At a glance, there is an emerging nightlife as one walks the streets of Worcester. Just outside the entrance of Worcester PopUp, where the Hispanic Art Exhibition is being held, there is a miniature chalkboard with the image of a little girl drawing.
From Feb. 22 to Mar. 8, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the very first Hispanic Art Gallery was organized by CENTRO in downtown Worcester, at 20 Franklin St.; the show featured art from local Hispanic artists.
CENTRO, formerly known as Centro Las Americas, is one of the largest minority-led and community based nonprofit organizations in Central Massachusetts. It assists multicultural individuals and families by “striving to reach self-sufficiency while promoting social responsibility and fostering cultural identity.”
Recently, CENTRO partnered with Worcester PopUp to provide Hispanic and Latino youth with safe spaces, where they could express themselves through art and cultural activities by hosting events like the Hispanic Art Gallery.
Approximately 70 people were at the event and the reception featured a diverse audience, many of whom seemed to be engrossed in the artwork, while others enjoyed food and drinks listening to music that was courtesy of a featured Spanish guitarist.
A community activist for the Latinx community in the areas of education, housing, voter engagement, public health, and the arts, Rosario Ubiera-Minaya was the guest speaker for the night.
Ubiera-Minaya’s contributions have led to the establishment of PUNTO Urban Arts Museum in Salem, which features an outdoor collection of Hispanic art.
As an activist, Ubiera-Minaya’s goal is to break down the socioeconomic divides for low-income communities of color.
“The PUNTO museum has a representation from over 100 artists that come from all over the world. What we wanted to do was to showcase what was possible,” Ubiera-Minaya said.
“I wanted to launch our project to create a platform to educate the neighborhood and the residents, but also to bring in investment and attention in a community that benefits from the artist,” said Ubiera-Minaya.
“The goal for this project is to engage the residents and to empower themselves to take action and using art to start a dialogue about all of the social economic divides that we face as a community,” she said.
“I am proud of my community and my culture and I do what I do because I want to create opportunities in the future and upcoming generations,” she said, “and to be able to have opportunities for artists or support artists and create opportunities to educate about our culture.”
In celebration of International Women’s Day Ubiera-Minaya said that, “Women are essential to society, and if we want to build strong communities, we have to foster women and their families.”
“That’s what we need from our communities today. We need to come together and support each other no matter where we come from,” she stated. “Last year was an amazing year for women, they are stepping up in positions of power running for office and winning.”
Ubiera-Minaya concluded that “by creating spaces for leaders to come together and to have voices from all levels and so that our communities are stronger… for those of us that are less fortunate, and don’t have that family figure and drive to build the community… that’s why we are here,”.
Also present at the exhibition, was CENTRO host Stephanie Puentes, “I am an artist, but I am just here organizing the event,” she said.
“I am from the Dominican Republic and have lived in Worcester for six years,” said Puentes who is also CENTRO’s marketing coordinator.
While the event was an opportunity for local Hispanic artists to showcase their work, it was also “The first time we do a gallery like this in Worcester,” said Fuentes. “The event is more of a reunion of all of the Hispanic artist that Worcester has, and that we didn’t know existed.”
Fuentes continued, “Now that we can do this for the first time, we found more than 35 artist that want to be shown, so in a way this was opening doors for them.”
When asked about the Hispanic artists’ experiences in showcasing their work, “This has kind of been a home for them,” Fuentes said.
“The first thing that they told me when we opened the gallery is, ‘Thank you so much because we feel like a family, we found a place where we can show who we are in the arts field,’ We didn’t know that we had so many people like us in the arts in Worcester,” she said.
Regarding Hispanic youth and art and the art gallery, “It’s just for them to feel they have a place to go to and not just their home or at their friend’s house. I want them to be out for people to know who they are,” she said.
When asked about Hispanic representation in the Worcester community Fuentes said that, “my hope and desire is that Worcester County understands that Hispanics are also artists.”
“We can bring a message to the community through our paintings and sculptures, that we are here to stay,” she said. “By showing who we are in paintings, sculptures, or poems.”
Fuentes urges Hispanic communities and artists, “Honestly, come to Worcester. Worcester is a great place for the Hispanic community to start their careers,” she said. “Now we are getting plenty of grants and help from the state and federal government to increase the art in Worcester.”
“Worcester has been the first city to bring this out and support artists in a way that not many other cities have done. For all of the Hispanic artists coming together and supporting each other, they are doing their job so that in that way the community grows and lets people know that we are here and that out voices are being heard,” she said.
Fuentes is among others who are grateful for the opportunity, “I thank the community for supporting us because we have an amazing project, and honestly I cannot express in words how I feel with the Worcester community.”
With the growing number of Hispanic and Latino people and their families coming to the Worcester community for better opportunities, providing an outlet to express themselves through art and cultural activities contributes to the wellness of the Worcester community as well as helping the vulnerable and at-risk youth.
Although the reception closed on March 8, the Hispanic Art Gallery will be an annual event between Worcester PopUp and the CENTRO for the entire Worcester community.
This event will continue to provide opportunities for multiple Hispanic artists to showcase their art pieces and talent in Worcester.
“This is not going to be the first and only one,” said Fuentes. “This is going to be an amazing project that we are going to be doing with these artists and future artists.”