Mosaic artist, painter, poet
1706 Lexington Ave (b/w 106th and 107th), 4th floor
ABOUT: When Tanya Torres first arrived in El Barrio, she dedicated her energy to running a gallery/studio/creative meeting space called the Mixta Gallery: “being surrounded by artists fed me.” Although the Mixta Gallery succeeded as a bustling hub for local artists, Torres was forced to close it down in 2003 due to illness. However, she never stopped making art; she has been creating hand-crafted poetry books since 1994 and has recently begun making mosaics and tile paintings. She created several works and murals for P.S. 57 during a three-year stint as the school's official artist-in-residence, an experience that she says taught "kids to appreciate art and to respect it." Self-taught, Torres describes her aesthetic as "personal [and] a little bit primitive," and credits poetry as a main source of inspiration. She is now part of the Puerto Rican Artists' Organization (PAO), which she describes as a "very organic and very fun collaboration."
COMMUNITY VISIONS: Torres has seen collaborative efforts within the artistic community fall apart in the past, but thinks that collaboration is worth trying again: "if there were an initiative that called people to do something together, [I think] people would come out of their studios." Citing the street fair held specifically for local artists on 106th St in 2001, Torres says that the problems that befell that event-- a lack of coordination and too much commercialization-- can be fixed the next time around. She also notes that El Barrio must achieve a critical mass of studios and galleries on one street before that street can become a hub of artistic activity; "just one place is not going to attract enough people." What the neighborhood really needs is "a street full of galleries." Finally, Torres has a suggestion for La Marqueta, which is "always in the works": "La Marqueta should be an art space. Divide it into little galleries-- have a cafe, bar, even a supply shop. I think people would come if it was a place like that."