Musicians, frolicking children and food and produce vendors fill Mariachi Plaza every Friday for the Boyle Heights Farmers Market. But once a month, artists take over for an event that celebrates art and culture.

The radiant sights and sounds of the bustling CaminArte are sweet music to Nico Avina’s ears.

The Boyle Heights artist and Merkado Negro Art Collective worked in collaboration with the Boyle Heights Farmers Market to bring the event this summer as an outlet for budding Boyle Heights artists to display and sell their artwork in an open-air market.

“We wanted to bring something more to Boyle Heights. We wanted to bring something that was not foreign to the community,” said Avina, pointing out the many pioneering artists who are part of the rich artistic history in Boyle Heights.

“People talk about the rebirth of Boyle Heights, but all we are is a continuation of artists and muralists that have been here all along,” said Avina.

Many of the artists and performing bands at CaminArte are from Boyle Heights, or have some sort of connection with the community. Some are there to share their artwork with others, while others enjoy sharing ideas and appreciating art.

“I’m so happy to have this place to show my artwork,” said Tanya Melendez, a Highland Park resident who has family and friends in Boyle Heights. Melendez’s specializes in jewelry that is inspired by different styles and cultures, but for her, CaminArte is not only a space to display her creativity.

“This is very important to me for just earning a living,” she said. “This provides me with an opportunity for self-sustainability.”

CaminArte draws artists and vendors from as far away as Orange County.

Priscila Hernandez and Louis Flores came from Santa Ana for a chance to display their artwork here. “There’s no place like this in Orange County,” said Hernandez. “There is an art walk once a month in Santa Ana, but it’s not the same,” said Flores.

Their artwork is organic in nature, a fact that Hernandez is very proud of. “Our artwork is good for people, the economy and the earth. We use stones, clay and seeds to create our work,” said Hernandez.

Threats of gentrification after the construction of the Metro Gold Line has encouraged many residents to take matters into their own hands and continue to create a community reflective of its culture.

This was particularly important for Avina and the group of artists who envisioned a space for people to share and appreciate art. “We have to be active ”“ all the time. We can’t wait for the politicians to tell us what is good for Boyle Heights,” said Avina.

The CaminArte name is a Spanish term that joins camino and arte together. Camino means road in English and Avina says that art can be the road to building a stronger Boyle Heights.

“We are all born with encapsulated energies,” said Avina. “This energy comes from everything around us. We have a need to express this through phrases, music and on canvas.”

CaminArte is held on the second Friday of each month. It offers free entertainment, food and art for sale and is open from 3 to 10 p.m. Due to weather, this month’s event will be held Friday, November 18.

For more information on upcoming events, visit CaminArte’s Facebook page.

A version of this story was originally published in ELAC Campus News.

Gus Ugalde

Gus Ugalde is a print journalist and Boyle Heights native. He is a graduate of both Salesian High School and East Los Angeles College. With writing as his passion, he has had over 500 stories published...

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