Call to Artists – Award Contest

La Casa del Libro Museum Library wishes to invite visual artists and book artists to participate in the Libros Negros (Black Books) award contest. This initiative seeks to promote the creation of artists’ books (or art books) inspired by works authored by Black or Afrodescendant writers from Puerto Rico and its diasporas. The texts may also draw from any literary genre written by Puerto Rican authors that honor or have honored Puerto Rico’s Black culture.

La Casa del Libro seeks to encourage the production of art books in Puerto Rico, while promoting the rediscovery and research of texts by Black and Afrodescendant authors who have been underexplored in Puerto Rican literature. Likewise, it wishes to expand its collection of art books focusing on the contributions of the Black and Afrodescendant Puerto Rican population, showcase said contributions and celebrate them, while also further promoting an anti-racist stance within our own institution.

An artist’s book is a medium that uses the form and function of a book as a point of inspiration and artistic expression to become a work of art in itself. Many artists’ books challenge the formal role of the book and become a sculptural object on their own. They go beyond the text through combinations of visual language, the written word, materiality, mediums and techniques, unusual formats, and binding typologies. All of this makes for a unique creative experience for both the artist and the viewer.

One of the books in our collection that has inspired us to plan this exhibition and award contest is the poem “He pasado por un pueblo de negros” (I have passed through a Black town) by Luis Palés Matos, exquisitely illustrated by Raquel Quijano, with pop-up woodcut engravings. After discussing the technique and creativity of the artist, we decided to respond to visitor interest in our African cultural heritage, the poetry of Palés Matos, and Puerto Rico’s history of racism and class differences, then and now. In this context, the written and visualized word serve to honor our Afrodescendency.

The awards will entail 3 first prizes of $5,000; 2 second prizes of $3,000, and 2 third prizes of $1,000. There will also be two $500 prizes, one awarded to an emerging artist and one to the artist most favored by visitors attending the exhibition. The works selected for the award will be incorporated into the permanent collection of La Casa del Libro. A printed catalogue of the award-winning and finalist works will be published, through which the contributions of the visual artists and the authors of the Afrodescendant texts selected will be promoted and celebrated.

We invite experienced or emerging visual artists, art instructors, and art students to join in this initiative, which will serve to promote and celebrate the contributions of our African heritage.

Los Libros Negros is part of the participating initiatives of Tiznando el País: Visualidades y Representaciones, a project being carried out in collaboration with the Interdisciplinary and Multicultural Institute of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, and the Alliance of Museums of Puerto Rico. The initiative is subsidized by the Mellon Foundation and the Flamboyán Fund for the Arts.


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