Sunday, August 28, 2016

And Now a Word from our Sponsors...

Here some words from the main sponsors of the Chimachoy Community Mural:
"Thanks for the beautiful and detailed final report! For us it was a joy to follow this colourful project. And the result is great! You can be proud of yourself that you have achieved this despite all the pressure, bizarre weather conditions and other difficulties. Also thanks for the regular updates and beautiful pictures. Good luck with upcoming activities and projects."

"What a beautiful report you have written. (..) you can proudly look back on what you have achieved and hopefully many people will be able to enjoy it for a long time."

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Looking for Sponsors!

With the third mural (Starry Night) done at the educational centre Brillo de Sol, a special school for special kids in Guatemala, we're looking for sponsors for murals in the remaining three classrooms! Each mural costs $250, but smaller donations are welcome too!
You can donate US $ or Euros using the "Donate" button on this page (through PayPal) of email me (carinsteen at for deposits on a Dutch bank account. THANKS!

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Starry Night for the Universe!

One of my favourite projects in Guatemala is Brillo de Sol, a school for kids with special needs. I already had the pleasure to paint two murals there, now I just finished the third for the kids from The Universe (Grade 1 & 2). When Ilene Kradin offered to sponsor it (her second mural already! She also sponsored the one of the girl with rabbit and Luna the dog!), well, it was a done deal! I didn’t even have to make a design because the teacher, Ms. Jenny, had asked me if I could paint Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. Well, of course! It happens to me one of my favourite paintings and to be able to paint it on such a large scale (3.8 x 2.9m) was a joy!
Usually I only paint my own designs, but to pretend to be Van Gogh for a change was a great opportunity. I was looking forward to use Van Gogh’s rough brushstrokes and follow his swirls and curls. It’s not easy to paint someone else’s style, but it is also a great way to really get to know a piece of art and of course learn a lot.

Last Saturday, Ilene and I (besides sponsoring the mural she also offered to help!) started with a grid and than painted most of the sky. We made good progress, but by the end of the afternoon I was not quite satisfied and couldn’t tell exactly why. So it was good to leave it for a day and come back on Monday, today, to finish it.
 And this morning I realized what it was I didn’t like Vincent’s brush strokes! As much as I love them (in the original painting), they were too strong, too fierce, too imposing… So I decided to paint over them, blend colours, soften the whole image and make it lighter. Sorry Vincent! The result is much more tranquil and that is a good thing, because many of the kids in this classroom have concentration issues, so the last thing hey need is a crazy, frantic mural in their learning environment....
For the same reason, I also changed the Cyprus tree on the foreground. It was too dark and gloomy, too scary. Now it’s dancing in the wind with much lighter tones of purple, green and brown.

I sincerely apologize to Vincent van Gogh for making changes to his masterpiece. I hope he’d understand why. I can only say that the teacher and kids are happy and that’s what matters most to me.

Thanks a million to Ilene Kradin for sponsoring this and the previous mural, as well as for helping out!

And now that we’re back to the topic of sponsoring, the rest of the kids want a mural too! The Ocean kids (Grade 5 & &), The Forest (Grade 3 & 4) and The Scientists (Grade 7-8) all want to transform their wall. And you can help to do so! Sponsor a mural for only $250 and those kids will have a permanent work of art in their classroom… (Partial donations welcome too…)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Community Mural in Chimachoy DONE!!!

I’ve been looking forward for weeks to write this very last update on the community mural in Chimachoy, but now that the time is there, I’m actually at loss for words…

This mural has been the centre of my life for the last few months now. Starting with the $1000 grant I got from Te Pollination Project in March, I then had to find more funding (the lacking $1500) in order to realize the project, which was a little stressful. I had already handed over $400 to the community for wall repair and plastering, so there was no way I could drop out. Thankfully the rest of the funding came in and after a series of workshops with the students from both elementary and high school to define the themes and create images, we were ready to start painting by the end of June.

All in all, everything has worked out perfectly. Yes, the painting did take much longer than expected, there was some rain, a lot of extreme cold and heat. Even a hurricane that literally forced me to come off my ladder, but we managed it. The mural is now finished, all 65 meters of it!

It has taken more than a hundred hours in painting, about the same amount of time in designing, prepping the workshops and teaching, as well as about 25 hours in traveling. I will miss those weekly trips to Chimachoy but on the other hand, man, am I glad it’s done now!

Yesterday was a perfect last day. I was happy to have plenty of help from the high school kids as well as volunteers Jenneca Fevos and Marie Duca.  We had to finish painting the last 15 meters plus the titles of all the panels in three languages (Kaqchikel, Spanish and English) in just two days and we did! We were about to finish when it started raining at 4.30pm, but after a short break we were able to continue with the last titles and touchups.

A little emotional I got in the car, ready to go home. As we drove by the mural for the very last time, I was just thinking how grateful I was for so many things, one of them being the rickety pick-up truck I had hired for our transportation holding up during al those trips. (It wasn’t the best of cars, but its owner Carlos is very friendly and reliable but mostly because it was the cheapest option…). I shouldn’t have had that thought, because of course, right at that moment, the car stopped short. Dead as can be.
So there we were. The two volunteers were in the back of the pick-up truck, it was already getting dark, thick raindrops falling down and a motor that just didn’t want to start. I had already locked up the school so there wasn’t even a place to take shelter if the rain would start for real. And where do you get a mechanic, this late, at an hour distance from Antigua? But thankfully, with the help of some rough looking Chimachoy men, Carlos was able to fix whatever was wrong and twenty minutes later we were on our way, racing down the hills under rumbling skies. The huge traffic jam we got caught in was a bit of an anti-climax, but we made it and at 7.30pm I was finally home.

More on this project will surely follow, but for now I’m going to take a short break. I want to thank Jenneca and Marie for being there with me yesterday; Carlos for getting us there (and BACK!); the kids; the teachers; the people from Chimachoy who cheered us on and of course all the people and institutions that sponsored this project. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Marvelous Murals in the Mountains

Nice write-up in Qué Pasa Magazine!!!!

“Near the imposing volcano of Acatenango, amongst the rolling hills and sprawling green fields, lies the village of Chimachoy, a small indigenous aldea of only 700 habitants. It is one of several villages dotted across the countryside of the San Andrés Itzapa region where the Kaqchiquel-speaking residents maintain and celebrate their Mayan roots and traditions. Many community members support their families through agriculture.

In Chimachoy, the two small community schools provide a standard education to local children according to the Guatemalan National Curriculum and try to foster creativity, critical-thinking and social consciousness in their students through extracurricular, sporting and cultural activities. As part of an initiative by the organization MuralArte Guate, the school Director – Laura Esperanza Vasquez de Back – and the staff of both schools are currently implementing an art program to help the children celebrate their roots and visualize the intriguing combination of tradition and modernity within their community.

This fascinating project – run by the Dutch artist Carin Steen, who has painted dozens of community murals across Central America and Europe – involves painting murals and running art workshops in different public spaces, communities and schools across Guatemala. The project is aimed not just at beautifying public spaces – but also using art to provoke dialogue and to transmit positive, constructive messages that benefit and honor the local community.
In Chimachoy, MuralArte is painting a giant mural in collaboration with the school kids and the community as a whole that will depict the culture and history of the community and the vision that its habitants have for their future.

The aim of this fantastic project is to bring the local community together to create a valuable collective work of art and to raise awareness of the importance of celebrating cultural heritage and fostering collective projects to strengthen communities.”