Smart Art Spaces

A Bright Oasis of Creativity at the AWA Gallery Shows Maria Estrela’s Exhibited “Wake Up Call”

A bright oasis of creativity on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair, Art With All (AWA) recently showcased “Wake Up Call” a solo exhibit of Luso-African mixed media collage artist Maria Estrela, curated by Armisey Smith.   

“Wake Up Call” had been growing in Estrela’s spirit, questions about her roots and their distinct customs and traditions kept surfacing. As a Luso-African mixed media collage artist raised in Portugal before emigrating to the United States, her multicultural family is originally from Cape Verde Islands. she believes this exhibit is a way to “reclaim and pay homage to my African heritage,” states Estrela.


The well-attended opening reception on Saturday, January 20, speaks volumes to Estrela’s expanding talent. Her subjects more often than not are women who have inspired and shaped her into the person she is today. Many are recognizable, from “I’m Just As Strange As You” a portrait of Frida Kahlo, and “Un-enslave Yourself” a homage to Harriet Tubman, to Cape Verdean musician Cesária Évora’s who sang of love and nostalgia and “Queen of Wakanda” the fictional Queen Ramonda from the Black Panther movie. In each mixed media collage Estrela weaves narratives that intend to reunite women and share their strength, in a way that is uplifting and pleasingly powerful.

Estrela credits her mentor, teacher and artist Mansa Mussa with introducing her to collage in 2018. Her collages are interlacing narratives of spirited self-confidence and empowerment. Through her interest in African American history she found commonalities in the struggles of Black American people, particularly Black women.

“Inspired by these stories, I chose to do work that honors their legacy, strength, dedication, and love for others,” Estrela shared with attendees at the opening reception. “My hope is to inspire people to learn about their own roots and ancestors, and in doing so, learn about themselves. Through art of many forms, we can honor those who were here before us and recognize how their stories are interwoven with our own.”

Estrela’s solo exhibit, “Wake Up Call,” the first for AWA, closed on February 23, 2024 but the work is still available for purchase through an online store at

AWA Gallery, cofounded by Smith and Nanci Iovino at 408 Bloomfield Avenue, in Montclair, NJ, serves all who want to think outside the box. Their website describes their organization as “a vibrant and all-inclusive artistic space that embraces diversity, encourages creative innovation, and welcomes an array of diverse persons throughout New Jersey.”

At Art With All, our vision is to create an environment where everyone feels safe, valued, and inspired to explore their creativity. Our commitment to inclusivity extends to all aspects of the studio, ensuring that artists of every background, age, and skill level can express themselves freely and without judgment. AWA provides art classes, workshops, and exhibitions. Wheelchair accessible.

If you or someone you know has any kind of interesting art news or an upcoming show to announce, contact John or Patricia by emailing them here.

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