From Caracas to Caldwell is the journey that changed Reinaldo Gil Zambrano’s life. The fledgling artist left the tropical climes of Venezuela for the snowy suburbs of Boise after earning a full scholarship to study art at the College of Idaho.
“The snow looks so fluffy and nice on TV,” Gil Zambrano said from his Gonzaga office. “But when you live in it, well, it’s a different story. In college, there was so much snow one day we couldn’t open our front door. Pipes froze and burst. There were icy roads.
“It was very different from where I grew up.”
Gil Zambrano made the necessary adjustments with the weather and as an artist. The assistant professor of art at Gonzaga is an award-winning printmaking artist, who is making 11th-hour changes for his first show at a museum. “Pulling Roots: Reinaldo Gil Zambrano,” which debuts Feb. 10 and runs through April 20 at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, is comprised of works that explore domestic rituals and social themes common to people across borders.
“I look at the archetypes that go across different cultures,” Gil Zambrano said. “We often focus on the differences but we have so many similarities beyond the borders.”
Gil Zambrano, 33, who lives in the Logan Neighborhood with his wife, Ashley Vaughn, grew up believing that Americans never made their own meals.
“There is a misconception in Venezuela that people in this country only eat fast food,” Gil Zambrano said. “If any of those people from Venezuela came here for Thanksgiving, they would know that’s certainly not true.
“And then there is the misconception here that Venezuelans aren’t allowed to leave the country. Someone I was on a flight with thought that the government of Venezuela wouldn’t allow us to leave the country, which is obviously untrue.”
The humanity in Zambrano’s work is tangible, and there is an underlying message that everyone is the same no matter where they’re from around the world.
There are political elements, pop culture pieces and some traditional iconography.
“The fact that my work is in a museum is so exciting because every artist hopes to one day have their work in a museum,” Gil Zambrano said. “This happening is a dream come true for me.”
Gil Zambrano hoped to become an artist while growing up in Caracas. While studying for his undergraduate degree at the College of Idaho, Gil Zambrano became enamored of printmaking.
“I like the graphic quality of printmaking,” Gil Zambrano said. “I enjoy the democratic part of it, the multiples you can make. I love the process in that you turn a drawing into a matrix. It’s my type of art.”
While working to earn his masters of fine arts at the University of Idaho, he met his wife. The couple settled in her native city four years ago, and Gil Zambrano is excited about the burgeoning art scene.
“It’s fantastic here,” Gil Zambrano said. “I love Spokane. There is such a vibrant arts community, and it’s growing. There is so much support from the community.
“You can feel this tangible thing at events and at pop-up shows. There is this excitement. People love art here. They support art. There is diversity and the art community is growing. There are so many students taking fine art classes at Gonzaga. Spokane is a great place to be.”
Gil Zambrano, who hosts the bilingual podcast, “Hello Print,” with Miranda Metcalf, is aware of how different Spokane is from the rest of the country after embarking on a cross-country road trip in 2023 and interviewing artists for a documentary he’s making.
“After seeing much of America, I know that I’m in the perfect place,” Gil Zambrano said. “Spokane is home for me.”
Even with the snow?
“I’m fine with the cold,” Gil Zambrano said. “My parents, who live in Venezuela, have visited Spokane, but they don’t like the cold here. But it doesn’t bother me how cold as it gets. Nothing bothers me, as long as I get to do what I do.”