Native of Colombia, now living in New Britain and learning English, brings unique art to city

Published on Monday, 11 January 2021 13:49
Written by Ciara Hooks


NEW BRITAIN – On display at the Siena Learning Center is a magical piece of art created by a student from Colombia, an artist that specializes in nativity scenes.

Antonio Gonzalez, 54, gifted the Siena Learning Center, an ESL program for adults, with his Bethlehem art. This piece took him three days to make.

“Right now we have 14 countries that we represent,” said Nancy Rodriguez, director of the Siena Learning Center. “Our learners all come from different places, but they come with their art, their talents and their gifts and sometimes when they come to America they have to put that aside because they have to go to work or find a place to live and they kind of disconnect from that God given talent that has been given to them. I’m happy to see that Antonio was able to reconnect here and bring his talent and bless New Britain with it.”

Gonzalez has been creating animated 3-D displays of what the town of Bethlehem would look like for the past 10 years.

“Not only does he create scenes like this one, where Joseph is working and Mary is with the child taking care of him, but he’ll also do the blacksmith that’s working on the iron or the baker. It’s so intricate,” Rodriguez said.

He uses materials like plastic, polyurethane and sculpts each of the figures.

“It’s mechanical, so it has to be plugged up to work,” Gonzalez said. “The figures use little tiny motors which makes them come alive.”

In Colombia, the story of Bethlehem is an important part of the culture and is why Gonzalez was inspired to make these pieces. He’s had people and municipalities contract him to make these for them.

“I’m touched and moved by the life of the town and what it would have been like at that time and what life would have been like,” Gonzalez said. “I am intrigued with what life in that era would have been like and how people lived, like the way the potters created the pots for people to use, and the way the Sheppard skin the sheep to make wool. I love the mechanical aspect of this, but I also love being able to entice the person looking at it and imagining themselves in that time.”

Gonzalez gifted the bigger Bethlehem piece to St. Mary’s Church, which is on display until Feb. 4.

Gonzalez is the youngest of four boys. He is also a painter and has been painting since he was a child. He was part of the armed forces in Colombia and worked in the Columbian government. February will mark his one year anniversary of being in the United States.

“I have my residency and live in New Britain,” Gonzalez said. “I hope to be of service in this community through culture and my art. If anyone is interested in wanting to learn, especially during these hard times that we’re going though, I’ll be happy to give someone art classes for free.”

Gonzalez works with those who are disabled, doing fingerpainting, and those with issues with their motor skills as well.

Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Monday, 11 January 2021 13:49. Updated: Monday, 11 January 2021 13:51.