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MoCHA Finding Aid

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Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art records

Table of Contents

Summary Information
Biographical/Historical note
Scope and Contents note
Arrangement note
Administrative Information
Controlled Access Headings
Other Finding Aids note
Collection Inventory
Series I, Administrative files
Series II, Artist Files
Series III, Exhibition Files
Series IV, Inactive Files and Records
Series V, Video Recordings

Summary Information

Repository
Hostos Community College
500 Grand Concourse
Bronx, NY 10451
(718) 518-4149
Creator
Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art (New York, N.Y.).
Title
Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art records
ID
US.ZHC.MoCHA
Date [inclusive]
1971-1990
Extent
70.0 Cubic feet 18 VHS tapes, and 5 Ampex cassettes
Language
English
Language of Materials note
English and Spanish
Abstract
The Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art (MoCHA) was founded in Soho in 1985, having grown out of the Cayman Gallery, an art gallery run by the Friends of Puerto Rico, Inc. Between its founding in 1985 and its closing in 1990, MoCHA exhibited the work of many important Latin American, Spanish, Portuguese, and Latino contemporary artists. They also hosted two biennials (1986, 1988). The records in this collection contain administrative files including correspondence, receipts, and contracts; printed materials including those created for exhibits; audio-visual materials; and the artist files for all artists whose work was shown at the Cayman Gallery or MoCHA as well as artists who submitted work but whose proposals were rejected. The artist files contain information about the artists in addition to correspondence, resumes, slides, photographs, and other materials.

Preferred Citation note

(File name), Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art Records, Hostos Community College Archives.

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Biographical/Historical note

The Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art (MoCHA) was born in March of 1985 under the umbrella of Friends of Puerto Rico, Inc. Founded and charged by then President Amalia Guerrero, Friends of Puerto Rico was a not-for-profit advocacy group established in 1956 to promote and foster cultural vibrancy within the Puerto Rican Community. Friends of Puerto Rico was an extremely important organization to the Puerto Rican artist, musician and author as it sought to provide the drive and means to move the Puerto Rican and Latino creative community forward to greater exposure.

In 1975, Friends of Puerto Rico widened its attention to the entire Hispanic community and administered the Cayman Gallery in an effort to focus specifically on the promotion of visual art. The Cayman Gallery was created to “fill the gap between museums and commercial galleries,” and to support the growth of Hispanic artists from all disciplines. During its ten year existence, the Cayman Gallery sponsored over 500 exhibitions and events, establishing itself as a leading Hispanic cultural institution in the United States.

Expanding upon the success of the Cayman Gallery, Friends of Puerto Rico decided to launch a museum superior in size and resources. When MoCHA was formed in March of 1985, the Cayman Gallery was assimilated into its operation and control, and MoCHA continued to build upon the groundwork laid by the Cayman Gallery. The new gallery was located at 584 Broadway in the Soho neighborhood of New York City. MoCHA was governed by a board of directors made up of twelve to fifteen individuals who were actively involved in various facets of the Hispanic community. Its staff, which was headed by Director Nilda Peraza, consisted of highly skilled employees who specialized in Hispanic and alternative art. With newly acquired space and a solid infrastructure in place, MoCHA plunged ahead with its mission of filling the existing void of Hispanic cultural resources in the United States.

For the Hispanic Artist, MoCHA was one of few platforms to launch creative undertakings. MoCHA was a truly unique resource as it provided a broad range of rewarding services that addressed the needs of the Hispanic artist, including: a visual arts programs where artists could exhibit their work in an individual or group atmosphere; a special events program that showcased the performing arts; and an outreach program designed to bring Hispanic art to new and exciting venues typically not involved in the arts. Of all its excellent services and resources, none were more valuable than the Visual Arts Resource Center, which endures to this very day. The center was an extensive repository aimed at gathering, organizing and maintaining information on and for the Hispanic artist. It consisted of artist files, a slide registry and a library of books, magazines and catalogs on the history and achievements of Hispanics in the Arts. These programs were vital to MoCHA’s ability to provide the widespread exposure necessary to nurture the careers of a population ignored by the art world. The consciousness and understanding of Hispanic art created by such programs allowed MoCHA to further establish itself as a key cultural institution.

During its lifetime, MoCHA made great strides in its aim of providing exposure to Hispanic artists who were underrepresented by mainstream museums, galleries and organizations within the United States. In 1987—after two years of operation under its new structure—more than 40,000 people visited the museum and observed the talent and flair within the Hispanic art community. Moreover, the museum went above and beyond its mission by shedding light on the Hispanic experience in a larger context. In regards to the Decade Show—one of MoCHA’s most notable events—Ms. Peraza said, MoCHA took the approach that, “collaboration be issue-oriented rather than one of pure aesthetics or formal concerns,” which allowed the partnering museums to select artists who made, “significant statements about a plethora of important concerns.” This philosophy was applied to MoCHA’s overall selection process. As a result, museum patrons, donors and supporters became witness to the many struggles, conflicts and opportunities Hispanics faced in the United States and their mother countries. Thus, MoCHA provided significant exposure not only to the Hispanic artist, but to the Hispanic community as a whole. In the end, the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art met an unfortunate fate and closed its doors late in 1990, but not before successfully launching the careers of numerous Hispanic artists in and outside the New York City metropolitan area—who otherwise may not have had the means to convey their creativity.

