Casa Ortiz Gallery, a start-up entertainment venue that began operating in October 2020, is providing El Paso with a spark of artistic life.
Lying in the heart of Socorro, Texas, one of El Paso’s most historical districts, Casa Ortiz Gallery is based in an infrastructure from the 1800s. Carefully crafted out of adobe, the building holds several rooms available for artists to rent out. In each of these rooms, El Pasoans can get a closer look at the artists’ work and what it has to say about them.
To the left of the entrance of the venue, there’s a setup for live music. To the right is a long hallway decorated with sculptures and paintings just waiting to be explored.
Diego Martinez, a co-founder and artist at Casa Ortiz, had a vision and was able to manifest his ideas into an artistic place.
“With the experience and the background, I had with Galeria Lincoln, I was able to know the right people and the art community had already kind of been in the works,” Martinez said about establishing the gallery. “I am definitely a big part of the space, for sure, but I feel like it’s a collaborative effort as well.”
Martinez and other artists at Casa Ortiz are drawn to the beauty the missions of Socorro bring to the artistic community of El Paso.
“I feel like El Paso already had this awesome art district on the mission trail, so we’re just adding our own edition to the continuation of that idea,” Martinez said.
When Martinez started contributing at Casa Ortiz, it was only a matter of time before other artists would come in and display their creations. Nico Antuna Cooper, alongside Martinez, helped get the word out about Casa Ortiz.
Nico Antuna Cooper has a studio of his own at Casa Ortiz, where he plans to include more variations of his work.
Cooper, who earned his Master of Fine Arts from UTEP’s bilingual program in creative writing, explores the borderland through abstraction and surrealism in his art.
“Being somewhere with so much history has a big effect on my art,” Cooper said. “It’s kind of making me have more connections to the roots of this area and the roots of who I am, and I am very grateful to be here.”
Casa Ortiz is a steppingstone in providing local artists with a more legitimate place to display their art and network with other artists.
“With Casa Ortiz, there’s more official events that are staying around longer,” Cooper said. “It legitimizes the venue and then the public comes out and sees it as more legitimate as well.”
One of the many featured artists, Gabriel Marquez, has been able to reach his goals thanks to the support that comes from the community at Casa Ortiz.
Marquez is a popular muralist in El Paso. He has one of the biggest spaces in the gallery and sells pins, stickers, shirts, and prints in addition to his art.
“I’m here to make my work public. I took the opportunity to make myself present,” Marquez said. “What better way to do it than in a beautiful adobe house from the 1800s?”
The 2012 UTEP graphic design graduate, explores symbolic features of desert animals and mystic creature through progressive contour lines. Aside from Casa Ortiz, his art can be found in local places like Savage Goods, Mas Y Menos, and Golds Gym’s Trawood location.
In addition to providing a creative space and a historical site, the architectural features of the building have drawn in more people. Marquez said people driving by find themselves curious, deciding to make a quick stop to see what the gallery is all about.
“That makes it really easy for us,” Marquez said. “It’s even better for us so that we can show our work and have it open for people to come in as they please.”
Although the pandemic placed a long halt on holding events and art shows, Casa Ortiz is finding a way to help artists rise through their struggles. Across the gallery is Mission Trails Brewery, which aims to open in March 2021. On the other side of the street is a theatre, where they plan to open the venue for musicians and to host weddings.
“Every day it’s something new, whether it’s someone helping us on a project or on the yard,” Marquez said. “It’s going to be great.”
To learn more about future events at Casa Ortiz Gallery, visit its Instagram page at @casaortiz915.
Nicole Lopez may be reached at [email protected]; @nicoleilopez on Twitter.