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A first at Philly’s Cherry Street Pier: a showcase of work by local artists representing Latin America

The Latinx Craft Fair is being organized by Fleisher Art Memorial and Casa de Venezuela Philadelphia to provide a space for the communities to showcase their art and handmade products.

Yaku Wear imports handmade hats, berets, and jewelry from Ecuador to Philadelphia.
Yaku Wear imports handmade hats, berets, and jewelry from Ecuador to Philadelphia.Read moreCourtesy Yaku Wear

In an effort to bring more visibility to Latino artists and crafts makers, Fleisher Art Memorial and Casa de Venezuela Philadelphia have partnered to put together a Latinx Craft Fair at Cherry Street Pier on July 11. It’s the first collaboration between the two groups and will bring more recognition to the cultural heritages in the city’s rapidly changing neighborhoods.

The fair, which will open at 11 a.m., will be a market-style event where visitors will be able to find handmade jewelry, straw hats, colorful embroidery, upcycled clothing, art in clay, beauty products, and more from Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, and Puerto Rico.

Gerard Silva, director of exhibitions and community outreach for Fleisher Art Memorial, said the event is two-fold:

It’s a response to the Latino communities asking for a more visible space to showcase their art and their crafts. It’s also an opportunity for aficionados to find the Latino items and goods that they’ve been longing to have but didn’t know where to find them.

“We are never in the fancy places, you know, so bringing the community into the pier means making art available to everyone, especially the kids,” Silva said, an artist himself from Puerto Rico.

The fair is one of a list of cultural and artistic programs that Fleisher Art Memorial is holding during a month-long residency at Cherry Street Pier, hosting some of the events simultaneously, beginning Friday.

The partnership with Casa de Venezuela Philadelphia, along with the Indonesian group Moderno Dance, is part of Fleisher’s 360 Culture Lab, a program funded by a Pew Center for Arts and Heritage grant, with a mission to foster creative expressions in a variety of art forms including music, dance, visual art, and culinary art. After years of work with the Mexican population in South Philadelphia, Silva explained the two-year grant program has a goal to maintain a sense of belonging within the Philadelphia communities.

The event, the first Latino communities crafts fair held at the Cherry Street Pier, is inspired by the annual arts and crafts fair that Casa de Venezuela Philadelphia had been organizing in South Philadelphia since 2016 at a recreation center.

Emilio Buitrago, one of the board members for Casa de Venezuela Philadelphia, said these neighborhood fairs have always served as spaces to share Latin American traditions. This opportunity at Cherry Street Pier, he said, brings craft makers and artists into “the Anglo market.”

“Sometimes, there is someone out there trying to find that Mexican mug or that Brazilian embroidered towel and they just can’t find it,” he said. “This time, they won’t have to go too far seeking.”

Currently, 15 artists and craft makers in the Philadelphia region, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., have registered to show and sell their products at the fair. Organizers are hoping to attract 25 participants.

Julieta Zavala is a fashion designer from Mexico City. The 35-year-old, a graduate of the Art Institute of Philadelphia, makes environmentally friendly designs by upcycling denim, cambaya, and other fabrics to create unique attire inspired by Mexican culture: Day of the Dead, lucha libre, Frida Kahlo, and more.

At the fair, she will showcase a new collection of clothing made with reused fabrics imported from Mexico. This is the first time the resident of Newark, Del., will participate in a fair in Philadelphia.

“It’s very exciting [to participate] because I look forward to making lots of connections there,” Zavala said. “I’ve been in many Hispanic events, but not in one that’s this big and accessible.”

Silvia Roldán launched Yaku Wear in 2017, an online boutique that sells handmade jewelry and straw hats from Ecuador. Although Roldán has participated in numerous fairs and markets in the area, she looks forward to these events as, she said, they give her the opportunity to talk to others about her country.

“I love to chat with others, and this type of event gives me the chance to explain the history behind a world-renowned product, recognized by UNESCO, but that everyone thinks comes from Panama,” she said of the hats made of toquilla straws.

The event ends at 3 p.m. It will include artworks and exhibitions from other Fleisher programming, in addition to an information stand by local and state agencies on COVID-19 vaccination efforts and the Affordable Care Act.