PILSEN — Oxala Fine Arts closed its doors for good this week so owner Omar Valencia can take his ailing mother back to Colombia as part of her last wishes.
The 18th Street art gallery has been a Pilsen fixture for eight years. But four months ago, Valencia’s 93-year-old mother broke her hip and has not been doing well.
Now Valencia is giving up his gallery to take his mother back to Colombia, where his family is originally from.
“This is an institution in the neighborhood,” he said of Oxala (pronounced och-a-la). “It’s a platform for a lot of local people who show here.”
Valencia held an auction Monday to raise money for his trip. One of the pieces was a print by Dutch artist Bert Menco.
Menco created the piece, “Farewell,” after experiencing a death in his family.
“My mother died earlier this year. She was also 93, so it was very moving for me, too,” he said.
Menco, a full-time artist who lives in Evanston, said now that Oxala is gone, he only has artwork showing at Morpho Gallery in Lincoln Square. Menco said he hopes Valencia will return to the Pilsen art scene.
“The gallery world is not an easy business,” Menco said. “But he [Valencia] definitely has a following and there is definitely a gap.”
Valencia said he would try to open another Pilsen gallery when he returns to Chicago in six months.
“All my life, I love the colors and painting, and I work around artist people when I was a child. It’s my life,” he said.