Thursday, January 25, 2018

New Mural Project in Chimaltenango

I’m very excited to start a new mural project next week! It’s going to be a big project, logistically quite complicated, but it will hopefully be very interesting.

I’ll work with 54 adolescents from Instituto de Educación Media LaEsperanza in the outskirts of Chimaltenango.
This is a terrific middle school, started s a neighbourhood initiative to provide education for kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to study, due to economic circumstances and the danger to travel in this not so nice part of Guatemala.

The methodology used at school is Educación Popular, based on the works of Paulo Freire, a renowned Brazilian educator and philosopher. The kids are challenged to think and participate. The students follow the regular governmental curriculum, but every subject is being taught through multidisciplinary activities, related to the students’ own reality. Gender equality and nonviolence are big issues. There is of course a lot of time and space for the arts. The kids are very expressive, so it will be a joy to work with them.

I’m planning a series of six workshops (a different one for each of the 3 levels, so 18 workshops in total) in which the kids will learn the technical aspects of painting a mural, but more importantly, how to visually transmit a message through various disciplines. Then, the kids themselves will determine the theme(s) and paint the mural on the 20 meter long outside wall of the school. The whole process will take about three months.
This whole wall will soon be transformed!!!
Last week I visited the project to meet staff, kids and inspect the wall. It was great to be met with such enthusiasm for this project! So I’m looking forward to get started on February 1st. The only thing missing, of course, is money! I have so far raised $300 in donations, but I’ll need $600 more towards art supplies, paint and travel expenses. So if you think this project is worthwhile, please consider making a donation!
Thank you!

Monday, January 15, 2018

A New (School) Year, a New Learning Environment!

What better way to start the New Year than with a brand new series of murals?

While painting a mural back in December, in the community centre of my neighbourhood (San Bartolomé Becerra, just outside of Antigua Guatemala), I was approached by two women who work at the local day-care centre. With the question, of course, if I could do something in their day-care. I went to have a look straight away and was happily surprised that the patio wall in question was quite small, so not a major job. Yes, and here, the teacher continued, pointing the entrance hall, and something here in the corridor and two more murals over there. Oops. That was five murals in total, but at least none of them very big and all easy accessible. So I said yes. That is, I specified, if I could get the donations together to provide for paint, prints and other materials needed. Fine, they said, as long as I would have it finished please by January 15, the first day of classes in this escuelita. Oops again, but I had said yes anyway.

Thing is, I have a weak spot for day-care centres and also one for my funky neighbourhood so I was happy to commit. Happier even when by January first I actually had all the money I needed! So the first week of January I worked on the designs. I wanted to do something colourful, happy and apt for young children (the centres caters to 30+ kids age 6 months-6 years old), but nothing cheesy or predictable. No Frozen or Winnie the Pooh. So I came up with the idea to use traditional aspects of the particularly colourful Guatemalan culture with things kids might like, such as a piñata, a wooden dog, birds, a baby. Oh, and some angels. Aspects of Guatemalan folklore that appears in the work are papel picado (paper cut outs used for streamers), carved statues, a sawdust carpet from the processions and motifs from painted crafts and the same papel picado.

I was about to print out the designs and show them at the day-care for approval when there was a knock on my door. The teachers from the day-care. Whether I had forgotten them? Hell no! Between fundraising, prepping paint and making the designs, the day-care had been on my mind quite a lot! But those are the invisible sides of mural painting that few people realise are just as important. They were relieved anyway that I was ready to get started.

A nice surprise was that the teachers had not only cleared the walls from posters, staples and years of layers of masking tape, but had actually whitened the walls too! The patio wall was a different matter. The small original wall has been added to so often, it was total crooked, uneven and partly unpainted. Fixing the gigantic holes was not an option without re-plastering the whole wall. There was also an ugly cable hanging over the top of the wall. So I decided to go the easy way, making the mural a tiny bit smaller and that way avoiding the worst part on top.

