Chillin´ in Chile
- Posted by Holly Simon on November 13th, 2007
Writing on location from Curico, Chile. It´s a small city two hours south of the capital, Santiago. Curico is not unlike the Okanagan, surrounded by vineyards and orchards. (The wine is cheap and delicious… and so is the fruit.) It´s spring here: the sun is shining and I´ve slathered sunscreen all over my fair skin. I´m staying with a visual artist whom I met several years ago when studying art in Spain. She has regular exhibitions and teaches art and yoga by day (not at the same time). I´m here on vacation but our work at Calgary Arts Development never escapes me. There´s nothing like a trip to South America to offer some perspective on development in general…
When I landed in Santiago on Sunday, my hostel was across the street from the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Art). The steps, street and park in front of the museum were completely packed: thousands of families and stylish, young Chileans. They were unveiling a gigantic canvas, at least 70 feet high, made up of 88 small paintings by 88 Chilean artists,a re-creation of an apparently famous painting. A classical chamber orchestra played and there were fantastic vocalists as well – not to mention buskers and artisan vendors everywhere. With my rusty Spanish I understood the emcee declare El Gran Cuadro (cleverly titled The Big Painting) was a celebration of their art and artists as well as a celebration of their city.
It astounds me that a country with an economic situation very different than ours in Canada; one where most resources are owned by foreign companies, where few can afford an education nor travel the world, yet they still celebrate art as core to their way of life. That probably doesn´t come as a surprise as most of the world is like this.
As well, I have noticed that almost all of the museums in both Chile and Argentina are free and have beautiful collections. There is great public art everywhere and gorgeous graffiti too. My friend tells me there are many contemporary artists in Chile but artist fees are practically unheard of; the country lacks the conditions for artists to thrive that we have at home.
We have an unmatched opportunity in Calgary to create a new and authentic cultural and economic experience as part of a strengthened social fabric. The arts are integral to both the process and the product. I´m excited to watch as this continues to unfold and equally grateful for opportunity to experience art and artists around the world.
...See you all too soon back in the Northern Hemisphere.
P.S. My apologies for spelling mistakes. I´m under the influence of allergy medication - spring all over again for me! - and the spell check is set to Spanish. :)