We asked you to vote on which of five iconic American figures should be memorialized in a new biographical portrait by Robert Weingarten, a noted photographic artist. After more than 11,000 votes cast, the winner is…Celia Cruz! Each historical figure brought a different set of ideas to the discussion, and worthy arguments were made for each of them. The Queen of Salsa resonated with a clear majority of the voters, representing a multifaceted story of immigration, music, and entertainment.
Celia Cruz, ca. 1950s. Photo by Narcy Studios, Cuba, courtesy of Omer Pardillo-Cid.
“The comments on our contest pages hint at some of the challenges museum staff face when thinking about how we collect, preserve, and present history” says Shannon Perich, curator of the upcoming Pushing Boundaries: Portraits by Robert Weingarten exhibition. “Which stories do we tell and why? For some commenters, local allegiances were most important. For some, having a personal connection was the deciding factor. Others wrestled with the various ways in which we recognize the many kinds of contributions our heroes make to our society. This dynamic dialogue is important and we thank you for sharing your points of view with us.”
But we still need your help! Weingarten constructs his unique layered images by allowing his subjects to identify places and things that are important in their lives. Using the form below, we ask for your input on what words you would use to describe what was most important in the life of Celia Cruz.
Pushing Boundaries: Portraits by Robert Weingarten will be on view July 2-October 14 at the Smithsonian’s International Gallery, Ripley Center on the National Mall. The completed portrait of Celia Cruz will be unveiled this fall and displayed at the National Museum of American History.