I started painting on Thursday and finished on Saturday afternoon, only because on Saturday I had help! Alice Lee was so kind to paint a whole panel, otherwise I would have had to disappointed the kids.
I don’t know yet what the kids think of their new environment, but the parents and teachers who saw the results were very happy. Except that… Could I please paint something in the dormitory too? And maybe transform the little playhouse as well?
Well, we’ll see… J

For now, one more mission accomplished. Thanks A LOT to the people who sponsored this project: Kristin Landau, Jody Paterson, Shoshi Parks, Tommy O’Donnell and Wendy Russell. You guys ROCK!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

MuralArte Guate Newsletter 2017

What is MuralArte Guate?
MuralArte Guate transforms grey public walls into thought provoking works of art, as colourful as Guatemala’s rich history and culture. Founder of the project, artist Carin Steen uses her years of experience as mural painter in Central America to teach children and young adults of remote communities to explore, interpret and express their cultural identity and other themes through murals, using a participative methodology that involves members of the community in creating a public work of art.

2017 has been a colourful year!
Despite so much crap going on all over the world, it has been quite a year for MuralArte Guate! No less than 13 murals were painted in a variety of places: a nursing home, cat and dog shelters, a playground, schools and a day-care centre in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. It is so much fun and such a rewarding experience to transform a nondescript space into a colourful, happy environment!

Also, MuralArte Guate finally has a real logo and many plans for the new year. For now, please enjoy this year’s achievements!

Doña Trini
What a delight to go back to the nursing home for a third mural and meet old friends again! This time we painted Doña Trini, a 96 year old resident of the home who is still very much alive! She’s not one to sit idly watching TV. Despite her advanced age she is always up and around, helping the staff distributing food or washing the dishes. It was an honour to paint her portrait on the wall of the dining hall.
Location: Nursing Home Fray Rodrigo de la Cruz, Antigua, Guatemala
Volunteer: Henry Navarijo
Dimensions: 4.5 x 2.75m
Sponsors: Jihae Park, Linda Conard, Linda Green, Tessa de Goede, Jim Bader, Ineke & Jan de Smidt

Click here for more information on this mural.

Hazel in Heaven
Time for a completely different venue! Working with he elderly was already a different experience from painting with kids, but I had never painted a mural for dogs! As expected, it was a lot of fun to be surrounded by a canine audience that showed its appreciation by lots of licking and peeing on the wall. Depicted is Hazel, always in for a treat, wishing bones would fall from heaven. Unfortunately Hazel passed away shortly before painting this mural. All the more reason to put her up on the wall, and hoping there will be tons of treats in doggie heaven!
Location: Unidos para los Animales Cat & Dog Shelter, El Hato, Antigua, Guatemala
Dimensions: 4 x 2.75m
Sponsor: Jim Bader

Click here for more information on this mural.

Three Masks and Don Patrocinio
There was one more blank wall at the dining hall in the nursing home in Antigua and I just couldn’t resist. In synchronization with two previous murals we painted a portrait of one of the residents (Don Patrocinio, who passed away just a month before completing this mural) in sepia against a colourful background of Guatemalan crafts.
Location: Nursing Home Fray Rodrigo de la Cruz, Antigua, Guatemala
Volunteers: Henry Navarijo and Alice Lee
Dimensions: 4 x 2.5m
Ann Kitchen, Amanda Gibson, Alice Lee, Ana Maria Ackermans, Suzanne Picot and Wendy Russell
Click here for more information on this mural.

The Universe, The Forest and Metamorphosis
It’s one of my favourite places, Brillo de Sol, educational centre for kids with special needs. Rather than numbers, the grades have names. Last year I already painted the classroom of The Kittens. Now it was time for the upstairs’ corridor where the students of The Universe, The Forest and Metamorphosis receive their classes.
Location: Brillo de Sol, San Gaspar Vivar, Antigua, Guatemala
Volunteers: Judy Sadlier. Gwynn Thoma, Debbie Pate and Christian
Dimensions: 18.65 x 2.75m
Judy Sadlier. Gwynn Thoma, Debbie Pate and Ilene Kradin

Click here for more information on this mural.

