibly exclusion, of Latino artists in museums.
In order to remedy this, El Museo del Barrio was formed, though it did not
initially have a permanent home. From 1969 to 1976, El Museum worked out of
storefronts and classrooms with the support of the community it served. In the
Fall of 1977, El Museo worked with the Boys Harbor youth services agency to get
the Museo moved into a proper building. After some negotiation, Boys Harbor
helped move El Museo del Barrio into the Heckscher Building, where the Museo is
still housed today. During that same year, El Museo joined the Cultural
Institutions Group, which included institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum
of Art, which helped to get El Museo on its feet in regards to funding.
In the early 1980’s, El Museo had seen a fair bit of
popularity, and plans were made for expansion and renovation. On November 19 of
1983, El Museo revealed a number of expansions, such as their Video Gallery and
the New East Wing exhibition space. El Museo enjoyed continued popularity, but
in 1985, an investigation was set to examine the museum’s fiscal management. As
a result, El Museo’s funds were frozen, threatening to potentially shut the
museum down. By Winter of 1986, El Museo was forced to lay off staff, and the
curator of the museum volunteered to work without pay as the investigation was
underway in order to keep the collection alive. By October of 1986, new management
was brought in, the freeze was lifted, and El Museo rebounded from their
financial troubles. Today, El Museo continues to offer eduactional opportunities
for all of those who come through their doors.