(FOPR Fact Sheet), Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art Records, Hostos Community College Archives.

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Scope and Contents note

The collection documents the careers of Hispanic artists who applied to have their work exhibited at MoCHA. Detailed files were kept on each artist as a resource for curators, art dealers and art historians to reference and research. Each file was intended to serve as a portfolio to publicize the artist, regardless of whether their work was selected to be exhibited at the museum. Artist files consist of examples of art work in various formats, including: slides, photographs, drawings, exhibition catalogs, and flyers from other museums. Also included are artist resumes, biographical write ups, newspaper clippings, and all correspondence with the museum. Furthermore, the collection contains exhibition catalogs and flyers that were used to promote various MoCHA shows and displays. Within each catalog is a description of the event, biographical information on participating artists, and descriptions and examples of artists’ works.

The collection also offers insight into the museum’s operational activities. Detailed administrative files were also maintained, which include accounting ledgers; receipts; budget proposals; grant applications; and correspondences with museums, galleries and institutions that partnered with MoCHA to promote Hispanic art. This portion of the collection sheds light on the museum’s financial situation, marketing and publicity strategies, community outreach, organizational hierarchy, policies and procedures and staff background and qualifications.

Overall, the collection is a tremendous resource on the subject of Hispanic artists struggling to find success in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s. The true value and significance of the collection lies in the artist files, as they offer an in-depth look into the minds and experiences of single artists—as well as the broad social and cultural factors which influenced Hispanic art work during the era. Moreover, the collection is also a significant resource on the subject of museums operating in New York City during the time period. Specifically, the collection demonstrates the obstacles faced by cultural organizations striving to operate outside the sphere of the mainstream. MoCHA was a truly unique organization for its time and place; thus, its records are distinctive from those of its contemporaries.

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Arrangement note

The collection is organized into five series: 1. Administrative Files, 2. Artist Files, 3. Exhibition Catalogs and Flyers, 4. Inactive Materials, and 5. Video Recordings. Series 2, Artist files, is organized into six sub-series and is arranged alphabetically by artist last name. Series 4, Inactive Materials, is organized into two sub-series. Series 1 and 2 are housed in vertical filing cabinets, while series 3 and 4 are housed in standard acid free 1.2 cubic foot boxes.

Series I, Administrative Files, 1971-1990

Series II, Artist Files, 1972-1990

Sub-series I, Biennial Artists, 1986

Sub-series II, Biennial Artists, 1988 Sub-series III, Accepted Artists, 1984-1990

Sub-series IV, Cayman Gallery Artists 1974-1985

Sub-series V, Unaccepted Artists, 1980-1990

Sub-series VI, Unaccepted Artists, 1976-1990

Series III, Exhibition Files, Catalogs and Publications, 1978-1990

Series IV, Inactive Records, 1972-1988

Sub-series I, Inactive Administrative Files, 1972-1988

Sub-series II, Exhibition Records, 1983-1988

Series V, Video Recordings, 1975-1988

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Hostos Community College

Conditions Governing Access note

The Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art records are open for research by appointment only. Series IV is currently restricted; however, specific files may be made available with advanced notice. Availability of Series IV is at the discretion of the college archivist.

Conditions Governing Use note

Copyright is retained by the artists or creators of items within the records, as stipulated by United States Code: Title 17. The collection is intended for reference use only; permission for reproduction will need to be obtained by both Hostos Community College Archives and the artist or creator of materials within the collection. Researchers assume full responsibility of copyright infringement.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Soon after closing in late 1990, the contents of MoCHA’s Visual Resource Center were donated and relocated to Hostos Community College, City University of New York, for safeguarding.

Processing Information note

This collection was described with the assistance of a Documentary Heritage Program grant from the New York State Archives (2007-2008). It was processed by Yahaira Rodríguez, Nadya Rodríguez, and Matt Flaherty.

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Baez, Myrna, 1931-
  • Cardillo, Rimer
  • Gonzalez Tornero, Sergio, 1927-
  • Homar, Lorenzo
  • Jaar, Alfredo
  • Martorell, Antonio, , 1939-
  • Mater O'Neill, Mari
  • Montecino, Marcelo
  • Osorio, Pepon, , 1955-
  • Pobil, Pilar, 1926-
  • Porter, Liliana, 1941-
  • Ramírez, Belkis
  • Salinas, Baruj
  • Segui, Antonio, 1934-

Subject(s)

  • American Art Expositions (New York, N.Y.)
  • Art, Latin American--20th century--Exhibitions.
  • Art, Latin American--20th century.
  • Art--New York (State)--New York--Catalogs.

