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PR- 455-05
December 5, 2005


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, El Museo del Barrio Director Julián Zugazagoitia, Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin, Congressman Charles Rangel, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller today broke ground on a major expansion project at El Museo del Barrio, New York City's leading Latino and Latin American cultural institution. Designed by New York-based architects Gruzen Samton LLP, the expansion project will include extensive exterior and interior renovations of the museum's space at the Heckscher Building on the upper stretch of Fifth Avenue known as Museum Mile. The Mayor's office, together with the Borough President and the City Council, has invested a total $12.7 million towards the $13.6 million project which is expected be completed in spring 2007.

"El Museo del Barrio is New York's only Latino cultural institution dedicated to Puerto Rican, Caribbean and Latin American Art from the pre-Colombian to the present day," said Mayor Bloomberg. "The City is investing in El Museo because it recognizes the important role the museum plays in the cultural life of New York, and understands that its new, bold presence on the northern anchor of Museum Mile will have a positive impact on both the museum and the surrounding neighborhood of East Harlem."

"As one of the City's leading cultural organizations and one of the nation's most important venues for showcasing Latino art, El Museo has long provided outstanding and enriching public and educational programs that serve visitors and residents from all walks of life," said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levine. "The dramatic new design will help create a more inviting and dynamic public space, while enhancing the museum's connection to Central Park and the thriving East Harlem Community."

"The improved design and expanded public space will better serve our visitors and will parallel the excellence in exhibitions and programs that El Museo has delivered since our founding in 1969," said Director Julián Zugazagoitia. "This renovation marks a milestone in El Museo's history and we grateful to the City of New York and to those who have contributed to making this vision a reality, so that we may continue to shine as a destination for Latino arts and culture."

The design concept, which received an Art Commission Award for Excellence in Design in July 2004, includes a new glass façade, a renovated and redesigned courtyard, improved lobby space and signage, an expanded Museum Shop, upgraded elevators, and new restrooms and coat-check facilities.

Fulfilling the long-time need for a local gathering space, an on-site café will benefit visitors to El Museo, to Central Park and to el barrio, and will provide a flexible and intimate setting for extended programming and special events. Other features of the project include a structural light pylon that supports a graphics banner; a new metal canopy that wraps the courtyard; a new glass-enclosed hallway facilitating circulation and operation of the Museum's public spaces; and additional audio/visual and security systems.

As the only museum in New York City that specializes in representing the art and culture of Latinos and of the Caribbean and Latin America, El Museo del Barrio continues to have a significant impact on the cultural life of New York City. The museum was founded in 1969 by a group of Puerto Rican educators, artists, parents and community activists in East Harlem's Spanish-speaking El Barrio, the neighborhood that extends from 96th Street to the Harlem River and from Fifth Avenue to the East River on Manhattan's Upper East Side.


Edward Skyler/Robert Lawson   (212) 788-2958

Sara Rutkowski   (Department of Cultural Affairs)
(212) 643-6690

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