Basking amidst the sapphire shores of the Banderas Bay on the Pacific Coast of Mexico is the vibrant beach town of Puerto Vallarta. A city especially popular amid American and Canadian tourists, P.V. (as the tourists call it) or Vallarta (the local title) has become a cultural paradise rich in art galleries featuring Mexican and international contemporary artists, indigenous fine arts and crafts, glass, ceramic, and textile craftsmanship, sculpture installations along the picturesque El Malecón boardwalk, live musical and artistic performances, cultural parades and festivals, and spectacular street art around every corner.

El Muelle de Playa Los Muertos

View of El Muelle de Playa Los Muertos at dusk. The multi-colored illuminated sculpture at the end of the pier was designed by José de Jesús Torres Vega, winner of the Mexican Biannual Architecture Prize.

Notably, the vibrancy of Puerto Vallarta’s artistic soul is reflected in the generosity and creativity of the people living there. Those who visit the town will be met with kindness and a relaxed ambiance, perfect for spending leisurely days along the sprawling sandy coast, and warm nights sipping mezcal while meandering through distinctive art galleries during the seasonal Historic Center Art Walk. In this article, I only scratch the surface of the town’s cultural gems, but have included an overview of the most impressionable galleries I experienced, some elaborate street art interventions, and an interview with local artist Adrián Takano Rojas, who gives us his take on being an artist within the local art scene.

Vallarta's Art Gallery Gems

Galería Uno
Galería Uno

The first art gallery of Puerto Vallarta, Galería Uno has featured exceptional Mexican artists specializing in painting and sculpture since 1971. The gallery’s beautiful white adobe interior provides an intimate space to view contemporary fine art by artists of local and international acclaim.

Galería Colectika

Galería Colectika blends ancestral Mexican traditions with contemporary aesthetics. Indigenous and Mexican folk techniques produce ingenious works of fine art, including beaded sculpture, tapestry, and ceramics.

Galería Omar Alonso

Galeria Omar Alonso presents Mexican and international artists seeking exposure within the art market. The gallery presents powerful pieces of mixed media, textile, sculpture, and painting.

Galería Petra Luna

Galería Petra Luna is dedicated to creating and recreating the legacy of ceramics through multimedia forms of art. The art they showcase is highly refined and full of modern expression.

Puerto Vallarta Street Art

One of the most striking things about Puerto Vallarta is its exuberance of color. Color abounds from the local architecture, from heaps of flowers cascading over balconies, and particularly from the abundant amounts of murals beautifying the town’s neighborhoods. Puerto Vallarta Street Art is an art cooperative, who since their start in 2015 has provided the town’s walls with visual intrigue from local artists. Through their Adopt A Mural Project, the group provides community service opportunities through beautifying neighborhoods with murals highlighting global social and environmental concerns. Meandering aimlessly around the streets, you are bound to come across bursts of creativity all over town.

Interview With Adrián Takano Rojas

Tell us about your background. What is something from your early life that has proved influential to who you are as an artist today?

Growing up in Mexico City is a factor by itself. A big city provides lots of exposure to several different types of art. My family provided me the freedom and encouragement to explore life through art. I wouldn’t be the artist I am today without that.

Is there a particular symbol that you are drawn to, or use frequently in your work?

I am drawn to escarabajos (beetles), they are known to represent the change of cycles, new beginnings, spiritual rebirth, etc. If there’s something that keeps art alive and interesting is reinventing oneself as an artist constantly. I have painted lots of birds as well, there’s something timeless about birds that I really enjoy, particularly the Mexican folk art style birds that you find in traditional amate paper artwork.

How did you become involved with the Puerto Vallarta artistic community?

I’ve been living in Puerto Vallarta for about ten years now. Little by little I met people from galleries here and there and made good friends, but the art scene as such was never that attractive to me. I was focused on doing my art and just see where it would take me. I was also teaching painting classes and had hundreds of students that got me more involved with the art community.

I only started using social media a few years ago, probably three or four, so that’s when I really got to know more about the art happening in and around the bay. So much going on! Hopefully more attention will be paid in the future to supporting the development of more and better organized public art projects. There are many talented emerging artists looking for opportunities.

Where do your artistic roots come from? What are the sources that inspire you, and how do these manifest in your art?

Mexican culture and art is the one thing that I always find extremely inspiring, you probably got that from my murals. Apart from that, inspiration is not something I generally find in the same objects or situations, it surprises me often. I guess anything can inspire art if looking through the right lense.

There aren’t many artists in my family at all, but ever since I can remember I’ve felt a need to make sense of the way my inner world connects with the outside world through painting, drawing, etc. It is a language I understand and enjoy using.

What has your experience been like working in Puerto Vallarta? How does the community factor into your artistic production, and what is the process for presenting a mural to the city?

I’ve had the chance to paint in neglected areas of the city and see how much a mural can help improve them, that has been one of the best experiences I’ve had here. It’s great seeing the community getting more involved with their environment because of art.

On the other hand, Puerto Vallarta as a city still has a long way to go in supporting mural art. It deserves first class public officials that are up to the task of urban planning with a vision, and an exemplary attitude. In dealing with getting permission for my last mural project I experienced the exact opposite of that. It was suspended two days after I had started, and after more than a month of waiting for the paperwork to come through, I was able to restart almost from scratch since the city had removed my progress at that point. I had to compromise my original idea for this wall and work double. As a mural artist this is the last thing you want to do. The lack of defined lineaments to paint in the city center and the arbitrary placement of “rules” hurt the artist’s creative process and ultimately the freedom of expression of artistic concepts and ideas.

I have always enjoyed being an independent artist above all things, and I know that like me, there’s a number of outstanding independent artists that will make public art in Puerto Vallarta rise to the top. Because we love working here.

What has been the most rewarding part about being an artist with work featured across Mexico and abroad?

It’s been an interesting ride for me, I started by drawing portraits on the beach, and selling paintings to tourists. Painting rather small murals inside peoples homes and then began painting on the streets and traveling abroad. This year I was recognized as the best local artist voted by the public, that’s as rewarding as it gets.

Article by Cheyenne Cunning.