Galeria Quetzal savors Latin flair in Little Italy
By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent
Little Italy neighborhood in East Cleveland has many delightful cultural attractions in dinning, arts and shopping and Galeria Quetzal is no exception.
Located at 12400 Mayfield Road - Cleveland Ohio 44106 the quaint gallery features folkloric and fine arts; jewelry and fabric from Mexico, Peru, and Guatemala all picked personally by owner, Paloma Pilar Garasso.
Ms. Pilar Grasso fell in love with the Latin cultures, language and spent 18 years in Colombia. When she returned to her native Cleveland she taught Spanish in Cleveland Heights school and opened the gallery ten years ago to bring a little bit of the flavor of her favorite region to her home town.
The gallery is the only one of its kinds in Cleveland. Every inch of the gallery is filled with items that beg for second looks, from the luxurious warm Alpaca coats to Mexican dolls and the Peruvian tapestries, and the stories behind each piece adds to the charisma.
Pilar Grasso visits the countries, looking for items that catch the eye: “I buy what there is, I don’t want to interfere with their creations,” she said.
She enjoys discovering items that are rare and unique to the location she is visiting and says she always regrets not buying more of certain items. Her most memorable experience was in Peru’s Lake Titicaca located 12,500 ft above sea level, the highest navigable lake in the world. The communities of indigenous Andean people who live on Uros Floating Islands are master artisans, utilizing the abundant reeds for fuel, food, utility items and even crafts.
She recalls fondly meeting the artesian women and selecting unique pieces from each. “They were so surprised I was buying something from all of them that they began cheering and lifted me up,” she said laughing. The farewell was bittersweet and the women serenaded her with native songs, “Then they ended with ‘row, row, row your boat and we burst out laughing,’” she recalls.
Ms. Pilar Grasso also encourages local artists to sell their fine art collections; they include hand-woven silk scarves from a Cambodian woman. She is also introducing a clothing line using remnant fabric from Latin countries to create dress jackets with seamstress Amy Roth.
Dr. María Pujana, owner and designer of Marise Designs jewelry has also collaborated with Galeria Quetzal to feature her latest collection of Pre-Columbian jewelry. The 24K plated necklaces, belts, earrings and pins feature exact replicas of Mayan and Aztec artifacts displayed in the Gold Museums from Colombia, Costa Rico, and Peru. Enhanced by gemstones and pearls from the region, Dr. Pujana said the collection is a nod to the rich culture of the ancient cultures.
She discovered Galeria Quetzal and was immediately taken by the quality of items that offered the distinct Latin flair and more importantly a warm and hospitable staff. Seeing the possibility of a unique partnership she approached Pilar Grasso and introduced her to the collection they both found was a natural fit in the gallery.
Galeria Quetzal was among the stops for the Textiles Art Alliance of Cleveland Museum of Art that presented an exhibition of textiles from 16 different countries and also featuring fiber works by local textile artists.
For more information about the gallery visit: http://www.galeriaquetzal.com/
To preview Marise Designs Pre-Columbian collection visit: http://youtu.be/N9sZF-PzDSo