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!


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Let’s bring the ocean to San Bartolo!!!

May the rain gods grant us a dry spell!

Every afternoon around 2pm the skies start rumbling and we can expect, well, basically anything. Sometimes the rain comes down so heavily, it looks like a solid water downpour. Other days the threatening thundering just results in a few drops that send everybody running for cover –and then: nothing…
I’m so glad that the mega mural in project in Chimachoy was done last year, during an unusual dry season. This year it wouldn’t have been possible.

But walls are waiting to be transformed and my fingers are itching!!! A brand new project came upon my way that I’d love to do, but it has to be soon…

The walls in question form the kindergarten in a public school in the village I live, on the outskirts of San Bartolo (officially called San Bartolomé Becerra), along the road to Ciudad Vieja, for those who know the area. The school caters to 175 students in the morning (kindergarten through grade 6) and a similar amount in the afternoon. The school is in reasonable good shape, except for the kindergarten… The walls are made of plaster panels with peeling paint in a colour that was once blue. When I showed the director some samples of my murals, she fell in love with an ocean scene I did a while back and said she’d love something like that. At first I thought it a bit of an odd theme, an ocean scene in the middle of San Bartolo, but then I figured it is actually quite nice. Few of the school’s students will ever see the ocean, let alone get to scuba dive, so instead of bringing the kids to the ocean, why not bringing the ocean to the kids??? And, unfortunately, the whole village of San Bartolo is littered with plastic bags. And plastic bags are also a major threat to marine fauna, so an ocean scene would be a could excuse to talk to the kids about the whole waste problem in our community…

So the first draft of the design is made, painting will be easy because I can paint in between showers if necessary (because of the short travel distance) and the staff would LOVE to have this mural on the wall before August 18, when they celebrate the 25th anniversary of the school.

So what I am waiting for? Donations!!! I’ll paint for free, I just need money for materials and a small fee for my assistant. The surface is pretty rough and the plaster will suck up paint, even if I prime it 2 or 3 times, so I estimate I’ll need about 10 gallons of paint and 2 gallons of primer for the total surface of 44m². So that comes down to Q3000 or $400, less than $10 per square meter!
Want to help transform this kindergarten? You can donate the entire amount (for which I’d be eternally grateful!) or you can donate a smaller amount. Any help is welcome!!!

You can donate through PayPal, using my email address (carinsteen at, in Euros or any other currency), a deposit in my Dutch bank account (email me for info) or in person if living in Antigua. Let’s bring the ocean to San Bartolo!!!