October 22, 2019 News & Features » Cover Story

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Alfonso Perez Acosta, 39 

Art Program Director, Sacred Heart Center

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Scott Elmquist

When Alfonso Perez Acosta moved to Richmond in 2014, it was a clarifying moment. The visual artist from Colombia had been working in a variety of disciplines: installation, sculpture, photography, painting and drawing. After the move, he focused on drawing portraits.

“When you migrate, you have this weird awareness of everything around you and of yourself,” he says. “What I discovered was my voice, my power place as an artist, was in drawing.”

His wife was born here, but the local arts community was what brought them here.

“It’s a place where people appreciated what I do already. It’s very strange, I don’t know how to explain it, but I didn’t feel this way even in Colombia.”

Perez Acosta began working for Sacred Heart Center as an assistant, supporting high school English as a second language students with academics and mental health. He founded an arts program, Casa Lapíz, working with middle schoolers at the center.

“They are in transition, between what they’re bringing with them from their home, and what they’re being exposed to here,” he says. “How can you get rid of stress through art, or voice out things that may be unhealthy for you?”

Recent work includes a street art collaboration through Art, Reconciliation, and Civic Advocacy, with Hamilton Glass and South Side teenagers. The teenagers conceived, then painted a traffic-calming mandala in the intersection at Bainbridge and 12th streets.

Perez Acosta has an upcoming exhibit, Migrant Flow, opening Oct. 27 at Canvas Gallery. Gestural drawings of local immigrant dancers paired with their live performances will highlight his focus on migration in his favorite medium.

“When you do portraits, you’re really connected to someone,” he says. “They’re a little homage, a way to honor the person.”

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