Mission Statement

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Casa Frela Gallery presents cultural works of art from traditional to cutting-edge media , choosing art that creates, reinterprets and recombines from the past to the present.

HAWT Enough for You?

By Sonja Carter

I expect any moment now, a modern day Saul Stenberg will step up and portray Harlem the way Harlemites see it, as Steinberg portrayed Manhattan in his infamous “ View of the world from 9th Avenue”. Actress/singer Teyana Taylor said “Harlem is a stage. It’s like its own planet…” and we concur.

The cultural movement of the early 20th century – the Harlem Renaissance – that nurtured some of the world’s greatest literary, musical and visual artists of that time planted a seed that would make Harlem synonymous with cutting edge arts and culture.

Fast forward t the new millennium. Noting that the current norm often finds art and artists off in the shadows somewhere, far from the mainstream, Lawrence Rodriguez, textile artists and Owner/Director of Casa Frela Gallery in Harlem and Director of HAWT (Harlem Art walking Tour) had a vision that would blend “the art of business and the business of art”.

Emerging out of the former Harlem Open Artist Studio Tour (HOAST), HAWT was born. Now in its ninth year, Rodriguez has cultivated a movement in which business owners provide venues for Harlem artists as artists draw business to those venues. It’s a simpatico arrangement that opened up dialogue between the two sectors that draws in and embraces the community at large.

Though it currently take place yearly on the 2nd week in October, HAWT, which has evolved into full-out community commitment, is rapidly on its way to expanding to year round events.

Rodriguez is the Pied Piper of Harlem, literally moving through the neighborhood on foot meeting and greeting new and old neighbors daily as he heralds HAWT throughout the haunts of Harlem.

I dare you to spend a day with him – he will wear you out. But he seemingly never tires and his genuine caring for community never wanes, His mission is clear and his passion is evident.

A recent event that was the brain-child of Rodriguez started out with the City of New York entrusting a strip of land to him on 119th Street, to create a community sculpture garden due to his history of community involvement.

Within a few short months, Rodriguez and fellow artist – Shayne Aldrich shaped the space, and with help from 119th Street and neighbors, cleaned up the land and transported it into a community oasis.

Neighbors and friends donated slabs of slate for benches, The Urban Garden Center donated beautiful plants and flowers, and artists came out in force, each putting their creative mark on the space.

On an any given day, you’ll find Shayne Aldrich and Rodriguez tinkering away – designing, planting, installing – lovingly placing each new community addition into the garden.

Shortly after Rodriguez was granted use of the space, he decided to dedicate it to friend and neighbor Walter Miller III, a retired NYC police officer who passed 2012.

He was a Founder of the 119th Street Block Association, a veteran of the NYC Police Force and much-loved friend and neighbor. The dedication of the Walter Miller III sculpture Garden in June 2013 brought together a community to celebrate the life of a man who touched everyone of them. It was a beautiful day that personified “oneness”.

In a nutshell, that’s what Lawrence Rodriguez is all about.

Curriculum Vitae/CV

Personal Summary

A results-driven, self-motivated and resourceful arts director with an ability to successfully translate desired moods, messages, concepts and underdeveloped ideas into imagery. Experience of working in and contributing to a creative environment alongside designers, artists, copywriters, content strategists, interactive developers and environmentalists. An ability to see the big picture and to continually develop new and inspiring approaches to the task at hand.

Personal Profile / Personal Attributes

• Inspires, explores and promotes visual art in Harlem
• Commercially focused
• Innovative and strategic thinker
• Organizational skills
• LGBT advocate
• Environmental and community advocate

Experience / Specialties / Strengths

• Create an community art gallery for outside artists
• Celebrate diverse cultures through art
• Champion causes for historic film, community gardens and art exhibitions
• Introduce artists, venues and supporters though art
• Project community leader for 12 years


• Founder of Harlem Pride, an LGBT organization focusing on art and community
• Sponsor of neighborhood events featuring art, music and gardening
• Founder and leader of the Harlem Art Walking Tour (HAWT) for 10 years
• Created naturally-made soaps company
• Beekeeper
• Community garden speaker

Career History

• Jan 2013 – Present – NYC community workshop speaker - Environmental
• Dec/2014 – Mar/2005 - Art Director/ Owner- Casa Frela Gallery – Art/Culture
• Jan 2012 to Present – Harlem Community Founder – Environmental
• Aug/2003 – Aug/1999 – Manuf. Coordinator – Liz Lange Maternity - Fashion
• May/1999 – Mar/1995 – Dir. of Product Development - Ralph Lauren - Fashion
• Mar/1995 – July 1992 – System Operator – Isaac Hazen Co - Fashion
• Mar/1993 – Mar/ 1995 – Internship – Metropolitan Museum of Art – Art/Culture

Education and qualifications

• Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design NYC, NY1989 - 1993
• Internship with Metropolitan Museum of Art
• 1993 winner of Most Outstanding Art Student Aware from National Arts Club
• Treasurer of Student Executive Board and organizer of fundraiser for AIDS charity

Commentary and Reviews by the Media

• 2016, AMNews, Casa Frela Seed to Harvest
• Featured in the NYTimes, 36 Hours: 150 weekends in the USA & Canada, published by Taschen 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 1015
• 7/17/2013, GBMnews, HAWT “Enough for you?” HAWT 2013
• Letter of Appreciation “Story Corps”
• Letter of Appreciation, Consul General, Barbados
• “Wall Street Journal” review of contemporary art exhibit
• Review of LGBTQ art from “Gay City News’
• Review of Vintage Vodou Flag exhibit “NY Amsterdam News”
• 2011 Exemplary Service Proclamation from Senator Bill Perkins
• 8/6/2010, NYtimes, Beyond the Harlem Renaissance
• 2010 Mayor’s letter of support for Harlem Pride 2010
• 2010 Council’s letter of support for Harlem Pride 2010
• 4/4/2009, Mayor Bloomberg, “DownrightArt” letter of support
• 9/12/2008, New York Post, Beyonce “If I were Boy” video at the gallery
• 7/2007, Harlem Children’s Zone Community Pride newsletter, The Harlem Arts
• 1/2007, Harlem Children’s Zone Community Pride newsletter, History House
• 8/2007, Film Review from the “Oprah Magazine”, Hollywood to Harlem
• 2/2007, American Salon, A Century of Beauty
• 6/13/2007, Caribbean life, Hollywood to Harlem
• 12/2006, American Salon, A Century of Beauty
• 2/2/2006 and March 28, 2006 letters from Congressman Rangel
• 11/23/2006, Culvert Chronicles, A Century of Beauty
• 12/6/2006, TimeOut, A Century of Beauty
• 12/6/2006, Amsterdam News, A Century of Beauty
• 7/6/206, El Vocero de Puerto Rico, Sombras ante la luz del cambio
• 2006, Japanese journal Yomitime, Water Show
• 4/7/2006, Consulate General of Barbados, Letter of application