Children’s Rights
This mural has been planned for November of 2016, but the project was delayed last minute due to bad weather. This time it was sunshine all around so the work could begin! This mural promotes children’s rights on the wall of an elementary school. The children helped paint and also received colouring pages of each section of the mural.
Location: Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Volunteer: Erik van Middendorp
Dimensions: 24 x 2.75m
Stichting Colour4Kids
Click here for more information on this mural.

Children’s Rights II
One more mural, though much smaller, on children’s rights, painted at the Colegio Evangélico Asher, El Batey, a school with about 300 students, mostly Haitian migrants.
Location: La Unión, Dominican Republic
Volunteer: Erik van Middendorp
Dimensions: 3 x 2.75m
Stichting Colour4Kids

Click here for more information on this mural.

The Mirabal Sisters
As requested by the director I painted a portrait of Patria, Minerva and María Teresa Mirabal, the famous sisters, nicknamed the Butterflies, who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo.
Location: La Unión, Dominican Republic
Volunteer: Erik van Middendorp
Dimensions: 3 x 2.75m
Stichting Colour4Kids
Click here for more information on this mural.
Ocean Scene
I had my eye on an ugly piece of wall next to the school in my neighbourhood for a while, but when I asked the director if I could paint it, it turned out the wall wasn’t property of the school. BUT… she said, if I wanted to pant a mural inside the school, please do so! Hence the transformation of the decaying kindergarten classroom into a colourful ocean scene, right before the25th anniversary of the school!
Location: Escuela Rural Mixta San Bartolomé Becerra, Antigua, Guatemala
Volunteer: Debbie Pate
Dimensions: 22 x 2.75m
Sponsors: Debbie Pate, Judy Sadlier, Ana María Ackermans & Brooke Campbell, Tommy O’Donnell, Tessa de Goede and Sue Bohenstengel

Click here for more information on this mural:

Wall of Fame 
Back to the dogs! Surrounded by dogs of all sorts and sizes, we painted this wall of fame of some of UPA’s most memorable residents. Great fun and a pleasure to do for this organization that does fabulous work for cats and dogs in Antigua.
Location: Unidos para los Animales Cat & Dog Shelter, El Hato, Antigua, Guatemala
Volunteers: Henry Navarijo and Paúl Nuñez
mensions: 6.5 x 3.1m
Sponsors: Noah
Click here for more information on this mural.

Matisse in the Clouds
This was a great project! During 5 days, with10 pairs of hands, we completely transformed this day-care centre into a fabulous new learning environment, inspired by Matisse’s cut-outs. The children also received an activity book that turns these paintings into a 3-dimensional educational space.
Location: Daycare Centre Las Nubes, Acatenango, Guatemala
Volunteers: Staff of Las Nubes, Linsy, Mauro and Miguel Raymundo
Sponsor: Stichting Colour4Kids
Click here for more information on this mural.

And I don’t paint just kids and dogs! Here some kittens I painted at a cat sanctuary in Antigua, with a little help from my feline friends!
Location: PAAWS Cat Sanctuary, Antigua, Guatemala
Sponsor: PAAWS/ MuralArte Guate
Click here for more information on this mural.

A Dog and his Boy
The playground in my neighbourhood was until recently rather deserted and in shambles. But the neighbours have repaired the swings and slides. Soon there will be a new fence and plenty of trees and flowers. I was happy to contribute with a mural to bring a bit of colour into this place that is now frequently visited by kids from the ‘hood.
Location: Playground San Bartolomé Becerra, Antigua Guatemala
Volunteers: Yeimy, Violeta, Luis, kensy, Lupe, Kenia, Diego and Rogelio.

