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Café Bellas Artes takes a journey through Peru


OCT. 14, 2010

The Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (ODAMA) in partnership with the Cleveland Museum of Art held its first Café Bellas Artes event, “Traveling through Peru in search of Art,” on Oct. 8 at the CSU Art Gallery on Chester Ave.

Cafe Bellas ArtesCafé Bellas Artes is a gathering place to share art, literature, music, poetry and culture with people from the Latino community. Juan Carlos Gamarra, a CSU student from Peru and ODAMA committeeperson, was instrumental in the selection for the first Café Bellas Artes.

“I have done a couple of events. This is not the first time and won’t be the last time,” said Gamarra. “I am hoping to start a trend that will help discourage some of the negative stereotypes of Hispanics.”

He hopes to bring more Hispanic organizations and events to CSU.
Paloma Pilar Grasso, the owner of Galeria Quetzal, a local gallery that features Hispanic fine and folk art, wearable art and interior design, lead the discussion on Peruvian art and culture.

Grasso, who buys and sells art, said, “I did my best art when I was 13. Now the best thing I do as an artist is the interior design of the gallery. “
Grasso, who was born and raised in Cleveland, was a school teacher until she found her passion as an art gallery owner.

“Since there were no Hispanic Art Galleries in Cleveland I decided to open one,” she said.

Grasso isn’t Peruvian or Hispanic, but she says, “I might as well be Hispanic” because she loves the culture.

After taking the democratic means of picking the language, Grasso began the presentation in English that took the audience through her trip to Peru in search of art. Slides featured Peruvian towns, landscapes, art galleries and people with an emphasis on the Coca Canyon and the textiles found there.

“They used sewing machines to make intricate patterns in cloth to make homemade clothing,” said Grasso.

Peru is famous for its many uses of colors, said Grasso, who explained how to make different colors by adding lemon or salt to red paint. She said colors are a significant of Peruvian culture.

“Younger women wear the bright colors and the older women wear subdued, darker colors. They also dress up their children in colorful attire so that people will take their picture and pay them for it,” said Grasso.

The discussion got a lot of questions in regards to the people of Peru. Grasso tells the crowd that the Peruvian people are indigenous. They are a proud people who are extremely creative and talented.

Grasso said that “dealing with the Peruvian people was the highlight of my trip. They were so warm and welcoming, and since I had bought so much stuff, to them I was the patron saint of the island.”

Fern Ziglar, a CSU student, was in attendance as part of a class requirement. She said she’s been to Peru and is particularly interested in the island; however, she expressed some disappointment that Grasso didn’t speak in Spanish during the presentation.

“They are an indigenous people who do not want to deal with the rest of the world,” said Ziglar

After the slide presentation, Grasso talked about the table full of artifacts she bought in Peru that included boats, stuffed animals, dolls, paintings and vintage rugs.
Grasso discussed her favorite artifact.

“I love the stuffed baby alpaca the most, but the piece I feel best represents the Peruvian people is the Chan cay doll. The doll and its clothes date back so many thousands of years,” she said.

The event was well attended. Roberto Chavez, ODAMA coordinator, spent most of his time retrieving chairs for audience members.

“We never expected this kind of turnout, but we are glad that this many people came out to socialize the Latino way,” said Chavez.

With free food, wine and refreshments, Café Bellas Artes events are free and open to the public. Presented in both Spanish and English, they will rotate locations. The next event will be at the Cleveland Museum of Art on Dec. 10. For more information contact ODAMA at 216-687-9293.