Cesar Chelala
A physician and writer

The increasing role of women entrepreneurs

In recent times, women have increasingly become an engine for economic and cultural progress worldwide, often fighting against disadvantageous circumstances. Today, the number of female entrepreneurs, however is, in many countries, still half that of males.

This is due to several factors. Among them are the few resources given to women entrepreneurs, the fact that entrepreneurship (particularly among women) is not actively encouraged in Japan, and cultural traditions and stereotypes push women into staying home and taking care of their families.

Women don’t need to be in a big city to develop their potential. Such is the case with the owner of a small art gallery in the city of Troy, New York. In 2001 the city had a new addition to its artistic heritage, the Martinez Gallery.

Owner Laudelina Martinez has made reality a long-held aspiration — to open a gallery that would showcase many notable Latin American artists, who are generally underrepresented in New York state.

One of Martinez’s goals was to show not only established but also emerging artists from both Latin America and the US. In addition to artists from several Latin American countries, the gallery has exhibited the work of almost 100 regional artists.

Martinez was born in Puerto Rico and attended college in New York. When she moved there from Puerto Rico, she became an avid collector of American and African folk art. Some of her artist friends gave her some of their works, and it was then that she began seriously collecting and planning to open her own space and provide opportunities to unknown but talented artists, mainly from Latin America.

Martinez has also lived in San Antonio, Texas, and in New York City. In San Antonio she discovered many Mexican artists and she learned about the differences among Mexican-Americans from California, Texas and New Mexico. It was an incredible education, one that has served her well as a gallery owner.

After living in San Antonio, she returned to upstate New York and opened the Martinez Gallery. At the beginning, to those who told her that there were too few Latinos in the area to buy Latino art, Martinez responded that she wanted to widen the appeal of Latino art for people from every background. “After all,” she said, it’s is not only Chinese who eat Chinese food.”

Martinez had to overcome several obstacles to keep the gallery afloat. Five months after the gallery opened, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks took place. As she says, “Like many other I didn’t foresee its consequences. It took more than a year for things to settle down to a new normal and for people to renew their interest in art.” In 2008, water from the offices upstairs flooded her gallery, damaging several pieces of art. That same year the stock market crashed, leading to the economic crisis and recession from which the gallery is only now recovering.

Since its opening, the Martinez Gallery has been a center for a variety of cultural activities. It not only exhibits paintings and sculptures but also hosts literary readings, lectures and art events. The gallery now enjoys an active artistic presence in Troy.

Originally located on the ground floor of the Cannon Building in downtown Troy, the gallery moved three years ago to the second floor of the same building. With the move to a more compact setting, Martinez is strengthening the development of partnerships and projects with other cultural organizations.

About her work, Martinez says: “I aim to make art a vibrant part of the larger community. In the gallery, more specifically, I want to bring artists and clients together, acting as the middle facilitator in the relationship.” Several of Martinez’s artists have been shown in galleries and museums around the world.

Her decision to open the gallery in Troy was a strategic one. “I wanted to use my experience with Latino art and be able to offer something original, unique.” It was that belief that allowed her to overcome the multiple obstacles she found on her way, and also follow the road of some remarkable women entrepreneurs and become a model for a new generation of women in business. Like a female Don Quixote she continues her work, undaunted by the windmills.

About the Author
César Chelala is a physician and writer born in Argentina and living in the U.S. He wrote for leading newspapers all over the world and for the main medical journals, among them The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Japan Times, The China Daily, The Moscow Times, The International Herald Tribune, Le Monde Diplomatique, Harvard International Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, and The British Medical Journal. He is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and two national journalism awards from Argentina.