Sunday, September 1, 2019

MuralArte Guate/Int

Hopefully I'll be able to report soon on some new community murals in Spain! My new location in Asturias, Spain, is quite nice, but I haven't forgotten on Central America! I'm planning a trip in January of 2020, mainly to paint some murals at schools and a clinic. But MuraleArte is now expanding and thus in need of an addition to its name. So from now on, it's Mural Arte Guate/Int! may there be many new community murals in the future, internationally!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Last Mural at Home Base

I didn’t realise how hard it would be to write this out loud, but darn, I just finished my LAST MURAL IN GUATEMALA!

Well, for this year at least.
In a matter of weeks I’ll be moving to Spain, but the plan is definitely to come back next year and add some more colour to this part of the world.

I was glad that my last mural happened to be this one, at the school in San Bartolomé Becerra, for several reasons. For one, because I promised so about two years ago and I always try to keep my promises. But also because this wall is very visible from the street and the highway to Ciudad Vieja. And maybe most importantly, because San Bartolomé Becerra, or San Bartolo, as we call it, has been my home for the last five years. I have grown very fond of this community just outside of Antigua Guatemala and I’m glad I could leave something behind. It’s isn’t my fist mural in San Bartolo, but by far the most public one.

This was also the last time (for now!) I worked with my wonderful assistant Henry Calel Navarijo. He helped me paint for the first time in 2016 and since then he has grown a lot, in many ways. I’ll surely miss him!

I’d been a few times to the school to discuss the design and take pictures (I needed kids for modelling, no shortness of those at the school!), so the kids knew I was coming and most of me knew me anyway, living in the same neighbourhood. One kid came up to me and said:
“I know you”.
No big surprise, after all I have been living there for five years and painted two murals.
“Yes. You give hot-dog to the dogs.”
Well, yes, that’s me too. I think I would have cared more for a reputation as a renowned mural painter. But being known as the woman who feeds hot-dog to dogs is a pretty good second.

Anyway, off to work. The theme wasn’t my favourite of all time; the teacher insisted I’d include the school’s crest in the mural. A pretty ugly crest, I must add. I suggested camouflaging it a bit, maybe put it on a kid’s shirt? No, it had to be there and right in the centre. That took some thinking on my part but I finally came up with a design I’m okay with and that does include the schools emblem. So, ready to rock and roll.

The weather forecast couldn’t be worse. Somewhere off the coast of Guatemala a hurricane is brewing and it was indeed windy and drizzling. Drizzle is okay. Wind is doable. A tropical storm is not, for mural painting. But we were extremely lucky and didn’t get more than a few drops.

While we painted, yesterday, classed were interrupted for a celebration Día del Árbol, Tree Day. In familiar fashion, the activity included the national anthem, a prayer, a few speeches and a mini-parade of kids dressed in folklore outfits. Each class had made a huge tree which they presented to their peers. Ironically made out of paper. Even more irony: the background noise was provided by some handymen cutting down a tree at the schoolyard. But let’s not get me started on the educational system here…

So, besides a few wind gusts and thick fat raindrops, (oh, and the promised ladder that never arrived), the work went well and the mural is finished. Whether the result is better than before is for you to decide…  

A BIG thank you to Henry, not just for helping with this mural but many before and hopefully more to come.

And of course also a HUGE thank you to veterinarian Dr. Jim Bader who besides coming down at least twice a year to voluntarily sterilize dogs and cats for 14 years in a row now, he has also generously been donating towards my community murals! Thanks so much Jim!!!

So long, for now….

Monday, May 13, 2019

Busy Bees in San Cristobal el Alto

Now, this community mural was a true team effort!
For a while now the people in the small mountainous village of San Cristobal el Alto have been trying to attract tourists by offering hikes on nature trails and by selling food and homemade products. Volunteer Miki Iwatsuki (JICA) has been involved in the project and has set up a mural project to beautify this charming village. And yesterday we painted the first one!

While Miki arranged everything with the owners of the wall, Laurel Jacobson (Mesón Panza Verde) had the wall plastered. She also sponsored the materials and organized all the logistics (paint, brushes, transportation and lunch for the painters). Laurel teaches art to the scholarship students at CasaSito and it was her idea to get the kids involved.
I came in to teach the students how to copy and enlarge a design and to prep them for the hard work. I also made the design with nature as an overall theme and more specifically apiculture since the family that owns the wall has beehives.  

