Santa Fe College raises money for Venezuelan photographer’s visa

Georgia Bianchi, 41, and her children Eva Bailey, 9, and Christopher Bailey, 4, look at photos Wednesday by Venezuelan photographer Andres Avellaneda on display in the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall. The gallery was arranged by various Santa Fe clubs to raise funding for Avellaneda’s U.S. visa application fees.

Ninety-three photos of Venezuelans marching and crying covered the wall in the Santa Fe Fine Arts Hall Wednesday evening.

Gainesville’s Venezuelan community came together for three hours for “When the Media is Silent, Let the Street Speak,” an event featuring photography and a panel discussion focused on Venezuela.

“A lot of the student population isn’t aware of what’s going on, so I thought it was time to spread the knowledge,” said Chantel Hover, a 27-year-old Santa Fe College international relations sophomore and president of the Santa Fe College Global Society, a club for international issues and awareness that helped organize the event.

More than 60 people came to the free event, which held an hour-long panel discussion on the history of politics in Venezuela, the danger of the street protests in Caracas and nationwide food shortages.

Panelists included Brian Fincheltub, the secretary general for the municipality of Sucre for Primero Justicia, one of the primary political parties of Venezuela; Daniel Nuñez, the president of the Venezuelan Student Association at UF; and Vilma Fuentes, the assistant vice president for academic affairs at Santa Fe.

The photos displayed at the event were by Andres Avellaneda, a 22-year-old Venezuelan photographer.

“It’s dangerous being out there in the protests, but he cares so much about his art and what he does,” Hover said.

Avellaneda hopes to come to the U.S. and is trying to raise money for an artist’s visa, said Melissa Manso, a 19-year-old Sante Fe political science sophomore who helped organize the event. The application for the visa costs $325, which doesn’t include other paperwork fees.

Attendees could have purchased his work for suggested donations such as $10 or $15, said Manso. Sixty percent of the donations will go toward funding Avellaneda’s visa, while the other 40 percent will go to the clubs that hosted the event, Manso said.

The event cost just under $1,000 and generated more than $350 in donations, Manso said. It was put on using Student Government funds.

“We did lose profit,” Manso said. “But it was the biggest event that we were planning for the semester, so it was worth it for us.”

Camila Castillo, a 17-year-old Santa Fe architecture freshman who came to the U.S. from Venezuela a month ago, said events like these allow for a deeper connection in Gainesville’s Venezuelan community.

“We’re running from our country and are looking for better opportunities,” Castillo said.