Art and Culture

Dynamic new Dallas gallery-cafe infuses Oak Cliff with Latin culture

Dynamic new Dallas gallery-cafe infuses Oak Cliff with Latin culture

Mercado Artesanal
An exciting new gallery is opening in Oak Cliff. Photo courtesy of Mercado Artesanal

An exciting new artisan operation celebrating Latin American art and culture is coming to North Oak Cliff. Called Mercado Artesanal, it's a combination market-cafe-gallery spotlighting one-of-a-kind original art, sculpture, jewelry, textiles, and gifts that reflect the rich culture and history of Latin America from Mexico to Argentina.

Founder Jorge Baldor is a local luminary and philanthropist who founded the Latino Center for Leadership Development, an organization whose mission included helping develop Latin candidates for public office.

Mercado represents another way to showcase the positive influence of Latin culture.

Located at 369 W. Jefferson Blvd., it's in a hot zone that includes the renovation of the Art Deco Jefferson Tower building, near the Oak Cliff Cultural Center and Texas Theater.

Mercado's communications director Edén Soto Alva says that the area is channeling the nearby Bishop Arts District.

"We're going for that same feeling, where people can come and hang out and see a lot of art," Soto Alva says. "We hope we'll be bringing a lot of character to the block. We have a 7000-square-foot gallery with handicrafts, ceramics, bronze sculptures, paintings, and a café and bar."

He cautions that it's not just a store. "We're going for a museum feeling in the building, and we're forming relationships with renowned artists from Latin America that we feel will be well received both by those within the culture and people who follow art. We want to sell a unique cultural experience."

Acquiring the unique and uncommon pieces has been a journey of discovery, he says.

"Everything's unique and from different artists around the world, making it a complicated process," he says. "Every country has its own set of rules. And getting stuff here is another story, especially with sensitive materials like ceramics."

They seek out objects with color but also items with context.

"We look for things that tell a story or have a hidden story, maybe a craft that's almost extinct," Soto Alva says. "We're also trying to make an impact by supporting something that's maybe been done in a family for five generations or something that can help a community or help people have a better life."

The facility will also host monthly workshops and/or musical guests, to share their music or art form and offer the opportunity to learn about their techniques.

As an amenity, they've created a little canteen called Café Hatuey, named for an Indian revolutionary. "He is considered to be the first freedom fighter in the Americas and is celebrated as Cuba’s First National Hero and Jorge is Cuban so he has an appreciation," Soto Alva says.

It'll have a simple menu with coffee and some snacks brought in, but also a full bar. They'll keep late hours on weekends so people can hang out.

The opening event is on November 10 — the Facebook page is here — and they're hoping people will drop by.