Phyllis Hernandez opened the doors of the Sala de Arte, located at 4828 E. Ninth St., on May 8, 2021, more than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hernandez works at the northeast branch of the Kansas City Public Library as -, and was one of the artists who worked on the mural behind – on Independence Avenue in 2020.
“After doing the mural last summer, it motivated me to want to create more art,” Hernandez said. “I had looked everywhere in the northeast and contacted Bobbi [Baker-Hughes] and Rebecca [Koop], and said, “I’m looking for a studio, just a quiet place where I can create art.”
The space Hernandez rents faces the Ninth and Van Brunt athletic fields. Hernandez was struggling to find a spot, but after one of her daughter’s soccer games across the street, she pulled out of the parking lot and her eyes caught the FOR RENT sign in the window of the storefront. When she walked into the brick-walled room with its high ceilings and lights, even though she was small, she knew it was perfect.
Nearly a dozen artists showed their talent during an open house on the evening of July 10. In addition to a monthly open house, Hernandez began keeping the gallery open every Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. so people could browse. They will eventually open on Sundays at the same times, and Hernandez hopes to add more local artists and mediums as the gallery expands.
“[I wanted] to give the opportunity to members of this community to present their work, ”said Hernandez. “It’s an outlet for this hidden talent, as Batula works in the library and I never knew she was as talented as she is.”
Batula Hussein grew up volunteering at the northeast branch of the Kansas City Public Library, and after graduating from the University of Missouri – Kansas City, she returned to work as a library assistant. She paints, draws and does henna, but didn’t think it would ever be possible to show her work in her own neighborhood.
“I just like the things that take me out of my daily life,” Hussein said. “When I paint or when I read, I don’t have to think about anything, as if my mind goes blank and I enjoy this time. It’s like another way to get away from it all without really having to do a lot. “
When the library was closed due to COVID, staff would hold weekly Zoom meetings, which often ended with sharing the progress of different creative projects. In September, Hernandez is planning an open house with library staff to show off their variety of talents, including quilting, graphic novels, jewelry and painting.
Not only is it an art gallery, but Hernandez wants to invite people to create art. She keeps it stocked with paint, canvas, clay and other supplies for children and adults.
Many artists presenting works have been drawn to the Northeast over the years, but Daniel Garcia-Roman has been here his entire life. He is now a youth advocate and teaching artist at the Mattie Rhodes Center.
Garcia-Roman’s inspiration changes every day. A year ago it would have been for assertiveness and self-expression, but going forward his art is to show Latino affinity and presence. He strives to be more intentional in his works, as he realizes that artists of color can sometimes feel pressured to represent their culture and their people.
“I’m glad I don’t have a single medium,” Garcia-Roman said. “Artists of color shouldn’t be weighed down by their lived experiences – or any other burden, really – an artist label. ”
He exhibited scene paintings inspired both by the places he had traveled and his own urban neighborhood, prints and a collage during the open house. Garcia-Roman’s work shares a wall with some of the artists he admires, like Isaac Tapia and Rico Alvarez, both well-known muralists in Kansas City, and Chico Sierra.
“They have their works in many spaces, but they don’t want to occupy those spaces, wanting other artists to precede them,” Garcia-Roman said. “They are not limited by a culture or an artist label.”
Over the past year, with his work at Mattie Rhodes, Garcia-Roman has focused on teaching art. He and Hernandez plan to hold a painting class for adults at the gallery who haven’t had the chance to create.
“We know there are a lot of guys who love to create, but it’s that hidden talent, but they don’t do anything,” Hernandez said. “They go to this nine to five job to support their families.”
“You are already an artist in a way you don’t know,” Garcia-Roman said. “We say poems in our heads without writing them, we dream of paintings in our heads, it is just a matter of starting somewhere, of bringing it into the world.
“Daniel walked into the library just a few months ago, the first time I met him, and we were talking about Mattie Rhodes student art, and he wanted a place to showcase student art, but because COVID the library is not doing it right now, “Hernandez said.” I started to think there was no place to showcase art in the Northeast neighborhood. “
She admires the local efforts of Art Garden, which meets every Sunday on Lexington Avenue, and appreciates the art exhibitions that take place from time to time at the Economic Growth Gallery (EGG) of the North Chamber of Commerce. -Is, but they are not open all the time.
Luis Alfredo Gonzalez grew up in Independence, Missouri, but was born in the Bronx. A true child of the 90s, his painting style is inspired by the energetic punk era of New York, using scrap wood as a canvas.
“Any problem I have, that’s why I paint,” Gonzalez said. “These paintings all mean something to me… Some of them, I’ll wear my heart on my sleeve, but some of them, it’s hard to be really open.”
Kye Stone, who moved from Seattle, Wa., Northeast of Kansas City about a year ago, has been working on live portraits on the sidewalk outside on a balmy summer evening.
“A lot of these artists have full-time jobs, they have families to support, so art might not have been their first career, but they have this hidden talent,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez has lived in the historic Northeast for about 20 years. Despite the number of artists residing here, as far back as she can remember, there has not been a gallery located in the Northeast. Garcia-Roman added that there are barely a handful of gallery spaces east of Troost.
She said that many artists do not realize their talent and often charge low rates on their work to generate additional income. Hernandez doesn’t take any commissions from the artists, and she hopes having a place to exhibit their art will help them see what it’s worth.
“I’m excited when a painting sells because it just means we’re doing something for the community,” Hernandez said.
La Sala de Arte will host its next open day on August 14 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. with art nouveau in the gallery and local musicians playing on the sidewalk.