Highland Park teen’s interest in art leads to the gallery next door

Artist-in-training Catalina Bolivar/Nathan Solis

By Nathan Solis

It was seven years ago that Catalina Bolivar and her grandmother went next door to Avenue 50 Studio and asked about enrolling the girl in drawing classes at the Highland Park art space. Curator Cathy Gallegos wanted to help but only had drawing classes for adults. “So I gave her some of my art supplies – colored pencils, paper,” Gallegos said. “That was it, I sent her on her way with her grandmother. I didn’t see her for another six years.”

Last year Bolivar worked up the courage to ask about helping out at the gallery, which she’s lived next door to all her life. Now, 15-year-old Bolivar is a constant fixture in the Highland Park art space and is apprenticing with artists Heriberto Luna and Pola Lopez in the 2 Tracks Studio located in the same building.

When I asked Bolivar why it took so long to come back to the gallery, she said it might have to do with an art club that she joined at her high school. It might just be that she’s now realizing how big a role art plays in her life. “I’m meeting so many people interested in art. I wouldn’t have known to ask before,” says Bolivar.

On a recent evening at 2 Tracks Studio, Bolivar, surrounded by colorful hummingbirds painted on inky backdrops by one of her mentors, looks nervous. Dozens of people mill about the gallery next door during an event. “I’m an artist too, yeah, sure,” Bolivar says matter of fact, shrugging her shoulders.

But don’t let Bolivar’s teenage blasé fool you. “She’s just starting to get used to the fact that people are going to pay attention to her and her art now,” says Luna of the young apprentice.

“Catalina is so talented, and at such a young age,” says Luna amid his hummingbird paintings. “My one fear is that it’ll go to her head. But here, at the studio, we can make sure that she does her homework first and then maybe some art.” From behind her canvas Lopez says, “We want to show her that art is always going to be there. We’re going to make sure that the gallery space is important to her, and hopefully it will be here when she starts to branch out with her own work.”

As an apprentice Bolivar has made herself at home. She knows exactly what she wants to do with her time at the studio, Luna even allows her to touch up some smaller details on his paintings. Now she is going to paint a mural for the gallery somewhere in Highland Park  after winning a contest. Lopez and Luna speak about her future in the art world as something that’s set in stone.

Bolivar’s parents are also supportive, up to a certain point.

“My father loves my drawings, I mean, of course he does. He’s my dad. But he also wants me to go to school for psychology. I think I’ll do both – art and psychology. That way I can have something to fall back on.”

Bolivar quickly adds, “I’ll still be an artist.”

Avenue 50 Studio’s 6th Semi-Annual Fundraiser and Art Auction is Sunday, Sept. 29 at the Pico House.


  1. my little sister the next big artist!

  2. Great meeting you at Pola’s and Luna’s studio on Saturday! Good luck on your upcoming mural project!

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