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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Ceramics for a cause

“Our goal is to continue supporting the ceramic tradition in Puerto Rico and encourage more people to get into it,” said Rosa Serrano, the director of a ceramic artisans’ collective whose work is currently on display at Plaza Las Américas. Sales benefit the Puerto Rican Down Syndrome Foundation. (Photos by Richard Gutiérrez/The San Juan Daily Star)

Artisans collective sells works to support Down syndrome nonprofit

By Richard Gutiérrez

In the course of reporting on artisans that come from various parts of the island, the STAR has learned with time that being an artisan in Puerto Rico can be a lot of hard work with very little pay.

Sometimes island artisans must spend more money than they make in order to make it through the month and get into the right events. While gathering the right promotions is also hard work in itself, large corporations can sell many things they make for a cheaper price, which sometimes can be a very big stepping stone for artisans. Some of these big companies, such as Walmart or Sam’s Club, tend to make charity donations, sometimes ranging in the thousands or millions of dollars. Of course, companies that make a lot of money can spend a lot of money.

Even though artisans have a difficult time making ends meet every month, there is a group of artisans from Puerto Rico and the mainland United States who are currently working hard toward donating to a cause themselves.

“We are a collective of ‘keremicós’ -- we are 19 ceramic artists who share their experiences together,” Rosa Serrano, the collective’s director, told the STAR.

The collective came together “through simply us getting together and talking about ceramics and what we like about it and what we project upon it with our work,” Serrano said. “Thanks to this group we’ve created, we’ve been able to unite people who have a lot of experience in ceramics, not just from people who are on the island, but those who are not in Puerto Rico. We’ve been doing this for about three years in a row. … We have around seven artists who are in the United States and are participating in this exhibition as well. Our goal is to continue supporting the ceramic tradition in Puerto Rico and encourage more people to get into it.”

Over the past three years the collective has supported different causes, with this year’s cause having to do with Down syndrome. “The first year we supported the CAP Foundation for children with cancer; we donated about 20% of our sales toward that cause,” Serrano noted. “The year after that we supported the Gogo Foundation, which is also a nonprofit for children with cancer, while this year we have the Down Syndrome Foundation. On Thursday we were able to spend time with the children in the foundation; we gave them some ceramics classes.”

“Today we were supposed to have them here again to take more classes and be inspired by our work,” the artisan said, “but due to certain circumstances it was canceled. However, on Thursday we had a delightful time with all of those children. The director of the foundation came here yesterday and was able to explain the organization’s functions to the artists.”

Even though it was rather unfortunate that the children were not able to visit the artists again, the cause still stands. In fact, Serrano said, their purpose is to continue bringing in young and able artists who want to join their group and continue the ceramics legacy.

“We want to encourage young people to join our group and continue the ceramics tradition in Puerto Rico and support the causes we support every year,” Serrano said. “The first year we started this expo we had about 52 participants; this year we already have 97 participants. We are very happy about it.”

The event was also dedicated to Cristina Córdova, a Puerto Rican ceramics artist who has made an immense contribution to ceramics art, and is very well known internationally.

“We will at least connect with her through Zoom because she is not currently in Puerto Rico, but she is most certainly someone worth dedicating this event to,” Serrano said.

The cause that the artisans are supporting this year, the Puerto Rican Down Syndrome Foundation (FPSD by its Spanish initials), is a nonprofit organization that was incorporated by the island State Department in 1989. However, the society had been formed in 1986 by parents of children with the condition, specifically because they found an absence of services for this population and dedicated themselves to guiding other parents in the same situation. Since then the FPSD has offered numerous services.

According to the foundation’s official statement: “With the seriousness and commitment that characterizes us, we have served more than 6,000 children, youth, and adults. This is currently the only organization that serves the population with Down syndrome with a comprehensive approach to services. This year we celebrate 33 years of continuous services. We are also pleased that other children and youth, who do not have Down syndrome, benefit from the nonprofit’s programs.”

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