Latinx artists show their work in Bloomfield

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BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield turned the fence at Millbank Park into an outdoor art gallery on Sept. 26, during the Fiesta Latina in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The show, which featured six Latinx artists, was the backdrop of the festival, which also featured music and food trucks, and offered plots for rent in the community garden.

“We wanted to get more exposure for Latino artists,” Maria Estrela, a member of Bloomfield’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Advisory Committee and one of the curators of the show, said in an interview with The Independent Press at the event. “It’s more of a showcase.”

Estrela and her co-curator, Rey Arvelo, a Bloomfield resident and the gallery manager at the West Orange Arts Center, had to adapt to the outdoors because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, which prevent most indoor events. But Arvelo said the smaller exhibition area was a benefit.

“The more intimate it is, the more comfortable people will be with coming,” he said in an interview with The Independent Press at the event. “We can have a smaller group of artists and space them out.”

Arvelo is also the school programs director at the Newark Museum. Unfortunately, his own work often gets short shrift. The festival exhibit was the first time in years that he included his own work. 

“Very rarely do I get to these and show my work,” Arvelo said. “In a way the pandemic was a blessing, because I was dormant for eight or nine years. So I was in quarantine and went crazy.”

Newark artist Diana Candelejo did the same thing, as she wasn’t working her regular job in health care. Normally a painter, she didn’t have access to canvas in quarantine. She turned to digital art instead.

“I got creative with an iPad,” Candelejo said in an interview with The Independent Press at the event. “I’m more or less an activist artist. With the national unrest, there’s been a lot of themes that hit home this year. When you’re stuck at home, there’s a lot to touch on.”

Photos by Amanda Valentovic