Hidden Gems of Costa Rica : La Terraza del Artista Art Gallery

Perez Zeledon (also known as San Isidro de El General) is the agricultural epicenter of the southern zone: coffee, pineapples, sugar cane, bananas, and every imaginable vegetable abounds in this fertile valley of El General. No one, however, associates Perez with art – until the emergence of Melissa Matamoros, owner, curator and director of the newest art gallery in Costa Rica, La Terraza del Artista.

Matamoros has seeded a gallery-quality art scene in Perez which includes professional-caliber art shows, gala art openings, and art classes for all individuals, taught by Matamoros herself. The art center opened on International Women’s Day, 2019, an homage to the many female artists who preceded Matamoros, most especially her mentor Virginia Perez-Ratton, director of Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in San Jose. Like her mentor, Matamoros has been tenacious in promoting the highest quality art, showcasing it in the modern, custom-crafted new gallery created by a construction team supervised by Matamoros herself. Their first show featured works by both Matamoros and her artist husband, Alvaro Gomez Ulloa, who is also a contemporary painter.

Gomez and Matamoros filled La Terraza del Artista with painted canvases featuring a riot of flowers of every possible color, a show reflective of the abundance of natural beauty found in the southern zone, but perhaps only appreciated when an artist draws attention to the natural glory which surrounds residents of Perez on a daily basis. This region of Costa Rica is truly the poster child of Pura Vida, a concept celebrated both artistically and professionally by La Terraza del Artista, in what was an auspicious launch of an arts center for everyone, in an area of Costa Rica considered to be the backwater of the country. The opening was packed with enthusiastic seekers of art, and others who looked at each other in amazement that this lovely gallery was now in their backyard.

In an interview with The Star, Matamoros described her first vision of the gallery, an outgrowth of her many years of teaching in Perez. She began teaching small groups of art students on her mother’s patio on Saturdays, while still working full time on her own artistic projects. Eventually she decided to host a show of her students’ works – right on her mother’s patio – and the idea of La Terraza del Artista was born. It took her five years of painstaking work to finally create the gallery of her dreams. Construction workers were challenged with building a gallery with high ceilings, UV filters on windows, reliable climate control, storage, wide doors, floors able to withstand heavy moving of artwork, and a custom-designed molding around the gallery which allows exhibits to be displayed without using nails, creating the impression that the art is floating on the walls. The gallery is stunning.

Matamoros is herself from Perez Zeledon, but trained as an artist in San Jose at Universidad Continental de Las Ciencias where she specialized in painting, and University of Costa Rica, where she studied Sociology. Her career in the arts has taken her to Switzerland, Kenya, and many cities outside Costa Rica where she was able to observe New York quality art shows and absorb a devotion to museum quality art, not often seen outside those cities. She absorbed it all, and has brought it back to Perez to share with her students and art aficionados here in the southern zone.

Find photos and information about La Terraza on Facebook, or visit them in Barrio Cooperativa, Cemetary Road, next to Tapas Restaurant. Melissa is a charming hostess, but also can explain art concepts dear to her heart and passion, and of interest to those just beginning their love of art or American, Canadian and European expats who have been appreciating fine art all their lives. The phone number for La Terraza del Artista is 506.8860.9855.

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