Artist Feature: Laura Alvarez

ARTIST FEATURE: Laura Alvarez

This week, the Directory of Illustration presents an artist feature on Laura Alvarez and her inspiring public engagements and community projects, particularly her work with BxArts Factory in painting over 12 community fridges in the Bronx.

THE WORK

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ABOUT THE PROJECT: “In June 2020, the volunteer coordinator for BxArts Factory reached out to me asking if I knew someone that could help bring-to-life a community fridge in the North Bronx. Their problem was that the fridge wasn’t inviting enough and people didn’t realize that there was free food inside or that they could donate extra food for others. I immediately said I could volunteer to paint it and we arranged for it to happen. That was the first of a series of fridges I painted, (sometimes the same fridge twice because they break and have to be replaced).

This fridge project started during the pandemic in response to food insecurity. It is a community effort with mutual aid and run by the community. It’s cleaned daily and filled through the generosity of neighbors and businesses, who instead of throwing away their excess food bring it to the fridges so everyone can have something to eat.

Every time I received a phone call regarding a new fridge, the process consisted in talking to the volunteers that were going to run the fridge, why they were doing it, what their responsibility would be, and figuring out a name for the specific fridge that would match with a specific image for it. I felt it was important to reflect the volunteers in the design of the fridge, because they are the ones taking care of that fridge every day to make sure everyone can eat.

In the span of a year and a half, I painted many fridges, as well as sheds that protect the appliances and the shelving included for cans and other dry goods. It has been a very enriching experience. I was able to meet many community members who not only talk about doing something but actually go and do it.

Spending time working on the fridges also taught me that so many people need food and I have seen how the culture of sharing has changed. People choose to bring something there before it spoils, rather than throw it away, and I think that’s beautiful.”

– Laura

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ABOUT THE ARTIST: Laura Alvarez was born in Valencia, Spain and received an MA in Fine Arts in Spain and England. In NYC, she juggles her city job, her artist career, and her commitment to her Bronx community.

She has been a teaching artist with more organizations and city agencies than she can remember, but what she does recall, is all the lives she has touched through the years thanks to the arts, and she knows there will be more.

Laura is interested in how art interacts with people and what better place than the streets? She has taken her artwork out of the studio, working on walls, streets and stairs in different countries and NYC neighborhoods, to bring her colorful designs and joy to the community while planning the next wall she’s going to tackle.

She has received several awards and grants that she has used to continue promoting the arts among the Bronx youth and to create work that starts a conversation, touching issues like ecology, womanhood, racism, tradition, inequality or immigration.

She has exhibited all over Europe and New York in collective and solo shows. In most of her shows, she programs free workshops to pass along her love for art and her mantra: “everyone is an artist.”

For more examples of Laura’s bright, positive work, explore her portfolio and website.

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