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LaCa: Latin American Contemporary Arts Projects

By Neely Verano

Verano has worked at several non-profits including the Mint Museum as the Chief Development Officer. She co-founded LaCa in 2013.

Latin American Contemporary Art Projects, or LaCa, opened in Charlotte, North Carolina in March 2013 in the FreeMoreWest neighborhood, a rapidly growing and transforming area just west of Uptown. LaCa has a bold vision to become an international resource for culture through its promotion and advancement of Latin American contemporary art in the United States. While there are a number of organizations across the nation specializing exclusively in Latin American art, LaCa Projects is proud to serve as the very first artistic center of its kind in the region, a timely endeavor considering the dramatic growth of the Latin American population here in the past ten years.

LaCa Gallery, the most significant part of LaCa’s operation, aims to represent and promote Latin American visual artists, with emphasis on emerging and mid-career level who show or have shown tremendous promise on an international scale. Since inception, the gallery has featured more than a dozen artists in ten exhibitions that have varied significantly in styles, movements, and mediums. Through these presentations, LaCa Projects fulfills its mission to present superior examples of art that broadly exemplify the tremendous and global influence of Latin America over the progression of contemporary art.

LaCa completed its second phase of operations in November 2015, opening three studios adjacent to its 4,000-square-foot gallery for Latin American artists to work within. Functioning as a hybrid residency model, the studios are intended to draw Latin American artists locally and from all over the world to create new works, commune and grow alongside fellow artists, and to encourage collective and inclusive collector/artist/community interaction that is often lost in a traditional gallery setting. Visitors and collectors will have direct access to these artists, who will also make themselves available for programming, classes, and ongoing interaction. The artists take advantage of the many resources available through the gallery for selling, their own artistic development, and ongoing promotion.

An authentic café, featuring Latin American food and beverage, is the third facet of LaCa, further reinforcing its approach to building cultural understanding through an experiential-based model. Set for completion in 2016, the café will transform the traditional model of galleries from passive and impervious to experiential and fun. LaCa Café will offer live music, food and wine specials, ongoing coverage of Latin America’s favorite sport, dance nights, chef tastings, and much more. From a tasty glass of Argentinian Malbec to a savory Arepa, the café will specialize in food, wine, and coffee from Latin America—the perfect complement to its contemporary art, and will be a place for cross-cultural dialogue and conversation, a respite for its patrons, a favorite meeting spot, and a funky hang-out for hipsters and Baby Boomers alike.

LaCa Projects’ location is also rich with history, neighboring the original Coca Cola Bottling Company Building on Morehead Street built in 1930, and the Wesley Heights community, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. West Morehead Street was one of Charlotte’s first urban industrial corridors dating back to the 1920’s, and many of the original, red-bricked buildings that were once manufacturing sites remain. Recent efforts by the city and residents resulted in a renewed focus on and development in this important area of Charlotte.

While LaCa Projects hopes to achieve financial success as a commercial gallery, its profit model is unique. LaCa has firmly committed to give all profit, above and beyond covering its operational expenses, to Latin American art, educational, and social causes in Charlotte and nationally. In doing so, LaCa reinforces its passionate promotion of the arts as a way to build cultural bridges and to challenge existing fallacies and stereotypes about Latin America.

LaCa Projects is a multi-dimensional, innovative center for art enrichment, education, and partnership, and is working hard to ensure that its approach contributes not only to the progression of contemporary Latin America art, but to important social change in Charlotte and beyond.

Tags:   Art

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