Established in 2013, Latin American Contemporary Art (LaCa) Projects has locations in Charlotte and Buenos Aires. The gallery's mission is to use this unique combination of settings to create a gateway for connecting contemporary Latin American artists with the increasingly diversifying arts scene of Charlotte, as well as to provide a location in the Southeast region of the United States for art collectors to develop and foster an appreciation for the visually striking narrative of contemporary Latin American art.
Here, we speak with Managing Director, Neely Verano, about LaCa’s values and what it seeks to deliver to all facets of our community.
LaCa Projects so generously sponsored RunningWorks’ nonprofit membership this past year. What do you want the community to know about their work?
The definition of empowerment is as follows: the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights. I believe the single most important tenant of RunningWorks’ mission is the organization’s focus on empowerment of others. When you empower someone, through relationship, through health and wellness, and through guided opportunity as are the programs of RunningWorks, that individual begins to see their own potential. This is what is required to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.
Philanthropy seems to be weaved into the heart the gallery. How have you blended the mission of connecting contemporary Latin American artists with the local needs and passions of the community?
I have never felt that philanthropy and success in business are mutually exclusive. We have made service to others the core of our work, and this extends beyond our clients and art dealing. As a small business that champions diversity, we have both a unique opportunity and responsibility to play a role in this community and to give back. We are all connected. As a business that benefits from this city in so many ways, we must not ignore the most pressing issues of our community—homelessness being one—and determine how we can affect change through our business model and the way we behave as citizens, as arts leaders, and as role models for others. This inspires change for good, and at the end of the day, it is not our profits that define our business or our ability to inspire—it’s our values.
LaCa has a reputation of being approachable and accessible to many who otherwise feel intimidated by art. Was that an intentional priority, or did it happen more organically?
This has been intentional and important to us from day one, and we “walk that talk.” With opening a new business comes the opportunity to do things differently from what has been accepted as “standard” or “typical” in the industry. Our partnerships, our dynamic business model, our focus on education, and our passionate voices reflect our belief that the arts should reflect the diversity of our global community and be accessible to all.
Last year, you welcomed Basal Coffee at LaCa. How has the addition of a cafe enriched the work and mission of the gallery?
As mentioned earlier, galleries have developed a reputation for being exclusive and unwelcoming. We knew from the start that having a cafe partner who shares our values would create a dynamic, multi-faceted cultural organization. The level of cross-cultural exchange, foot traffic through the gallery, and experiences inside the gallery we’ve been able to offer has been unprecedented since joining forces with Basal Coffee. I am so proud of our partnership and the mutually beneficial nature of our marriage.