By GWEN OREL
Montclair artist Jessica Sporn created official art work for merchandise officially affiliated with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s efforts to help Puerto Rico.
Last Thursday, Oct. 6, Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton” creator, released “Almost Like Praying,” a benefit single made with many many Latin artists including Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan, John Leguizamo and Marc Anthony.
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September, destroying much of the island. Millions still lack power and clean water.
Miranda wanted to have merchandise ready to sell to benefit recovery efforts as soon as the single was released.
“He sent me his handwritten lyrics to the song,” Sporn said. “I designed the artwork.”
The image she created is available on T-shirts and cards on Miranda’s website, https://www.teerico.com/. All proceeds go to relief efforts.
Sporn is a full-time artist, who offers online classes and hosts a Meetup Group in her Montclair studio. Examples of her art are on her website, sporndesigns.com.
It’s not the first time Sporn has worked with Lin-Manuel Miranda: she worked with Tee-Rico, Miranda’s brother-in-law’s company, before, after the Orlando shooting. The massacre at Pulse on June 12 killed 49 and wounded 58 others. The Tony Awards were held later the same day.
Hamilton read sonnets about love when he accepted the Tony Award for “Hamilton” that year.“I was really moved, and painted something. I put some of his words on there on it,” Sporn said, and told Miranda’s sister, Luz Miranda Crespo, that she hoped it was OK.
When she got a call from Luis Crespo, Miranda’s brother-in-law, she expected them to tell her, “take it down, you don’t have the right.”
Instead, they told her they loved the artwork and wanted to do something with it.
Her design, the “Love Is Love” T-shirt, was used for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids Orlando.
“So, when the hurricane happened and Lin-Manuel was assembling all these artists at the same time, they wanted to have something to go immediately, that would be on the merchandise. This one, all the proceeds go straight to the Hispanic Federation for Hurricane Relief in Puerto Rico,” Sporn said.
Her husband is Puerto Rican, she said, so “we were really watching this hurricane very carefully. He still has family and friends there.”
Sporn got the call to create the art on a Friday. She worked all day Saturday.
At the end of the day on Saturday, “They decided to go in very different direction. I had to revise the design on Sunday. It was out of my hands and the whole thing was released Friday.”
In the finished design, the 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico, all of which are named in Miranda’s song, are in the painting.
In her first pass, she said, she had painted a water color design with palm trees and hibiscus flowers.
By the end of the day Saturday, the day Lin-Manuel Miranda got into a Twitter fight with Donald Trump, there was a “feeling that the island had been so devastated that having a design with palm trees and flowers was almost painful.
“It needed to be much more raw.”
Initially, she had considered putting the Puerto Rican flag in the design. When she scrapped the palm trees and the hibiscus, she considered the flag again.
“I had this memory after 9/11 of some iconic picture of the first responders with a tattered flag in the wreckage. That was my inspiration for the design, a tattered flag of Puerto Rico. Flying it with hope.”