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As Oak Cliff Changes, New Art Gallery Hopes To Maintain Latin American Culture, Identity

Oak Cliff's Bishop Arts District is in the midst of a makeover with new retail and apartments. A few blocks away, a new art gallery – Mercado Artesanal – aims to help the neighborhood keep its cultural identity.

The new addition on Jefferson Boulevard is the vision of Jorge Baldor, who founded the Latino Center for Leadership Development in Dallas. Baldor attended middle school in Oak Cliff, so this project is personal.

When you walk into Mercado Artesanal, you'll see a large, international showroom. The walls and floors are lined with colorful sculptures and other artwork made across Latin America.

“I think it’s important that as Oak Cliff changes, particularly in Bishop Arts and Jefferson Boulevard – that was the main street of Oak Cliff when it was a separate city – that we recognize the importance of maintaining our culture and our history, and staking our claim,” Baldor said.

Credit Stella M Chávez / KERA News
Mercado Artesanal is the vision of Jorge Baldor, who founded the Latino Center for Leadership Development in Dallas.

Baldor says some of the art for sale comes from remote areas of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Other art hails from Guatemala and Peru.

He said it was important to him that patrons get to know the artists. That’s why iPads are located throughout the gallery.

“When you come to the gallery and you find a piece of pottery that you find interesting, that you like, [that] you wanna know more about, well, we have videos of these artisans that actually made that piece,” Baldor said adding that the artists talk about how they make their art and how long their families have been making it.

He calls it a cultural exchange – one that will included some hands-on experience. Once a month, Baldor said, some of the artists will come in to teach workshops.

Credit Stella M Chávez / KERA News
The artwork you'll find in Mercado Artesanal hails from Mexico to Argentina.

That idea excites Delma Gorostieta, who grew up and also attended school in Oak Cliff.

“I don’t live here anymore, but my parents still live right down the street and I still love coming here and seeing how much it’s changing and especially for the better, right?” Gorostieta said. “Because this is a…minority community, so to see it develop into something, not just completely trying to gentrify it for other people to come in.”

For Gorostieta and other visitors, the welcome mat is out – a statue of the late Mexican singer Juan Gabriel stands at the entrance, his arms open wide.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.