When South Bronx native Marco Saavedra is not helping to run his family’s La Morada restaurant in Mott Haven, he is now dedicating himself to creating abstract landscape art on Governors Island.
This is thanks to a new Governors Island Residency Initiative, which is geared to help artists affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Saavedra was one of five Bronx-based artists selected for the residency by the nonprofit art gallery BronxArtSpace.
“I feel very proud to be representing the Bronx in the program,” said Saavedra. It feels so great to be working with so many talented artists that come from our community.”
BronxArtSpace, which is a partial funder of the program, also selected one Brooklyn artist to take advantage of this opportunity to create and display the artists’ work for free in a historical house on the island.
The six artists are among 115 artists chosen from across the city. The initiative was a joint effort by The Trust for Governors Island, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and 17 other cultural organizations. While the artists do not receive a stipend for the residency, they are given a free space to work that is maintained by the sponsoring gallery, as well as the opportunity for greater exposure for their work.
Since Saavedra, 31, spends a lot of time working at La Morada, he appreciates that the residency provides a place to work on his art in his free time. He will be showcasing his large abstract landscapes and waterscapes at future open studio events on Governor’s Island.
The Brooklyn-based artist selected, Mateo Gutierrez, 52, creates work that is geared toward representing the Latinx community. He focuses on lengthy painting projects that involve immigration and gun violence in America. Gutierrez commends the BronxArtSpace for giving artists of color an opportunity to share their work with the community.
“There is an extreme lack of Latinx representation in public discourse. If there is anything that I hope that people take away from my work at the open studio events, it is that Latinx people deserve to be involved in this country,” he said.
The four other Bronx artists in residency are: Haile Binns, an abstract painter and the small business owner of shophailebinns.com; Nestor Daniel Pérez-Molière, a painter, educator, and performance artist; Branden Janese, the writer/audio artist behind the “Sick Empire” podcast; and Jill Cohen-Nuñez, a sculptor.
Each artist expressed gratitude for being able to work on Governors Island, which they described as full of nature and beauty. Awardee Binns praised the BronxArtSpace for offering a potentially life-changing residency for free.
“Too often have I had to turn down residencies because I could not afford to take them on,” she said. “Residencies are so important, too, so getting one that offers an affordable place to paint is amazing.”
The residency runs from August to October 2021 and features multiple open studio events for visitors to come and view the work being done in the house. BronxArtSpace is hoping to have a final open studio for visitors to view the artists’ completed work on Governors Island on October 30.