GALESBURG — Israel Carrasco hopes Buenos Aires Bakery Cafe in Galesburg will soon be able to serve a sampling of artistic culture along with its food rooted in Argentinian culture.
Carrasco, who owns the cafe at 1488 N. Henderson St. with his parents Oscar and Maria, plans to open an art gallery in a separate room inside the cafe in about two weeks. Carrasco is seeking local artists to display their works in the gallery before its grand opening event. (Carrasco has not yet set a date or time for the event, but he assured curious customers there will be a giant cinnamon roll available.)
Though the room suits the display of paintings and sculptures, Carrasco encouraged artists who make nontraditional types of art to reach out to him as well. A woodworker himself, he handcrafted many of the cafe’s tables and multiple pieces for friends. The experience motivated him to connect with an artistic community, no matter where he lived.
“It brought out another side of me that I didn’t even know I had,” Carrasco said. “I thought because I drew stick figures I wasn’t creative, but there’s different types of creativity.”
Carrasco already has an inventory of pieces by local artists in the shop that he would like to grow. Handmade ceramic mugs by Galesburg artist Hannah McCullough sit on a shelf, and paintings by Kaitlyn Mugg, an artist from Washington, Illinois, adorn the cafe’s walls.
Carrasco met Mugg when they worked together at Cayenne, a Mexican restaurant in Peoria Heights. Before that, Carrasco lived in Michigan for about eight years, where he liked to visit a Benton Harbor restaurant called The Mason Jar Cafe. The cafe offered cubicles and a lounge area where artists could make jewelry, T-shirts and other items.
Carrasco saw how residents supported the local economy when they bought art at The Mason Jar and he wanted to imitate that at his own cafe, but he also saw art as a way to bring people from the community together.
“It’s so easy to connect with people through art,” Carrasco said. “It creates that environment here where it’s opening and it’s inviting, both for the customers and the artists.”
He also gleaned some inspiration for the cafe’s art from his heritage — the cafe’s front room contains paintings and photos inspired by Argentinian culture — and more local sources. Oscar suggested naming the gallery Casa Sierra Salon, in honor of the Casa Sierra Mexican restaurant that formerly operated in the Buenos Aires Bakery Cafe location.
Carrasco hoped the art gallery would be a way of giving back to Casa Sierra’s former owner, Gloria Specht, and many others in Galesburg who have supported him and his family since they opened their restaurant in town.
“It’s a way of helping the community, because I want to,” Carrasco said. “I feel like Galesburg has been really inviting to us. We’ve been accepted right away.”
Artists interested in displaying their works can call Carrasco at the bakery, (309) 315-2176.
Rebecca Susmarski: (309) 343-7181, ext. 261; [email protected]; @RSusmarski
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