Dimensions: 9.5 x 4m
Sponsor: Jim Bader and Jasmijn Velzing
Click here for more information on this mural.

Small Talk
And the last one this year! This mural was supposed to go on the outdoor wall of the municipal building in my neighbourhood, but permission from the municipality hadn't come through yet. Instead, the local authorities offered me this indoor wall of the municipality building, much used for celebrations, meetings, zumba classes and at night it's a shelter for the homeless when the temperatures drop. I didn't complain, was very happy to paint right on centre stage!
Location: Municipal Building San Bartolomé Becerra, Antigua Guatemaal
mensions: 4 x 3m
Sponsor: Jim Bader

As word goes around, more and more requests for murals keep coming in from schools and local projects. This is great, because it means that the art is truly appreciated. Unfortunately, most local schools and initiatives can not afford a professional mural. And that’s where I need some help…
Really, this whole project wouldn’t exist without the generous support of all the sponsors mentioned above. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

There are many reasons why to support a mural project. Murals not only make the world a bit more beautiful and colourful, they can have a huge impact in the community. The 65 meter-long mural I painted last year in the community of Chimachoy has become the pride and joy of the village, a real landmark. Murals can educate, transmit ideas or unify people. They are fun to create and will last a long time.

MuralArte Guate’s murals are painted with the highest quality paint (Comex) on well prepared walls, for the best and longest lasting results. Donations go towards paint, paintbrushes, transportation and other expenses. The cost of a mural depends entirely on its location, dimensions and design, starting at $250 for a small mural in the vicinity of Antigua. Some mural projects include workshops for the participants, others are painted my just me, but always with a design developed in collaboration with the community in question.

Any donation is much appreciated! You can donate any amount towards the first upcoming project, or an entire mural by itself. A mural can also be part of an “exchange project”, in which children from schools in different parts of the world paint murals with the same themes. If you want to sponsor a mural with a specific theme that’s also a possibility. And if you want to come and help paint, that too is an option! The sky is the limit as long as I have enough donations to keep on painting!

For the latest crowd funding campaign, please visit my page on YouCaring
You can also donate through the PayPal button on this page or using my email address ( For deposits on my Dutch bank account, please send me a message so I can send you the bank info.

Project Requests:
Here some pending projects I’d like to develop in 2018. More to come!

Municipal Building, San Bartolomé Becerra (Sponsored, in process)
A mural on the side of the municipal building, overlooking a much polluted green area. The message will obviously be en environmental one!

Public School, San Bartolomé Becerra
The director of the school has asked me to paint the sidewall of the school, overlooking the street. Theme free, as long as it includes the emblem of the school. ($400)

Comunidad La Esperanza, Chimaltenango
A project involving all high school students of this project, a series of workshops to develop the theme and the painting of a series of murals. ($700)

Escuela Proyecto La Esperanza, Jocotenango
A project involving all high school students of this Project, a series of workshops to develop the theme and the painting of a mural. ($600)

Public School. Acatenango
Painting of a mural at the public school of an impoverished coffee picking community. ($500)

Brillo de Sol, San Gaspar Vivar,
A final mural at the Brillo de Sol educational centre for kids with special needs, this time for the “Scientists” students (grade 7). ($300)

Daycare Centre San Bartolomé Becerra
A request for a big mural on the patio and three smaller ones in the corridor and hallway of this small daycare centre that caters to 30 kids, age 6months-6 years, from the poorest families in my neighbourhood. ($500)
Niños de Jesús After-school Activities
Request for a mural and art classes from a local NGO that offers after-school activities for kids in Pastores. ($400)
Also high on my wish-list: a ladder (so I don’t have to borrow one or risk my life on rackety hand-made wooden ladders!) and a printer with continuous ink supply, to save on printing.

That was it for now! Thank you for your time, and especially thanks for any donations! Wishing you happy holidays and the very best for 2018! May it be colourful!

