Memoir of a Visionary: Antonia Pantoja

By Antonia Pantoja; Henry A. J. Ramos | Go to book overview

Seventh Part
I Return to Puerto Rico to Retire (1984–1998)

Living in the Rain Forest

I planned to return to Puerto Rico and contribute my experience and my knowledge to help the country with its problems. I had dreamed of a semiretirement in which I could work, using the institution we had incorporated in California, the Graduate School for Community Development. I contacted ASPIRA of Puerto Rico, and jointly we held poetry readings and art gallery exhibits. Engaging the interest of a poet friend I knew from New York, Carmen Puigdollers, we started afternoon poetry readings on weekends at ASPIRA. In search of a more permanent type of art project, I thought of the idea of inviting the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to give a grant to the city of Carolina for developing a comprehensive art program that would be part of Carolina’s redevelopment plans. The mayor of Carolina had been a schoolteacher, and his ideas for the development of Carolina, a town that had been overshadowed by San Juan, included the full use of art to attract artists to live in the town and to encourage the inclusion of all the arts in the curriculum of the schools. We wrote a proposal letter inviting the NEA to consider giving Carolina a challenge grant to develop a comprehensive plan for the inclusion of art in the city development plan. A representative from NEA came to meet with the mayor and his development staff. All the art plans were presented, including the establishment of a fine arts school with music and visual arts. The center of the plan presented to the NEA was the redesigning of the central plaza of

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