Art and Culture

Art contributes to the holistic mission of Puentes de Salud by promoting healing through expression and storytelling. Via our art and culture programs, Puentes de Salud aims to support community members to heal experiences of trauma, build community, and recognize and learn to use their own voices, skills, and contributions to the Philadelphia community. By recognizing, crafting, and taking ownership of their own narratives through artistic work, we aim to support community members to identify as artists, creators, and educators, for themselves, for their children, and in the community at large. For general questions or inquiries about Puentes de Salud’s Art & Culture program, please contact Nora Litz, Director, at

El Proyecto Grandote

Thanks to the support of the William Penn Foundation and KABOOM!, Puentes de Salud is embarking on three public art projects, guided by the motivation and abilities of community members. The intention of the project–which we have named El Proyecto Grandote–is to promote and pass on the cultures of the countries from which we come to our children, to support their literacy using knowledge from our cultural traditions. We are carrying out these projects collaboratively between Puentes de Salud’s Education and Art & Culture groups, and, more importantly, with the collaboration of families in the community. Central to this project is community knowledge of the diverse cultural traditions represented by participants, including the many languages of our places of origin, painting, weaving, natural dyeing, agriculture, pottery, cooking, regional dancing, embroidery, among others. As part of this project, Puentes de Salud will transform its physical space into an immersive environment featuring interactive murals of community abilities. In addition to our plans for Puentes’ space, we will create, with community members, two other permanent, interactive public art installations in South Philadelphia between 2020 and 2023. This video reports on a natural dyeing workshop that serves as an example of what we are developing in El Proyecto Grandote.

Puentes a las Artes

​​Puentes a las Artes/Bridges to the Arts offers emergent bilingual learners an opportunity to develop cognitive, linguistic, and visual literacy skills and to support adult caregivers in developing strategies and activities to reinforce and extend learning at home.  This project serves emergent bilingual PreK children ages 3-4 from South Philadelphia’s Latinx immigrant community. Young learners learn new vocabulary and ways to decode and construct meaning from what they see and hear. Activities include direct instruction using an art-based curriculum, family programming, and museum access. The program includes weekly after-school instruction with a bilingual (Spanish/English) art-based curriculum, community-based family workshops at Puentes de Salud, and family programming at the Barnes Foundation. The project is tailored to address barriers that prevent Latinx immigrant families from regularly accessing quality, early childhood education programs, as well as one of the city’s major cultural institutions. The Puentes de Salud Arts & Culture and Education branches work together to realize this program in partnership with our colleagues at the Barnes Foundation.

Vidas Suspendidas

Every migrant’s story is a beast all its own. Barbed wire to the touch, or mazapan tender. Wrought from brittle citizenship or building shelter in a place where the neighbors call them “monster”. In Vidas Suspendidas (Suspended Lives), Latinx artists from across Philadelphia shed their favored mediums and reclaimed the piñata as a common cultural construction. What emerged were life sized self portraits embodying Mexican iconography and kinetic self realization. Vidas Suspendidas is an exploration of the immigrant narrative set in liminal space.  A restoration of latinidad as not only a politically charged identity, but a mystic existence. Together, the Vidas Suspendidas artists dissected their common obstacles, and celebrated their individuality through sculpture and story. Vidas Suspendidas was exhibited at Cherry Street Pier as part of the 2019 Fringe Festival, and at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Learn more about the project in this video: Listen to contributing artists’ audio stories here:

Las ligas que nos unen

Las ligas que nos unen (“The Ties That Bind Us”) tells the stories of children from Puebla, San Lucas Atzala, San Andrés Calpan, and San Mateo Ozolco whose parents left them in order to find work in the United States. By creating large format, mixed media dioramas and narrations, the children tell their stories of endurance, emotional trauma, and aspiration. Their powerful voices accompany a visual tour that illustrates the affliction of migration. This project also allowed participating children to recognize their path forward, which included connecting with their parents and strengthening the value of their ancestry and culture. Puentes de Salud highlighted this project during the International Metropolis Conference held at the UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) in Mexico City in September 2015.

El Viaje / El Viaje de Los Niños

The El Viaje project is itself a journey. It began in the Carpenter Street studio of Nora Hiriart Litz, Puentes’ Director of Art & Culture, as a collaborative exercise allowing children to acknowledge and express their feelings about crossing the desert. On a long sheet of brown paper (“the desert”), one end representing Mexico and the other the United States, Litz asked participating children to draw the things they encountered on their journey. The El Viaje project evolved into El Viaje de Los Niños. Participating students, assisted by Litz and sometimes their parents, used a variety of materials, including clay, paint, and found objects, to transform their sketches into three-dimensional diorama works. These sculptures touch upon the many hardships participating children faced—from leaving family behind in Mexico, to border control security, to secretly moving from “safe house” to “safe house.” Narrating their stories with accompanying audio tracks, the children take us along with them on their northern pilgrimage. Small paintings and poems by immigrant adults augment the children’s stories to fully reveal their emotional journeys.