Art Spotlight: Errick Picardo – I was happy to attend the opening of a new gallery here in Grand Rapids last week. Epic Emporium was started by follow artist Errick Picardo and his wife after years of trying. I’ve known Errick for some years and he was my connection to the Latino community as he edited a local Hispanic newspaper. He spoke with me before his grand opening about his new venture and life.
By George Bayard III
GB: Glad to be here Errick. It’s been a long time coming. Tell us about your new gallery space.
EP: Epic Emporium is part of a dream I’ve carried with me since I came to the United States. Along with my wife we have and art gallery but also a multi-cultural place where people of different colors can work together on various art projects. By connecting with LINC and the GRPD we have provided classes for kids who can’t afford the Academy to create art which helps with the educational process.
GB: You mentioned that you came to the U.S. Where is your homeland? What is your background?
EP: I’m from the Dominican Republic originally. I’ve been living in the U.S. for 12 years going to New York first where my family is living. It was a time when I first tried to experiment by showing my work from the Caribbean there. When I arrived in Grand Rapids, one of the things I developed was the first Latin American art show in 2003 working with a group of Latino artists in town like Hugo Calderon who will be with us tonight and other artists who have moved away. By not only creating art, I fill a social role creating collaboration between local artists, not just Latino and also as a venue for music, dance and art. It’s a dream come true and we worked hard, now it’s open for everybody.
GB: I can honestly say, being a gallery owner myself, that this place will never be just a gallery. It will be a place for people to congregate at events, dialog, learn and enjoy. What gave you the idea to reach out to the larger community and make Epic Emporium cross-cultural?
EP: The world is turning toward diversity. You don’t see only one color now so a gathering place for artists of many different backgrounds is something special. I truly believe that by working together we can make some change in this area. As an artist, I have knocked on a lot of doors, many shut in my face but a few, like your gallery, was open to Hugo and me. I spoke little English when I got here; I struggled with the language so I went to school to improve and that was part of the process that will make us successful.
GB: You’re an artist also so tell me about your work and what’s on display tonight?
EP: Right now I’m in transition. I’ve been working on a type of expressionism, oil based on canvas, wood and different materials like recycled items to create a 3-dimentional piece of work. I’m at a point were I need to show that something is attacking my soul; something’s happening with me right now and the art is liberating what is ruining my whole physical body. The art work is turning in a really nice way.
GB: Tell me about tonight’s event. I see a shrine over here and the music and food are great.
EP: The title of today’s exhibition is Beyond the Myth we are also celebrating the Day of the Dead, a popular celebration around Latin America and in Mexico November 1. So we took a chance to embrace and create a platform with some artists who are showing a point of view about life beyond, after death. Some are religious, some more controversial but we are creating an ambiance that fosters a dialog between artists. The altar is one of the elements in the Day of the Death or Dia de los Muertos celebration. From the Mexican and Afro-Caribbean traditions you see drums, candles and special colors all meaning something in the celebration. When Europeans came to Central America, they brought there beliefs and African slaves which were all mixed with Catholicism which allowed Latino people a way to celebrate their own beliefs. It’s something we carry in our culture and is our intention to share it with the rest of the community.
GB: I agree, when our gallery was open, sharing African American culture was our primary focus. People of all races came to learn about African and African American art, books, music and culture. Will you be teaching here also?
EP: Yes, especially young people. They come from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela but they don’t know their culture. They are U.S. citizens but because of their environment or what is taught and not taught in schools, they lack information about their history and therefore can’t share it with others. We will take students of all kinds so they may learn art and about their culture.
GB: That’s great. Where do you see yourself in five years?
EP: I see kids working on a mural on the building. I see students we’ve trained teaching the younger ones. I see artists coming together with different projects. I see very colorful and fruitful things happening in this area. It’s a great opportunity.
GB: Man! The food smells good. Is your lovely wife involved with the feast?
EP: Yes we have traditional Mexican foods served throughout the Dia de los Muertos celebration. My wife, Yarixa, has a crew of volunteers helping her so that everyone will experience Latino culture tonight. She also manages the business side of our gallery and the marketing while I do all of the creative parts like curating, hanging art, and choosing artists.
GB: Do you have any advice for artists or young folks who want to follow this tradition?
EP: To keep this traditional stuff going, start here. This place will be a good platform to learn and create a new trend for the future. We will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo, and all of the Caribbean independence days with lots of cultural things attached so I encourage them to come and talk with us about building the future.
GB: Good luck Errick to you and your wife. Anything we can do to help just ask.
Epic Emporium is located in the LINC BUSINESS CENTER at 1258 Madison Ave. SE Suit B Grand Rapids, MI 616 818-7688