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Coalition aims to give exposure to Latino, immigrant artists in Gainesville
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Gainesville Hispanic artist Nancy Barbosa wishes to start an Latino Art Coalition for immigrant artists across Northeast Georgia, with workshops and networking available to spur opportunities for artists to showcase their work. - photo by Scott Rogers

When Nancy Barbosa first arrived in the United States from Colombia, the Flowery Branch resident and artist found the fall colors of Northeast Georgia to be breathtaking.

Coming from a land of jungles dotted with cities, as she described it, “Everything is green or concrete,” Barbosa said.

“I was very impressed with the color here,” she added. “I’d never seen these kinds of trees before.”

Barbosa, a professional who studied fine arts in Colombia, has featured her work at number of exhibits in the United States, particularly in and around Atlanta.

She has displayed work at public art sites in Atlanta, such as a mural bicycle rack, and has sold work to permanent collections hosted by the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System.

Barbosa also has showcased her work in group exhibits hosted by the Colombian consulate in Sandy Springs, as well as for the Georgia Museum of Art and many other galleries.

Now, she is among a small group in Hall County helping to establish a Latino Arts Coalition with support from Hispanic Alliance GA, a nonprofit based in Gainesville.

“We want to support local Latino artists,” Executive Director Vanesa Sarazua said. “The network is lacking.”

As The Times has reported, public art projects have become a staple across Gainesville in recent years, from installations at bus stations and government centers to murals along Pearl Nix Parkway and Main Street, for example.

Sarazua said it’s important that Latinos, who make up more than 40 percent of the city’s population, contribute to this community project.

Sarazua said the annual Latino fest in Gainesville, which her organization puts on in September, will include opportunities for Latinos and immigrants to show their work, as well as organize and support one another.

“We are all about showing the good things the Latino community has to offer – food, business, art,” Sarazua said.

Straddling American and Latin American cultures has been stimulating for Barbosa, she said.

“Merging those two cultures … you’re going to get richer expression,” she said.

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Rebeca Ruelas of Gainesville shows a piece of her artwork on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. Ruelas is working with the Hispanic Alliance to launch a Latino Art Coalition for immigrant artists across northeast Georgia. - photo by Austin Steele

On a recent afternoon, Barbosa leads the way to her basement studio, explaining with each step down the stairs how she gins up inspiration and style to meet the themes she is currently exploring in her multimedia art projects.

In addition to working in different mediums, Barbosa also incorporates different materials and textures to relay her expressions.

“I do not consider myself just a painter,” Barbosa said.

And she’s not afraid to take risks, to explore the daily changes in life that mark the very essence of nature.

“Every day, you are not the same,” Barbosa said.

Good art, it might be said, is created when the power of inspiration is met with the discipline of routine.

Barbosa finds muses when she reads or conducts research, studies other artists, watches documentaries on art movements, or explores new techniques and styles through trial and error.

But Barbosa, always with a few works in progress, must have music playing to set the mood, the tone, the ambiance needed to create.

Rebeca Ruelas, of Gainesville, enjoys a similar setting when she’s creating.

“I normally listen to a lot of music,” she said. “I like my art to be colorful.”

Barbosa said the art coalition can be critical to the development of young and emerging artists like Ruelas.

“I am lucky,” she added.

Ruelas said she first began painting as a gift for her little nephew but quickly realized how calming she found the experience, like a therapeutic dose of joy.

“I think that’d be interesting,” Ruelas said of the arts coalition. “I’ve always (painted) mostly for self-care.”

Ruelas said she has since found inspiration in the roots of her Mexican culture.

Born in the United States, Ruelas’ parents are immigrants from a rural and indigenous part of Mexico.

“I had to learn a lot about what being Mexican means,” Ruelas said of finding balance in her American identity and Mexican heritage.

Through portraits and symbolism, Ruelas explores the vibrant pastels common in Latin American art, and the struggles of immigrants and indigenous communities to find representation in a globalized world.

“It’s feeling more togetherness,” she said of her work. “The power of what we’ve come from.”

And this is the kind of thing Sarazua hopes the arts coalition will produce.

“This is a big deal for our community,” she added. “It’s the beginning of acknowledging their contributions. It’s just starting, but we see the need for local artists to have support and opportunity.”

Flowery Branch artist Nancy Barbosa

To view more of Barbosa’s work, visit