The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded a $6.8 million grant to the Luis A. Ferré Performing Arts Center in San Juan, an iconic cultural center with a 39-year history of history of hosting more than 15,000 events.
The grant was assigned in April 24, FEMA said.
After Hurricane María, the steps leading up to the main entrance, with part of its façade covered with an impressive mural by international artist Augusto Marín, remained empty for 125 days.
Besides sustaining substantial damage to its roof, elevators and electric system, the economic injury was equally serious — some 96 staff work at this cultural institution which generates more than $10 million a year for the island’s economy.
“It’s always inspiring to see grants awarded to projects that have such a significant social, cultural and economic impact like the Performing Arts Center in San Juan,” said Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Alex Amparo.
“Recovery means more than bricks and mortar; it also represents an opportunity to help communities bring back ways they can celebrate their heritage and encourage cultural development,” he said.
Repairs at the Center will include replacing acoustic ceiling tiles that help absorb sound, wood stage floors in three of the theaters as well as water-damaged carpets throughout. About $1.6 million of the grant is earmarked for mitigation measures like hurricane shutters, weathertight doors and waterproofing floors to help prevent future damage.
“In Puerto Rico’s recovery process, there are diverse projects, from simple repairs to work on more complex structures, all of which have an impact on the daily life of the communities. With this example, it is evident that the reconstruction of the Island reaches all sectors, leading to contributions for economic development, tourism and the fine arts, among other important aspects for all citizens,” said Executive Director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency, Ottmar Chavez.
A formal bidding process that takes into consideration the specialized nature of the work required is part of the next steps for the Center, which will perform repairs in phases in order to meet its commitments with previously scheduled engagements.
“FEMA’s support will be key in rebuilding the affected areas of our facilities after hurricanes Irma and Maria. For decades, the Luis A. Ferré Performing Arts Center has been a meeting place for thousands of artists from all over the world and the Puerto Rican public,” said the Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, Eduardo Arosemena.
Built in 1981, the Center receives about 485,000 visitors a year — 68,000 of these are children who enjoy the center while on school field trips.
With four spacious theaters that can accommodate some 4,600 spectators, the Center’s walls have reverberated with the voices of world-renowned stars like Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, Puerto Rico’s emblematic salsa group El Gran Combo and Puerto Rican playwright Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton.