April 18, 2016

Muchas gracias , mis nuevos amigos!

How do I begin to thank all of the warm and generous people we met in Costa Rica? Without a doubt, this was a truly maravilloso experience, from which I gained many insights. In the space of three days, I gave four workshops on social practice art, followed by a hands-on experience to bring to life the concepts of participatory art. The workshops were well attended, vibrant and discursive, and the participants included museum educators, architects, urban planners, and professors, artists and students from San Jose's prestigious Universidad de Costa Rica and National University in Heredia.

To top off this amazing experience was the opening reception for the “Reflections on Diversity” exhibition at the U.S. Ambassador S. Fitzgerald Haney's residence in San Jose. It was exciting to meet all the honored guests, speaking with them about art and having them participate in my installation text boards. I am most gratified that my fellow artists, with whom I had the pleasure of collaborating to create my two text blackboards for the exhibit, were there as well. My sincere appreciation to each of them for the generosity they have shown me as fellow artists: Li Briceno, Audie Rafael Fallas, Karla Herencia, Carolina Parra, Fernando Rudin and Xavier Villafranca.

The planned collaboration was to transcribe my original text on two blackboards, one in English and one in Spanish, and I must thank Juan Diego Roldan, Visual Arts Coordinator at Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano, for his brilliant selection of these 3 men and 3 women, who came to the Centro Cultural and collaborated with me on my text bisections. This very fortunate union of these artists' contemporary costarricense energies with my participatory art yielded moments of spontaneity and enlightenment.

Additionally, I wish to sincerely thank Camille Benton, curator in the U.S. Department of State’s “Art in Embassies” program, who invited me to contribute a work to her “Reflections on Diversity” exhibition at the Ambassador’s residence. At my wife I Mei’s encouragement, I proposed an installation project to Camille instead, and that I travel to San Jose and create my blackboards to install them on-site at the Ambassador’s for a participatory event at the opening reception.

In short order, Camille wrote back that Ambassador Haney and his wife loved our proposal. My deep appreciation goes to Ambassador Haney and Rabbi Haney for being instrumental in bringing my art to San Jose. For their sincere passion for art and their support of my practice I will be forever grateful.

From there, the entire project’s orchestration was brought to fruition by Beverly Thacker, Cultural Affairs Officer, and Gabriela Bolaños, Cultural Affairs Specialist, who worked hard for months, setting up workshops with art teachers and their students, and other outreach components in the San Jose arts community that would embody my Artist Exchange role to “conduct cultural programming related to the Art in Embassies’ program and the art exhibition at the Residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, Ambassador Haney.” In addition to their skillful organizational talents, Beverly and Gabriela’s professional yet personable approaches made me feel well taken-care of during my entire trip. My heartfelt thanks to both of them for their tireless endeavors to program a superb array of cultural outreach events.

NEXT WEEK: My collaboration with the San Jose artists to create the text boards, plus the opening reception at the Ambassador's residence.  

IMAGE: Collaboration Day at Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano, March 27, 2016; (Left-to-Right) Karla Herencia, Li Briceno, Audie Rafael Fallas, Fernando Rudin, Mark Cameron Boyd, Xavier Villafranca and Carolina Parra; photo by I Mei Chan.

March 27, 2016

Sobre la Diversidad Lingüística

In preparation for my visit to Costa Rica, where I am traveling as a U.S. State Department artist for cultural exchange and mounting an installation for the Art in Embassies program, I have been reviewing my teaching archives and cycling through the many PowerPoint presentations I have made over the last 15 years. The good folks in the Cultural Affairs department at the U.S. Embassy in San Jose have enthusiastically scheduled four additional workshops for me to introduce the concepts of social practice and participatory art.

As an artist involved with creating participatory installations for the public for well over 10 years, to present workshops on an art that takes the viewer beyond contemplation and encourages a socially engaged audience is an authentic core value of my practice. One challenge of this opportunity was crafting a relatively brief but cohesive presentation on social practice and participatory art, given that my regular course lectures average around 60-75 minutes. However, I believe that I have crafted a fine introduction to social practice and participatory art that will lead naturally into my text-based pieces.

During the next week, I will be giving this lecture to students in the Universidad de Costa Rica’s Escuela Artes Plásticas, museum representatives at Museos del Banco Central, art teachers of Arte por la Paz’s program in women’s detention centers and to students and teachers at National University’s School of Art and Visual Communication.

This agenda also includes the key invitation that got me here in the first place: to install one of my text-based works in Ambassador S. Fitzgerald Haney’s residence and launch it at a reception of the exhibition, “Reflections on Diversity.”

I have Camille Benton, an Arts in Embassies curator, to thank for contacting me last year to submit a work. I gladly accepted and offered to come down and do an installation. The week of outreach, lectures and workshops developed organically in a couple of teleconferences with Ms. Benton and Beverly Thacker, Cultural Officer in the Public Affairs section of the U.S. Embassy in San Jose.

Tomorrow I meet with 6 local San Jose artists who will collaborate with me to transcribe text – in English on one blackboard, Spanish on the other. The text is a short piece about how language is a gateway to our comprehension of cultural diversity and that encountering new languages reveals the collaborative mystery of new cultures.

I will post more thoughts on these upcoming events and experiences later this week.