Acknowledgements by Susan Hoeltzel

In 1996, as part of a Lehman College initiative led by President Ricardo R. Fernández, the Lehman College Art Gallery began to explore the possibility of collaborating with artists, museums, and universities in Puerto Rico. It was in this context that we had the good fortune to meet Dr. Ricardo E. Alegría and lay the groundwork for this exhibition. Taíno Treasures presents fifty objects including ritual and religious artifacts, adornments, and utilitarian objects that convey a sense of the culture and the work of the Taíno artists and their ancestors living in the Greater Antilles from 100 A.D. to 1500 A.D. It is an important exhibition for the Gallery, the campus, and the community, offering a view of the expanding scholarship relating to Taíno art, culture, and history.

This exhibition was also developed to honor the exceptional life’s work of Dr. Alegría. Our initial difficulty was to limit the project to just one aspect of Dr. Alegría’s extraordinary, multifaceted career.
In addition to his archaeological scholarship, Dr. Alegría established 15 museums; played an instrumental role in the founding and development of the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, restored numerous historic sites; and created the blueprint that led to the preservation of Old San Juan and Ponce. And, as it turned out, Dr. Alegría had a prior relationship with the Lehman campus. In the 1960’s he was instrumental in the establishment of the Department of Puerto Rican Studies at Lehman College, which was among the first in the country.

Dr. Alegría’s contributions have earned him important recognition including the Frankle Prize from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gold Picasso Prize for the creation of the City of San Juan’s Historic World Heritage Site, awarded by UNESCO, and the Smithson Medal by the Smithsonian Institution. For this exhibition we chose to focus on Dr. Alegría’s archaeological discoveries, publications, films, and establishment of historic sites relating to the Taíno. The exhibition is accompanied by a library installation of Dr. Alegría’s writings, a film series, and a symposium. His invaluable contributions have provided generations of students with a richer understanding of the cultural history of the Caribbean. We are honored to have worked with Dr. Alegría and are very grateful for his involvement with all phases of this exhibition.

Our thanks go to independent curator Irvine Rafael MacManus who first made the introduction to Dr. Alegría for us and who helped us conceptualize the project. He organized this exhibition for Lehman College Art Gallery with the guidance of Dr. Ricardo Alegría and helped in innumerable ways to make connections to people and institutions throughout the City. Taíno Treasures was a collaboration with three institutions in Puerto Rico: the Universidad del Turabo, Museo y Centro de Estudios Humanisticos; the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, División de Arqueología y Arte; and the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Museo de Historia, Antropología y Arte. The presentation of Taíno Treasures was the result of the efforts of many people. We would like to thank Dr. Iván F. Méndez Bonilla, Director of Archaeological Collections, Museo de Historia, Antropología, y Arte,Universidad de Puerto Rico; Dr. Juan A. Pastoriza, Director, and Dr. Miguel Rodríguez, Curator of El Museo y Centro de Estudios Humanísticos, Universidad del Turabo; Dr. Teresa Tió, Director, Dr. Ovidio Dávila, Director of the División de Arqueología, and Carlos Perez of the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña.

We are pleased to have been able to present a symposium on the work of Dr. Alegría and would like to thank Dr. Félix D. Matos Rodríguez, Director, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, symposium moderator, and panelists professor Xavier Totti, Department of Puerto Rican Studies, Lehman College; Dr. Miguel Rodríguez, Curator of El Museo y Centro de Estudios Humanísticos, Universidad del Turabo, and Carmen Dolores Hernández, Dr. Alegría’s biographer. We would like to thank Margaret Klinesmith for videotaping the symposium and are grateful to Michael Knobbe and the staff of Bronxnet for its broadcast.

We are greatly indebted to the Lehman College Art Gallery Board of Trustees and chair Elisabeth Lorin for their support of this project over the past seven years. The Board’s contribution to the reception and theirorganization of the dinner that honored Dr. Alegría made these important events memorable. Vice President for Institutional Advancement Anne Johnson provided advice and assistance to both the Gallery and the board and we are very grateful to have had her help. We would also like to thank Anne Perryman and the staff of College Relations for their assistance with publications for the dinner.

The exhibition could never have happened without the teamwork of the Gallery staff whose tireless efforts and good humor made this all possible. Praise and appreaciation go to associate director Mary Ann Siano, education curator Annie B. Coan, graphic designer Patricia S. Cazorla, and web designer Eric Matos. We are fortunate to have had interns Rebecca Castro and Chiarabel Soler who assisted in all aspects of the project, particularly their organization of the library installation of Dr. Alegría’s publications. Chief librarian Rona Ostrow and special collections specialist Janet Munch were extremely helpful and made the library exhibition a success. We would also like to thank registrar Janet Hawkins and Masterpiece Inc. for their assistance in safely transporting the objects from Puerto Rico. We are also indebted to Patricio Lerzundi and his students from the Lehman Multilingual Journalism department for assisting the Gallery with translations. We would also like to thank translator Ramón Ovando.

The exhibition and the programs provided an important nexus of interests on campus and brought together students and faculty. We are pleased to have worked together to provide programs with the Lehman College Department of Latin American, Caribbean, and Puerto Rican Studies, The City and the Humanities program, the English Department, Multilingual Journalism/Languages and Literature, the Aesthetics Education Group, The Freshman Year Initiative, and the Art Department. Lehman College Art Gallery is the community partner of Bronx High School for the Visual Arts, a New Visions/New Century school and we are very pleased to have developed programming around this exhibition with principal Dr. George York and his teachers.

Dr. Tomás Ybarro-Frausto of The Rockefeller Foundation provided encouragement and support from the project’s inception and we are very grateful to him. We are also grateful for the support and enthusiasm of Eric Soto, Con Edison; David Latham, The Reed Foundation; Thomas Adams, National Endowment for the Humanities; Kristin Herron, New York State Council on the Arts; Sara Surrey, The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation; and David Cronin, New York Council on the Humanities.

The exhibition and related programs have been made possible through the generous support of The Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, The New York Council for the Humanities, The Reed Foundation, Con Edison, The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts and The Joyce Dutka Arts Foundation.

Susan Hoeltzel
Director, Lehman College Art Gallery