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Other Finding Aids note

There is a second finding aid available in Spanish; it was created for use in the “Ventana Al Pasado” project, which is a joint effort on behalf of the New York State Archives and el Centro de Estudios Puertorriquenos at Hunter College. Materials from the MoCHA collection have been selected to be showcased in the project’s virtual research collection.

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Collection Inventory

Series I, Administrative files 1971-1990   3.0 Cubic feet

Scope and Contents note

Series I consists of 3 cubic feet of administrative files and is arranged alphabetically. It includes all administrative files which were active at the time when MoCHA closed its doors in late 1990. Detailed files were kept on various grant proposals, operating costs and expenses, museum donors, supporting foundations, and other cultural institutions and partners that MoCHA collaborated with to promote Hispanic art. Included are receipts; accounting ledgers; budget proposals; and correspondence between foundations, galleries and museums.

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Series II, Artist Files 1972-1990   40.0 Cubic feet

Scope and Contents note

Series II consists of 40 cubic feet of files on various artists who applied to have their work showcased at MoCHA and the Cayman Gallery. The series includes files on artists who were both accepted and denied by the museum. The series is organized into six sub-series and arranged alphabetically by artist last name. The date of each file was determined by acceptance and denial letters found within the artist files, even though material within each file often precedes or succeeds the date.

Sub-series I and II are accepted artists who were selected to be showcased in biennial exhibits. Thus, their files were organized and arranged separately by the museum. Sub-series III is simply artists who were selected to have their work exhibited at MoCHA throughout the years. Sub-series IV is made up of artists who were originally selected by MoCHA’s predecessor, the Cayman Gallery, to have their work displayed; nevertheless, the files were maintained by MoCHA after its assimilation of the Cayman Gallery, and the museum added materials as part of its continuing relationship with the artists. Sub-series V and sub-series VI are both unaccepted artists. The reasoning behind the original division is unclear, but the separation was kept in an attempt to preserve original order.

Artist files are comprehensive and contain all correspondence between MoCHA and the artist, resumes, exhibition flyers, slides, photographs, and other artistic mediums that demonstrate the artist’s abilities and perspectives. Unaccepted artist files tend to contain only a few pieces of material as communications were limited between artists and the museum.

Subseries I, Biennial Artists 1986 

Subseries II, Biennial Artists 1988 

Subseries III, Accepted Artisits 1980-1990 

Subseries IV, Cayman Gallery Artists 1972-1984 

Subseries V, Unaccepted Artists 1980-1990 

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Series III, Exhibition Files 1978-1990   1.0 Cubic feet

Scope and Contents note

Series III consists of 1 cubic foot of exhibition catalogs from various artist shows and displays. The exhibition catalogs range from solo artist events to group shows centered on a particular theme. Catalogs and flyers were used to promote many exhibitions—especially those which showcased prominent and popular Hispanic artists. Each exhibition catalog captures important information on participating artists, as well as information on the event itself, such as time and date, the pieces of art showcased, and display arrangements. Also included is the “Decade Show: Framework of Identity in the 1980s,”, which is a 364 page catalog that examines, critiques, and evaluates alternative art, artists and their influences in a decade where mainstream art was typically dominated by white males. The show was a collaborative effort between three museums—The New Museum of Contemporary Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art. Included in the catalog are essays; plates, prints and illustrations; a chronology of art in the 1980s; and a dialogue between the directors of the three museums, in which they share their ideas, perspectives and experiences.

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Series IV, Inactive Files and Records 1972-1988   31.0 Cubic feet

Conditions Governing Access note

Series IV is currently restricted until processed. Certain files may be available with advance notice.

Scope and Contents note

Series IV consists of 31 cubic feet of unprocessed materials that were boxed and saved in storage at the time MoCHA closed its doors. Series IV includes inactive administrative files as well as records pertaining to various exhibitions. Much like MoCHA’s active administrative records, the inactive administrative records in Sub-series I, include files on proposals, operating costs and expenses, museum donors, supporting foundations, and other cultural institutions that partnered with MoCHA. Exhibition materials of Sub-series II consist of a wide variety of records relating to the various shows, exhibits and open houses. Sub-series II includes receipts, expense reports for putting on exhibits, newspaper clippings highlighting exhibits, MoCHA press releases, and detailed documentation related to showcased artists.

Subseries I, Administrative Records 1972-1988 

Subseries II, Exhibition Records 1983-1988 

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Series V, Video Recordings 1975-1978 

Scope and Contents note

Series V consists of video recordings on various analog mediums, including VHS cassettes, MBR 3M cassettes, and Ampex cassettes. Series V documents exhibitions and displays of prominent Hispanic Artists. Also recorded are newscasts where MoCHA was discussed, described or otherwise mentioned. Series V recordings have not been viewed since being relocated to Hostos Community College due to a lack of proper hardware; therefore, contents have not been verified

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