The Sabor Blog

News, Events & Stories from the Latino Community across the U.S.

Behind the Scenes: The Making of the American Sabor Exhibition

Six years ago, professors from the University of Washington (UW) approached Experience Music Project (EMP) with the idea of chronicling the history of Latino music in the U.S. through an epic exhibition. According to Jasen Emmons, EMP’s curatorial director, the professors explained how Latino artists and Latino music’s influence is often overlooked or altogether ignored, and they wanted to collaborate on an exhibition that highlighted its impact and contributions. EMP soon signed on to the project.

What started as a 2,500-square-foot idea soon doubled to a 4,000-square-foot travelling exhibition, the UW/EMP curatorial team quickly realizing how much mainstream “American” music has been shaped by Latin sounds, from polyrythmns to instrumentations such as congos, timbales and bongos and bajo sextos. Their biggest challenge was not deciding which musicians and music to highlight but which had to be left out.

To tell the story of Latin music influence, they focused on post-World War II in the five major production centers of Latino music: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Antonio and Miami. Visitors will notice that each city highlights a famous musician who got their start in that city. This was done as a way to pique people’s interest in the exhibition and at the same time exposing them to other lesser-known, yet still influential musicians.  

This 4,000 square-foot exhibition is touring the country through 2010. This spring, a smaller scale, 2,500-square-foot version of the exhibition—organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services (SITES) and sponsored by Ford Motor Company Fund—will travel to 13 cities through 2015.


Who are the professors who

Who are the professors who procured such amazing exhibit?

Shannon Dudley, Michelle

Shannon Dudley, Michelle Habell-Pallan, and Marisol Berrios-Miranda were the future guest curators that pitched the idea of American Sabor to EMP along with future associate guest curators Rob Carroll and Francisco Orozco.