For five years, in the Colombia neighborhood, auto workshops and artists’ workshops have coexisted. Far from the asepsis and silence that is generally found inside a museum, visiting the Barrio Colombia Circuit is an experience full of noise and movement. A different way of approaching art. “Between all of us we are managing the accessibility to art and if there is not space for all the artists at the same time in the Museum of Modern Art (which is a block away), we can start managing the same things that happen in the Museum, the way we want. It is not such a curated, perfect and impeccable place”, says Daniela Osorio, who arrived at the Farmacy Lab studio a week ago.
At this time, there are 15 workshops with 34 artists on the circuit. The pioneers were Alejandro Tobón and Danilo Cuadros, who, looking for a large space for their large formats, ended up in a neighborhood warehouse. Soon they moved to a larger space and left the previous one to Diego Díaz, Camilo Correa, Carlos Carmona and Andrés Layos. They were then joined by Jeison Sierra.
In March 2021, the La Balsa gallery held an exhibition for them called “The 7 from Barrio Colombia + 2 guests”, which included Hernán Marín and Andrés Arango, at that time they did not have a space in the neighborhood yet, but today they are already installed, along with 25 other artists.
Back then, as it still is now, the individual work was not so important, although everyone has an important journey, but the system they were building together.
The breadth of the areas and the rental economy were very attractive to everyone, despite the fact that the environment was far from those workshops isolated in the silence of the countryside, which many artists from the Aburrá Valley have.
The real explosion was produced by the post-pandemic. “Although art is a solitary process in conceptualization and production, I think that after the pandemic I had the need for dialogue and association, for both creative and productive deliberation,” says Daniel Estrada who arrived three months ago, after much search for a place. There are no more affordable options for individual workshops, like his.
Even some of the artists moved from Bogotá, finding in Medellín more possibilities to live from art and a respite from the burden that the capital brings. Although the scene is not as dynamic, social networks and means of transportation make national and international sales feasible.
The key self-management
The art circuit in Medellín is not very large, the buyers and galleries make up a small group in relation to the one in Bogotá, where you can count six different routes and the ArtBo Fair. In the Valle de Aburrá, we can add to this one in Barrio Colombia, the circuit of galleries near Parque Lleras and it could be said that there are other axes in development such as the one in the Manila and Oriente neighborhoods, but they are emerging movements, which they do not add many exhibition spaces for the number of active professionals in the region.
In addition, the galleries usually bring samples of national and international artists. Hence, in the workshops of Barrio Colombia areas have been created for the display of work.
El Coleccionista is the main gallery, managed by Alejandra Villa, who is in charge of communications for the entire group. At the same time, some of the spaces have been transformed into exhibition spaces, while others combine work with exhibitions. In the first case are Búnker and Atelier.4 Spazio Creativo, and in the second category is La Hoja Taller, but everything is variable, according to the artists’ schedules.
In the spaces mentioned here there are currently exhibitions open to the public, which can be visited by appointment.
Another advantage of the association is the possibility of sharing clients, curators or even mutually buying works. The circuit usually organizes different events to stimulate sales, such as barteringwhich is a fair where works of art are exchanged for services, or guided tours of the circuit, which are organized approximately every three months, an initiative that won a call from the Medellín Mayor’s Office in the last round of stimuli.
Other individual spaces have gained encouragement. This knowledge of project management and presentation is part of what is provided to each other.
What the artists who make up the circuit highlight the most is the importance of having created a community that really shares the benefits to turn them into collectives. In addition to providing the possibility of learning other knowledge, knowing the work of others, exchanging ideas and even spending leisure time and social gatherings. With the union they not only support each other, but in the face of the public they become more attractive than they would be alone.
This is not the only community with which the artists are related, there are the businessmen of the neighborhood and the 17 families, traditional inhabitants of the area, who do not want to be displaced by the transformation that the territory is undergoing, which aims to formally become a cultural district, in front of the Ministry of Culture.
“For some here, the work today is what at some point in modernity was called the relational, it is what has to do with the community, with the territory. For me that is more important than making certain objects”, says Alejandro Tobón.
The circuit is a growing network, with aspirations to connect with other nearby spaces such as the Perpetuo Socorro neighborhood, where Comfama is making a similar effort, or Telemedellín (it has not been able to establish similar conversations with MAMM). But they don’t want those changes to displace those who have always inhabited the area. Conservation, as well as coexistence, is a great interest