Art makes Centro feel like home

“Angel” by Roberta de la Vega hangs in Centro’s dance studio. (MPR Photo/Molly Bloom)

Marlon Ferrey sits at the front desk of Centro, a social service agency in Minneapolis, answering questions about the food shelf and fielding calls for the center’s mental health counselors. But this building does not look like the average office or clinic. Art — both contemporary and folk — covers nearly every surface and wall.

“The principle is that people who go to non-profits are already in a crisis, already have a problem, already have a need – and to make them feel better when they come in. They feel already under stress when they come here. So why not create an environment where they can be more at ease and relaxed?”

Ferrey, who has worked at Centro for 20 years and is involved with the center’s arts programming, explains that the drive to make Centro a beautiful place came from former executive director Tyrone Guzman, who passed away in 2009 after an eight year battle with cancer. Guzman, who was born and raised in Minnesota, knew how important art, food and music were to keeping his family’s Mexican culture alive. Centro serves about 30,000 clients a year, mostly from Latin America, and Guzman wanted them to feel at home at Centro.