There’s a new creative space next to Barrio Café, where Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza and her business partner, Wendy Gruber, plan to present rotating exhibitions of visual art. The gallery is located in the same building as the cafe, which sits on the west side of 16th Street just south of Thomas Road.
Barrio Café recently reopened after closing temporarily due to COVID-19 public health concerns. Esparza made improvements to the future gallery space, including giving the walls a fresh coat of white paint, while the restaurant was closed.
“We wanted to give artists another place where their voices can be heard,” Esparza says of the new gallery.
The gallery doesn’t function as a traditional art space. Instead, it’s conceived as a walk-by gallery with artworks visible through a large glass storefront. Hence, they've dubbed it WG. It’s a way to showcase art amid public health conditions that make it hard to hold traditional gallery events.
The first exhibit, titled "Chingona," features portraits of Esparza painted by various artists, including El Moises, Lalo Cota, Eric Cox, Megan Galaviz, Debra Jones, Pablo Luna, and Abe Zucca. It turns out that Esparza is an avid art collector, with a long history of supporting the local arts scene. “We have some world-class artists here,” she says.
Barrio Café Gran Reserva, the Grand Avenue restaurant Esparza closed in April, was filled with work by local artists, who painted bathroom interiors, ceilings, and walls, and decorative niches.
Ten years ago, amid protests against the anti-immigrant bill SB 1070, she worked with artists to launch a mural project called Calle 16. The project includes several murals painted on or near Barrio Café, which helped to create a thriving mural scene in the area.
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More recently, several artists painted new work both inside and outside Barrio Café. They include Tato Caraveo, Lalo Cota, Angel Diaz, Pablo Luna, and La Morena. Now, patrons and passersby can explore additional works displayed in the adjacent gallery.
The new gallery joins a short list of creative spaces in the area, which also include The Hive, Mucho Mas Art Studio, and Hosh Gallery inside Palabras Bilingual Bookstore.
“As important as the food is for me,” Esparza says, “the art has always been part of the formula.”