All nine of CasaSito’s art students joined us, as well as three of the students that participated in my mural project that we finished last week. CasaSito’s founder Alice Lee So Fong joined us too and off we went!

It was hot and humid but that didn’t stop us, not for a minute! The family of beekeepers helped us paint, as well as passersby and friends. The students did an awesome job and by the end of the afternoon the mural was on the wall, varnished and all.
What was incredible was that INMEDIATELY after finishing it, tourists started to pose in front of the wall to take pictures. People actually stopped their cars to get out and take pictures, causing a traffic jam in the narrow street. And the owner of the house already sold a bottle of honey because of the mural! I’d say, mission more than accomplished!

So all in all we had a great day. Lunch at Doña Angela’s (across the street from the mural) was delicious, as was the cinnamon bread with honey the family treated us to celebrate the completion of the mural. The only one not quite satisfied was the little boy of the house who was slightly disappointed that we didn’t paint Spiderman on the wall. Other than that, it was one of those days with a golden edge…  

Please do go visit San Cristobal el Alto, it’s worth it!

Monday, May 6, 2019

A Hole in the Wall

Four adolescents and now four painted walls. Check!

For weeks now I’ve been working every Saturday with Joshua, Isa, Eduardo and Leonardo (all CasaSito scholarship students) on how to make a mural. They started from scratch learning about the history of muralism and the differences between murals, street art and graffiti. We did a class on colour theory and of course the students learned how to copy and enlarge a design.

Little by little we came up with ideas for the mural. We took in account the space with all its possibilities and limitations as well as its purpose (a waiting area or space for workshops and relaxation). The students were very much into murals with optical illusions, although we agreed that a design with giant 3D creepy insects might not be the best of ideas.
In the end we came up with this design, which is tied to the mural downstairs.

So here we are!
The hole in the wall makes the space look bigger, the view is that of the Fuego and Acatenango volcanoes. The butterflies can represent the metamorphosis students undergo during their time at CasaSito. Also, they won’t be stopped by a wall, there’s always a way to fly even higher!

The umbrella is a bit of a joke, inspired by street art. The handle of the umbrella is an actual tube with actual faucet that “can regulate the rain”.

The mandala is a spiritual symbol that represents the universe.

This was a fun project which will hopefully inspire the participants to make many more murals! Many thanks to Dr. Jim Bader who sponsored this mural! And of course to CasaSito and participants:

Carlos Joahua Gutiérrez Paredes (16)
Isa Gabriela Samayoa Gómez (16)
Gabriel Eduardo Samayoa Gómez (18)
Edgar Leonardo ”Da Vinci” Orellana Santos (17)

And a big thank you to my talented assistant Henry Navarijo for helping paint!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Volcano Erupting Butterflies

I had almost given up on ever painting this mural, but am very glad I got the chance to paint it. The idea of a volcano erupting butterflies came out of a workshop I conducted in December last year for a group of kids from Alotenango. It was actually a workshop on Henri Matisse (click here for the full report), but that’s how things go, one idea leads to the other. Painting this mural would be the final activity wrapping up a series of art workshops for kids in the shelter after the volcano eruption last June. The design was there, as well as the funding, the volunteers and the wall. The only tiny thing missing was permission.
Long and boring story short, the permission never materialized and I thought this commemorative mural was something I should delete of my to-do list.  But then Suzan of the Carpentry Project in Alotenango reminded me that within days the opening of the brand new activity centre at the shelter would take place and wouldn’t that be a good location?
Indeed! This classroom is designed to be used for workshops, reading and other fun activities for kids and adults at the Santa Isabel Shelter in Alotenango. The special thing about it is that the whole building is made of trash! The construction was an initiative of Susana of PuraVida, and NGO specialized in using trash for building materials. Hundreds of kids were involved in the process, stuffing soda bottles with all kinds of trash, turning them in “eco-bricks”. The Municipality donated the terrain, the Carpentry Project offered to build the wooden frame and within a few months, this building was a fact. Last Wednesday was the official opening, attended by lots of kids and even two real mermaids who told the children what an impact all that trash has on their environment.

