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La Diaspora: Puerto Rican Artists in Central Florida

Founded in 2015, Fine Artists of the Puerto Rican Diaspora” is a collective of artists living in Central Florida, whose work reflects a shared appreciation of their diasporic roots. In fact, the primary objective of the group reads as follows: “to open new venues for emerging and established artists who represent Puerto Rico through their art.” Members of the collective have exhibited work in the past, but nine of them are now taking their artwork on the road in a traveling exhibition entitled “La Diaspora”, which consists of around twenty works curated by one of their members, Yasir Nieves. The show began in September at the Osceola Arts Center and has also been shown in Orlando and Jacksonville; with pending invitations to Chicago, New York; and plans to end in Puerto Rico. From surrealism to ceramic sculpture, abstract to realist painting; established to emerging artists; we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce the artists behind this new exhibition.

Award-winning painter Pedro Brull was born in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, in 1938. He is a graduate of the School of Fine Arts at the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña. Considered the elder statesman of the group, Brull has an impressive and diverse resume to go along with that distinction. The list includes travel agent, art director, and caricature artist to name a few. Though he would eventually retire after serving as a pastor. In 1998, the artist moved to Kissimmee, Florida. Since then, his paintings have been displayed in galleries and museums throughout Central Florida and Puerto Rico, and is held in a number of private collections. In addition, last September Brull was honored during an event organized by the Hispanic Democratic Caucus in Orlando.
Yasir Nieves was born in Arecibo. Initially enrolling at the University of Puerto Rico, Yasir left his studies to pursue a certificate in Massage Therapy from the Alma Q Institute. He eventually reenrolled at the UPR, transferring from Arecibo to Rio Piedras and graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Plastic Arts. After receiving an invitation to participate in the Muestra Nacional de Artes Plásticas and to collaborate on a mural tribute commissioned by the UPR, Nieves was accepted to the Universidad Complutense in Madrid. He went on to obtain a Master’s degree in Theory and Practice of Contemporary Plastic Arts in 2003. He currently resides in the city of Orlando.
Carmen Rojas Ginés was born in Arecibo where she inherited the creative influence of her grandmother, an haute couture designer. She later graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a Bachelor’s degree in Arts, with a concentration in education and sculpture. She would then go on to complete a Master’s degree in Administration of Education from the University of Phoenix. She has worked as an arts teacher in the public school system of Puerto Rico and as the Director of the Plastic Arts Program at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Carolina. She recently moved to Florida with her family where she continues to work at her studio located in Ocala.
José Feliciano was born in Isabela, Puerto Rico, and moved to New York with his family when he was just five years old. The acclaimed painter studied art in Adelphi University and spent most of his career designing advertising and promotional materials, as well as theatre sets-in addition to freelance work. In 2001, he moved to Florida and began a second career working as an educator. His oil paintings have twice been recognized by the National Arts Program: first in 2004, and again in 2016 at the Osceola Center for the Arts.
Felipe Armando Morales was born in San Juan in 1949. Five years later he moved to the Bronx. He studied art, attending institutions such as Manhattan College and the New York School of Visual Arts, eventually obtaining his Bachelor’s degree in 1976. He is a successful painter and sculptor, receiving fellowships, winning several noteworthy awards, and exhibiting his work at the Museo del Barrio and various art festivals over the years. He currently lives in Orlando.
José Sánchez was born in Santurce in 1957 and subsequently raised in Carolina. He is self-taught, discovering his talent for painting from a young age. He moved to Florida in 1988 after retiring and began to dedicate more time to his art. Most recently, his painting "Yo soy el surrealismo" won first prize at the Hispanic Juried Art Show held by Osceola Arts.
Angel Rivera-Morales was born in San Juan in 1981. He was largely self-taught before enrolling at the University of Puerto Rico in 1999. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, he eventually relocated to Orlando, Florida. Last year, one of his paintings entitled “La Mancha” received an award at the Don Quixote Golden Awards.
María Ramos was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, but raised in New York after moving at the age of three. In 1999, Maria went back to college to formally study art at the Crealde School of Art. Her work includes oil and watercolor paintings, and has been exhibited in places such as the Orlando Museum of Art. 
Denisse Berlingheri was born and raised in Orocovis, Puerto Rico. She is renowned for her diverse oeuvre which includes ceramic sculptures, fashion design, painting, and mosaic art. Berlingheri’s art has won numerous awards and been exhibited throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

Watch Pedro Brull talking about the making of  La Diaspora. Featured on the first episode of Puerto Rican Voices, Season 2. 

A quick scroll through La Diaspora’s Facebook page reveals a passionate and supportive community of artists that represent different generations, styles, and artistic mediums. The exhibition is just the start. With plans to feature more work from emerging artists in the near future, Central Florida looks to be a solid hub for artists of the diaspora.

© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Journal on 12 February 2016.