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Power—and pesos—to the people, as 'artivism' project travels around New York’s East Harlem

Banco Colectivo Frances Negrón-Muntaner and Sarabel Santos-Negrón

Art is not always a cash cow, but the Valor y Cambio (value and change) “artivism” project, launched earlier this year in Puerto Rico, proves that art can pay. Conceived by artist and scholar Frances Negrón-Muntaner in collaboration with artist Santos Negrón, Valor y Cambio features an ATM-like machine that distributes one of six specially made community currency bills (values range from 1 to 25 pesos) to participants who record a video explaining what they value. The peso notes feature Puerto Rican change-makers throughout history, such as the labour leader and women’s rights activist Luisa Capetillo, and can be used in participating local businesses for treats like a cup of tea or theatre tickets. A reaction to the Puerto Rico debt crisis, the project travels this month (20-30 September) around New York’s East Harlem—with venues including El Museo del Barrio, La Marqueta and Teatro La Tea—after a stint in the Lower East side. Kerching!

Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 315 September 2019