As usual, this mural is the result of a collaborative effort, so many thanks to the following people and institutions!
Dr. Jim Bader for Sponsoring this mural; Henry Navarijo for helping paint this mural and the logos; the Carpentry Project Alotenango for paying for the wall to be plastered and Susana of Pura Vida for having organized it. And of course the kids from Alotenango who made the original design.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Painting Opportunities


CasaSito has been around for 15 years now and has changed the lives of thousands of young Guatemalans by giving them the opportunity to finish their high school and/or university education. CasaSito gives more than just tuition but expects more than good grades. All students have to do certain hours of community service as well as participate in one of the organization’s activities, such as art classes, the debate club, math tutoring or theatre workshops.

At a few occasions I had the chance to work with CasaSito’s students and it always is a great pleasure to work with kids so curious and eager to participate. CasaSito just moved into a new office, so hence the idea for a new educational project: to teach a group of students how to create a mural “from scratch”, resulting, obviously, in a mural.
While I was at CasaSito’s new headquarters to discuss this new project with founder Alice Lee, she mentioned that she also would like a mural in the downstairs patio, the space that will be used for meetings and for the students to relax. And it would be absolutely fantastic if something could be done before the official inauguration on February the 10th….

This meeting happened January 31st, so there was little time indeed… Let alone funding for a mural… Or a design….But! We did it! (Sort of…)

For once funding for the mural was not hard to find. Ana-Maria Ackermans of Uno Más and John Eby of Developing Scholars (both NGOs that support CasaSito) kindly offered to sponsor the mural as a present for CasaSito’s fifteenth anniversary. But the design was the second hurdle. Not so much the design actually, but the communication. Alice and staff were in Cobán, where they have a regional office and the majority of their scholarship students. The area is remote and decent WiFi as rare as the splendid quetzal. So it wasn’t until after Alice got back that, after a bit of tweaking here and there, we agreed on the final design. I bought paint and supplies and then there was only one day to go before the opening. I didn’t expect to finish the mural, but if we could get at least a layer of paint on the wall???

Four walls, actually. About 45 square meters. Can be done in a day, right?
Thanks to my assistant Henry, Alice’s fantastic skills as a Classified Level 7 Swirl Painter and some of the students, especially Minor and Joshua who were there basically all day, we DID do the base! There was paint on the wall all around!

The inauguration was a success and people liked the mural, even in its unfinished state. Many people didn’t even realised it wasn’t finished. (Not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing…)
After the opening we went back a few more days to work on all the swirls, curls, curves and leaves and this morning yet again to varnish. And now it is officially DONE!  Happy with the result and ready for the next adventure…

Sunday, January 20, 2019

More Murals Demanded by the Elderly!

Doña Lucrecia Musus with current residents

Last week I went by the nursing home Fray Rodrigo de la Cruz, in the centre of Antigua to drop off some leftover art supplies from the Art Relief project I recently concluded. I had planned to go much earlier, but for some reason I kept postponing my visit. I think it had to do with the fact that it had already been two years since I last painted a mural in this place and I was afraid many residents would no longer be around.
Don Rosalino Ramos
But there was no need to worry. As soon as I entered I saw many familiar faces. And they recognized me too! Where had I been so long? When was I going to paint a new mural???
I explained that there wasn’t much wall space left but one of the residents took me by the arm and showed me several places that could use a bit of paint. And so it happened that I walked out the door with the promise to paint yet three more murals…
Henry Navarijo and the portrait of Don Agripino he painted.
Painting murals at this nursing home has been one of my best experiences ever and this time around it was just as fun. I was joined by Henry Navarijo, my assistant/apprentice, who had started working with me over two years ago, actually with one of the murals in this nursing home. This time around he was no longer helping out doing the groundwork, but painted a whole portrait by himself.

I had forgotten how much time we’d need just to chat with the residents and staff and how often we would be summoned to help one of the elderly to give them a supporting arm or tie their shoelaces. They don’t care that we’re there to paint, we were there, so we might as well put to service!
Of course we had a constant audience and had to admire all the art work made by those residents who love to paint too. We also got many suggestions for more portraits. So hopefully we’ll be back soon… I love this place and its people!!!

These murals were sponsored by Dr. Jim Bader who besides offering his services a s a veterinarian to Antigua, also contributes to make this place even more colourful. Thank you!