Online marketplace in London showcases newcomer artists | CBC News

When Yarley Zapata came to London from Colombia as a refugee, she left her career as a dentist behind. 

Making art has become her “safe place” as she learns English and works toward her dental certification in a new country. 

“With my art, I can communicate with everyone,” she said. “I can communicate my feelings without saying anything,” she said. 

Zapata is one of the artists featured on CCLC Marketplace, a new online shop launched by London Cross Cultural Learner Centre. The month-long pilot project shares diverse talents with the broader community — and tackles barriers newcomers face starting businesses in a new country.

Zapata wants to be a dentist again one day. For now, she is improving her English and working in patient care at a London dentist office, while creating art on the weekends. She turned her hobby into a business, Yare Painting Dreams, two years ago.

Zapata makes wall art, benches, charcuterie boards, coffee tables and more. Her pieces are inspired by the ocean and made using epoxy resin, acrylic paint, crushed glass and wood. 

Yarely Zapata takes inspiration from the ocean when making wall art, benches, charcuterie boards and coffee tables. (Michelle Both/CBC)

“I can’t replicate exactly the same piece; It’s very unique,” she said. 

Zapata typically sells about one piece a month but hopes her business will grow with the launch of the marketplace. 

Art has opened “a lot of doors to meet amazing people” in London, she said, and helped her as she adjusts to a new home. 

“I feel at peace and I can express my feelings and my thinking, my everything.”

Big boost for newcomer artists 

Artist Mothanna Alzobi paints a large canvas.
Mothanna Alzobi is an artist originally from Syria part of the CCLC marketplace. (Submitted by CCLC)

Four artists are currently featured on the site, with hopes to add more.

Yousef Al-kurdi from Syria carves intricate figurines, Mirna Dolores Alonso makes flowers and decor from recycled materials, and Mothanna Alzobi from Syria creates visual art.

“It’s a big boost for these newcomer artists to know that their artwork is being appreciated in their new home and that there is a future for them in this artistic journey,” said Catherine Dorais-Plesko, fund development manager at London Cross Cultural Learner Centre. 

A sign outside the Cross Cultural Learner Centre.
The online marketplace launched by the Cross Cultural Learner Centre is set to run online until July 11 with hopes of expanding if successful. (Michelle Both/CBC)

Newcomer artists face barriers starting off in a new country, she said. Some face language barriers and some may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the business-side of selling art. In addition, there may be trauma to work through, she said. 

The pilot project, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, will run until July 11. If successful, they hope to expand to holiday-themed markets throughout the year — or even become a permanent way for newcomer artists to gain exposure.

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