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Colombian and American artists exchange ideas at Beyond Walls

Felipe Ortiz, founder of the Fresco Exchange, left, and Jesus David Rodriguez of Grafica Mestiza stand in the community gallery at GALA, surrounded by art from artists of the Fresco Exchange. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — Four years ago, Felipe Ortiz created Fresco Exchange, a Colombia-based organization that bridges the creative gap between Latin American and United States culture around art. It works with artists to enhance artistic opportunities, share methods of cultural expression, and inspire communities with new ways of creative thinking. 

Friday and Saturday nights, Fresco Exchange will present the first public showing of its traveling art show in the community gallery at 25 Exchange St., in conjunction with Galleries at Lynn Arts and Beyond Walls.

This exhibition highlights fine artwork from Colombian artists Grione, Soma, Guache, Yurikamdc, Wosnan, DAST, Ricardo Zokos, Andres Letop, Diana Zue, Diego Salsas, Malajunta Klan, Apaz, Ktanone, Sancho Medina and Ortiz himself. All works will be for sale.

The art is sensational, and it’s easy to envision these paintings coming alive on large outside walls; all have a mural quality to them.

Ortiz, his cargo shorts dappled with paint, sits in the gallery and is eager to talk about Fresco Exchange and its accomplishments, both at home in Cali and Bogota, Colombia, and here in the United States.

“Galleries are not established in Colombia as they are here,” said Ortiz, a Massachusetts College of Art graduate. “This is our first show ever in an established gallery. We are learning so much, even how to frame and properly display artwork on a wall.”

Ortiz is supported here by project manager Charlotte Maher and fellow Colombian artists Jesus David Rodriguez (Grafica Mestiza) and Ivan Salazar (Fundación Culata). 

Ortiz, Rodriguez and Salazar will lead a panel discussion in Spanish and English about their organizations at 5 p.m. Friday in the Black Box Theatre in the LynnArts building. A suggested donation of $10 will be collected at the door. 

Grafica Mestiza is an alternative cultural platform active in cities throughout Latin America that engages communities through graffiti, street art, graphic design and illustration. Fundacion Culata is based in Cali, Colombia, and its mission includes  moving art from the streets to galleries. 

“We love to exchange ideas and processes,” said Ortiz. Such an entrepreneurial approach helps artists in Latin America realize their creative works have value, both financially and artistically. It also fosters collaboration. Americans and Colombians work together and learn from one another.

Last year, Ortiz and team displayed art in seven U.S. cities in Florida, New Mexico, California and Massachusetts, and then returned to Latin America to focus on studio art, murals and new opportunities. “It was very successful,” Ortiz said. 

“By coming to Lynn and the United States, we have the opportunity to help out a larger number of artists. Over the past three years, we’ve curated annual exhibits that included work from over 70 muralists from both countries. Through our projects, five U.S.-based artists have contributed to cultural initiatives in Colombia.” Ortiz said Fresco collaborates with city planners, community organizers, galleries and festivals to host travel exchanges for artists in Colombia and the U.S.

“We can’t save the world. But we can offer up what we can,” he said.

For information, go to beyond-walls.org, frescoexchange.com, graficamestiza.com and fundation culata’s Facebook page.

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