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Puerto Rico Horizon, photograph.


Suzanne Volmer

This June, Shey Rivera Rios will combine an immersive art installation with live storytelling performances in exploring socio/political issues shaping Puerto Rico today through her monthlong “Fantasy Island/La Isla Fantastica” exhibition at AS220’s Project Space. The installation/ performance artist, who lives in Providence, can relate to displacement, having arrived in Rhode Island seven years ago from Puerto Rico.

In talking with her for this article, she emphasized three key points: her connection to her homeland, the sense of displacement she experienced in leaving her roots and the acceptance she’s found at AS220, where she serves in an administrative capacity as its artistic director.

Rivera said she has always been interested in performance and arts management, and while studying at the University of Puerto Rico, her mentor suggested Providence as a city that would possibly be a good fit for her in terms of arts opportunity. She described the social climate in Puerto Rico at the time of her departure as one that was rocked by its own junk bond crisis and suffering through financial breakdown due to global recession.

Her show title refers to the limbo Puerto Rico finds itself in as a United States territory. She said that many islanders view their imposed governance by the U.S. as expansionist exploitation. She feels outside real estate developers are corrupting island life by marketing property as luxury goods. Her view is that legislation set into practice perpetuates land/resource grabs and trade practices detrimental to Puerto Rico. Rivera said that many Puerto Ricans are resentful of the U.S. government’s 2016 legislation focused on de-regulation for outside parties, which also curtails locals’ rights and ownership privileges.

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