Nuyorican Poets Cafe: A temporary farewell for a grand transformation
The iconic Nuyorican Poets Cafe, nestled in the heart of the East Village, is preparing to close its doors temporarily. This legendary performing arts venue, a longstanding cornerstone of artistic expression and cultural diversity, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary and have an ambitious renovation project ahead.
"It’s a mecca for creativity and arts," said Caridad De La Luz, the executive director of Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
The cafe was founded in 1973 in the living room of Miguel Algarin, a visionary Puerto Rican New Yorker. Since then it has stood as a platform for underrepresented artists.
De La Luz, herself discovered the transformative power of the cafe 27 years ago. "I wrote my name on an open mic list, and that changed my life. In NYC, where schools don't take art as seriously, this place fills the void, and we also welcome students by day," said De La Luz.
Over the past five decades, the venue has been the artistic home for countless individuals and it's now set to undergo a profound transformation. De La Luz says this transformation will be made possible thanks to a generous $24 million grant from the department of Cultural Affairs through the City Council, and the borough president's office. Funds have also been provided by individual donors and a slew of organizations including; New York City Community Trust, the Booth Ferris Foundation, and the Hispanic Federation.
Oct. 31 will mark its official 50th anniversary with scheduled events for both children and adults. However, following this grand celebration, the doors will close for approximately three years. During this time, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe will undergo an extensive renovation process. De La Luz says they’re expanding the founders' vision to new heights.
“We have several floors, but we only use two of them really, and once the renovations are done, we'll be 5 floors deep," said De La Luz.
News 12 were shown exclusive images of what the new venue may look like. The expanded space will include openings with windows, multiple bars, an elevator, and two new theaters. The iconic facade featuring the Puerto Rican flag will be restored, while everything else will be brand new.
While the physical doors of the cafe will be temporarily closed, the spirit of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe will persist. During the renovation period, programming will continue online and through partner organizations like the Bowery Poetry.
De La Luz acknowledged the mixed emotions within the staff and the community, saying, "It's bittersweet." However, she says the excitement for what the future holds is palpable. "It's been ten years in the making, and now we are finally at the cusp," said De La Luz.
A full calendar of events including the 50th anniversary celebration is available on it’s website, https://www.nuyorican.org.
The owners say its anticipated grand reopening will be in 2027, where they will present a renewed and expanded artistic experience to the world.