An internationally known artist whose work reflects the struggles and dignity of the common people of his native El Salvador will visit Evanston later this month. Fernando Llort, who studied religion in Colombia, France and Belgium and architecture in the United States before returning to El Salvador in 1971. He will be at Ten Thousand Villages, the Evanston Public Library and Boocoo Cultural Center during his weeklong stay – Aug. 5-12 – in Evanston. He and his wife and daughter will make the trip at the invitation of Shalom Mission Communities, of which Reba Place Fellowship is a member.

“We’ve been going to El Salvador since 1992,” Thomas Finger of Reba Place told the RoundTable. “We met Fernando 8 or 10 years ago. He is very understated, very [much a pacifist], very humble.”

In a spring 2013 article for “Dialogo,” a bilingual journal and a publication of DePaul University, Mr. Finger wrote that Mr. Llort “moved to the remote village of La Palma [in 1972] where his family owned some property.  … While Fernando was there, he became increasingly sure that his calling from God was art. Many of his work’s distinctive features developed in this rural, relatively poor area. … [Mr. Llort used his artistic talent to begin workshops in woodworking, and then in painting, for those who had little or no training in these skills. Over the next decade these workshops multiplied greatly, making La Palma one of El Salvador’s best-known centers of folk art. (About 120 workshops exist today.) Since more and more people had creative work to do, and many beautiful products to sell, crime and poverty dropped precipitously in La Palma.”

Mr. Llort uses Mayan and other pre-Columbian designs and motifs in his work, stylizing the flowers, fields, plants, birds and other animals familiar to El Salvadorians in his own way. Despite civil war, Mr. Llort’s works “do not portray or directly critique social oppression or war.  Instead, many of them are bright, multi-colored and joyous. This … visualizes joyful, celebrative, healthy life as the true potential of popular and peasant existence, in contrast to the anguish, tragedy and devastation surrounding them,” the article said.

El Arbol de Dios, Mr. Llort’s gallery in San Salvador, also serves as a “cultural training center,” according to Mr. Finger’s article.

Mr. Llort’s work can also be seen in the chapel built in the 1980s in honor of Archbishop Oscar Romero and later dedicated also to the six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter who were slain in 1989 by government forces.

People who would like to attend any of the Llort events in Evanston or Chicago, including groups that might want to sponsor or host them, can find further information at

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...