Carin Steen
December 2017
Antigua Guatemala

For more information, please visit:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Three Cats on a Wall Amongst Many More!

Aren’t you jealous if I tell you yet another day in the “office” meant painting under a bright blue sky surrounded by a few dozen playful kittens? Can’t complain!

Today I finished the third and (for now) last cat mural at PAAWS cat sanctuary. Cats everywhere and now three on the wall. I was very happy to cheer up this beautiful place where abandoned cats find a safe and loving home before they find their final destination with a loving family. And I speak from experience! A few months ago I found three kittens in the garbage behind my house. I didn’t think they would make it, they were so tiny, there eyes all pussy and way too young to be separated from their mom. I took them in and fed them kitten formula, rubbed their bellies and even made them burp. Amazingly, two of the three recovered quickly and would climb up in my pants as soon as I entered the bathroom where they had there temporary lodging, to protect them from the rest of my rather unsympathetic canine and feline household. The third kitten was in such a bad shape that I actually prayed for it to die quickly and stop suffering. I clearly needed help and got it from Angela Kerslake who brought me in contact with Emily and Luis.
Now I’m happy to report that all three kittens are happy and healthy critters! Emily and Luis did an amazing job. It was such a joy to paint at the sanctuary and see the once pathetic creatures playing around with their peers.
Painting was fun and not without help! Nacho, the cutest orange/white cat on Earth (I hope my cat Leo isn’t reading this) was up on the ladder with me most of the time. He also got a bit painted himself today, but that will wear off. Monkey actually helped me with some brush strokes and Number 1 made his contribution by eating my lunch (very kindly replaced by Luis, thank you!). What a fun job! Thank you PAAWS, for the assignment and for what you do for cats and dogs in Guatemala!
I LOVE Nacho!!! (Even if he couldn't care less...)

Monkey helping out


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Matisse on the Slope of a Guatemalan Volcano

The 8 panels (1.2 x 1.2m each) that will decorate the fence

Nestled on the slopes of the Acatenango volcano, amidst stunning views of lush mountains and even the faraway coastline, lays the rather nondescript town of Acatenango. Or so they say, because during the five days we spent there painting a daycare centre, the town was covered in a thick mist, only to be replaced by regular heavy rain showers. The daycare centre is aptly called Las Nubes (The Clouds) and that’s about all we saw of the environment. No better place to bring some colour!
The daycare centre caters to about 50 children from the poorest families in town, mostly working at the local coffee farms. The little ones learn through games and crafts, the older ones receive help with their homework and they all enjoy their daily healthy lunch.

The building the centre is housed at could definitely use a lift. Besides a bit of colour, there were a lot of maintenances and improvements to be done. So we asked the Dutch foundation Colour4Kids for help and were very happy that our proposal for the mural and improvements was approved! 
About two weeks ago the work started. An unused shower was transformed into an extra bathroom so the kids don’t have to line up anymore. Some doors will be replaced, extra lights are being installed and the ugly zinc laminas that formed the division between the daycare centre and the house next door have been replaced by a proper fence. As we speak, the patio is being leveled out so the kids won’t fall into holes and gutters. Leaks have been mended, door posts have been repaired and many more small and bigger nuisances have been fixed.

On Monday September 25th we started painting. For once I didn’t have a fixed design, only the theme was set, the colourful cutouts by French artist Henri Matisse. As a little girl I was enthralled by the bright colours and imaginative shapes of Matisse’s art, a love that has only grown stronger over the years. I chose this theme for the daycare centre because the shapes and colours are uplifting, happy and open to imagination for children in any culture. It also easily transformed the rather shabby building in a light, modern and happy space for the children.
The result...
In five days we painted the long corridor, the hallway, two classrooms and 8 panels that will decorate the fence. There was no way I could have done it all by myself, so I was very grateful for the terrific team I had at my disposal. The entire staff of the daycare centre helped painting, including the cook! (The centre was closed for three days so we could work without the kids present). Many thanks to Ann, Anabella, Chrystel, Reina, Noelia and José! More help came from Belgian volunteers Mauro and Linsy and from Miguel Raymundo who not only drove us back and forth every day, but also helped painting.

