The Bay Area houses countless unconventional art spaces, and one of them just happens to be a Mexican restaurant.
If you've ever eaten at Puerto Alegre, a Mission District institution going strong since 1970, you're probably familiar with its delicious dishes, refreshing margaritas and friendly staff. Less well-known, however, is the restaurant's decade-old exhibition program, organized by Amparo Vigil, one of the restaurant's sibling co-owners, alongside a group of guest curators.
The idea to utilize the restaurant's wall space for exhibitions came from Carnaval, the two-day festival that takes place every year in San Francisco at the end of May. “We’re here, our customers are part of Carnaval," Vigil recalls. "I sort of wanted to blend it, and bring it in here.”
She connected with one of her customers, Daniel Chimowitz, a photographer who also happened to be shooting the festival. Chimowitz brought in a series of shots from past years and hung them along the walls of the restaurant. It turned into the first of many exhibitions.
Inspired by the Carnaval exhibition, friends and customers inquired about the possibility of doing other shows. One of them was Calixto Robles, who is now one of the leading curators of the restaurant's yearly Día de los Muertos shows.