Five long days later we were DONE! The children arrived on Friday afternoon and were thrilled with the result. It was party time, so of course there was cake and lemonade. It was also the moment I explained the children a bit about Henri Matisse and handed over an activity book I made based on Matisse’s designs that turns the paint job into a truly interactive mural. The book incites the children to learn colours (in English too), to fantasize about the different figures, to count, write, paint and draw. On Friday the kids were drawing and they all showed me their work, stating that they are artists too. I like to think that Matisse would have been proud!
Book presentation
It’s been a tough week, but the result is a true transformation that has made the staff and kids of Las Nubes very happy, and that’s what we do it for!

Thanks again to my fellow painters for a job well done and of course to Colour4Kids for so generously sponsoring this terrific project. 
A big thanks to Colour4Kids from Ann Wijns and Carin Steen!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Classroom Transformed

The kindergarten in San Bartolomé Becerra has been transformed! It was a tough one because it had to be done before the 25th anniversary of the school on August 18th and the weather wasn’t collaborating. On Friday last week Debby Pate and I started out okay with a blue sky and barely a cloud, but before noon the downpour started and we were soaked all the way through.
Monday brought threatening skies but it didn’t rain till 3.15pm, so at least we got some work done. Tuesday and Wednesday were perfect, weather-wise, but I didn’t paint because I had promised to help with the Unidos para los Animales spay/neuter clinic I my neighbourhood.
Debby almost finished priming.
Back to work on Thursday and determined to finish, but that was a bit optimistic even though the weather gods were with us. But at least we got the two walls visible from the schoolyard done, so it looked great for the celebration. We had gotten an invitation to participate in the anniversary celebrations (Mass at the Merced church starting at 8am, then the typical “celebration” at the school, involving many speeches, acknowledgments and election of Miss Congeniality, Miss Sport, this year’s Queen and so on) but I reclined and decided to go paint the third and last wall instead. I thought that that way I would get out of the obligation, but I was mistaken. I was called on stage to receive a diploma in acknowledgement for the mural. A nice gesture, just a little awkward standing there on stage in my painting clothes while everyone else was dressed up to the nines.

After the speeches, fireworks, songs and even more speeches, the celebration was over and soon the school was deserted while I was still working on the Beluga Whale. Not that I was neglected: they left me with a huge piece of cake, juice and many, many thanks.
A few hours later, just when the sun was setting in a cloudless sky, I was able to declare the work done.  

Well, almost done. Next week or so I’ll visit the school during the morning assembly and talk to the students about one of marine fauna’s major threat: The plastic bag! Unfortunately we have plenty of those in San Bartolo, scattered all over the empty lots and streets. I hope I can convince at least a few kids to be more aware about the problem and change their attitude. 

This mural would not have been possible without the invaluable support of some very generous sponsors. One needs to be named in specific, Brooke Campbell, who made a donation with the request to dedicate the mural to Christine Archibald, an extraordinary young woman from a small town near hers in Canada, who died in the recent London attacks. Of course I would, I’m all for transmitting positive, constructive messages of love, peace and respect and make this world a more beautiful place. But it was heartbreaking to realise that while I was painting this mural, yet another hateful attack took place. How deeply saddening.

Anyway, the kindergarten kids and staff of the San Bartolomé Becerra school are over the moon with their “new” classroom and that’s what we do it for. More art, less hate.

Thank you so much for sponsoring:
Debby Pate, Judy Sadlier, Ana María Ackermans & Brooke Campbell, Tommy O’Donnell, Tessa de Goede and Sue Bohenstengel.

And of course a very special thanks to Debby Pate for helping out painting!