Living in Honduras or Guatemala as a foreigner is sometimes hard, mostly fun and never boring. This Blog is about more than just the oddities of my years in the not-so tranquil, cobble-stoned town of Copán Ruinas and, more recently, Antigua Guatemala. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…

MuralArte



MuralArte
MuralArte is an Antigua Guatemala based project that offers mural paintings to schools, clinics and community centres.
Artist Carin Steen has years of experience painting murals in Central America and other places. Carin loves to combine her passion for education and painting on a large scale by creating murals in collaboration with local communities. Sometimes she paints her own designs, other times the theme of a mural is decided on by the target group and elaborated as teamwork. Since most schools, public clinics and community centres can’t afford to pay for a mural. Carin is always looking for sponsors who are willing to help realize a permanent and socially engaged work of art in and for the community.
Sponsorship will be acknowledged by a (discrete) mention in the work of art. It is also possible to provide a preference for a specific theme or representation, as long as the community agrees with it. There are opportunities to sponsor a full mural; parts of it; or making a general donation towards the project. For more information, please contact Carin directly through a message or email (carinsteen at yahoo.com)

Why murals?
Besides beautifying the surroundings, murals are usually painted in public spaces and thus make art free and available to the entire community. Murals can be educational or informative and even break social, cultural or political barriers. The community is involved in the process, regardless people’s talent, skill or experience. A mural can help define the cultural identity of a community and create community ownership. It can even become a landmark in the community, inspiring and attracting more artists or visitors.

Method
The theme is usually chosen in agreement with community members, teachers or students and sometimes with the sponsors. In some cases I organized a series of workshops about the theme and involved the participants in the painting of the mural. The method depends completely on the wishes of the community and the circumstances, because sometimes painting a mural can be a risky business (inaccessible walls, rickety ladders etc.), unsuitable for young assistants.

Even if the situation isn’t ideal for direct participation of children in the actual painting, they can be involved by discussing the theme and exploring the way how to visualize the idea they want to express. Working as a team is also important, which can be encouraged by painting a mural on big sheets of paper or making a collage together.

After a thorough exploration of the theme with community members I make a design in Photoshop in which I try to steer away from the more traditional symbolism of rural murals (hilly landscapes with a few houses, people and political slogans) but instead use unexpected but recognizable elements with direct links to the community, for example details of a  portrait of a community member in enormous proportions against a background that refers to the community and its history, problems or traditions, of course incorporating the results of the previously conducted workshops.
The design is then printed and drawn on the wall using a chalk grid. Once the design is sketched, the actual painting is almost like “painting by numbers”, ideal for young artists to help out with.

I use high quality latex paint (Comex) that is washable, long lasting and doesn’t require a protective coat. Depending on the wall, a primer might be necessary.

If possible I like to celebrate the finishing of the mural with a little ceremony so the community feels involved, to give the mural added value and explain people how to take care of it (not playing soccer against the murals, throwing rocks etc.).

For more information and pictures, visit MuralArte's page on Facebook.

Previous Murals
Here a selection of some of the murals I painted in Guatemala and Honduras.
Mural at the Community Centre in Chimachoy, a Maya village high in the mountains, nestled between the volcanoes of Lake Atitlan and Antigua. Painted with the help of 7 high school students and thanks to the men of this community who plastered the wall. Sponsored by Richard Baars & family, Wendy Russell, Paul Willcocks and Marie-Therese Woltering, May 2015.


Two of a series of five small murals at the kindergarten Construyendo Sueños in Alotenango, Guatemala. Looking for sponsors for two more murals!

  
In April of 2015 I went back to the ProNiño children’s home in El Progreso, Honduras, to paint a mural on the newly built dorm, sponsored by the Dutch NGO Colour4Kids. The design focussed on what boys age 7-11 might like while at the same time expressing a positive message. “Everybody is a winner” is the title of this mural, showing young “heroes” rescuing a fog, carrying a basket with groceries and helping out a friend in a wheelchair.


For the CasaSito Association I painted two murals, together with young adults in Cobán Guatemala. The first one was painted in the outskirts of San Cristobal, a Maya Poqomchi’ community. The theme is the importance of secondary education, especially for girls who unfortunately tend to drop out at an early age. Although I prepared the design beforehand, fifteen CasaSito scholarship students (Age 12-17) were involved in the process from beginning to end and were very proud of the result.


In Ostua, a rural Maya Q’eqchi’ community nearby Cobán, the theme of the mural was cultural identity. Depicted are a girl in typical dress and two dancers performing the traditional Baile de los Moro. This mural was painted in collaboration with ten young adults from the community.


Theme of this mural is the conservation of the scarlet macaw in the Valley of Copán, Honduras. The scarlet macaw is an important symbol in ancient Maya culture and still much valued, as well as the national bird of Honduras. The girl depicted is an actual student of the school, painted after a picture taken when the “Guaras en Libertad” project visited the community, with a real macaw. The kids are very proud of the mural and the fact that macaws fly over the valley, sometimes even as far as this small village. Whenever someone visits the school, the poor girl gets dragged out of the classroom to pose with the visitors in front of the mural.


Each year the school in the small Maya Chortí village of San Rafael organizes a terrific cultural event for the whole community. There’s dance, theatre, music and a pageant show in which the “Queen of Corn” is elected. This mural was painted shortly after the event. It is called “Children of Corn” and depicts the 2013 Queen of Corn and one of the dancers. On the background Maya glyphs representing corn.


I painted this 12-panel mural together with 12 adolescents of a children’s home in one of the most violent cities of Honduras, The participants chose the theme (violence in the community) and came up with the story lines about a kid who gets robbed of his cell phone. A few days later he finds out his assailant got assaulted himself. But instead of leaving him alone in his misery, he decides to give the kid a helping hand and they become best friends. The kids were very proud of their “new” dorm and still keep it in perfect shape.


The volunteer home of an orphanage in El Progreso, Honduras, where I mixed (on request) symbols of ancient Maya culture with portraits of contemporary Maya children.


After a series of workshops about cultural identity for the students of grade 5-6, I painted this mural combining elements of ancient Maya culture with a portrait of a Maya Chortí girl from the community of ostuman, Copán Ruinas.


Pets are generally not taken well care of in rural Honduras, so this mural at a school in a Maya Chortí community is all about respect for animals, as well as for each other.

The number of girls dropping out of school before finishing sixth grade is alarming in rural Honduras. Hence this dedication to girls who continue there studies in a Maya Chortí village overlooking the famous archaeological site of Copán. On the background the inscription of Stela J, welcoming visitors to the main plaza.


The Honduran educational system basically consists of repeating, copying and memorizing. Playing is not considered that important, but I don’t agree. Hence this mural about the right to recreation with a quote by Albert Einstein: “Play is the highest form of research.”


For this 22m long wall at a kindergarten I decided to paint portraits of the students with backgrounds that represent the town: coffee, woodcarving, cattle, Maya culture, agriculture. Ceramics and the local Ruby Waterfall.


On request by the community I painted these two Maya women on the wall of a newly built clinic just over the border in Guatemala.  The images are from ancient vessels “translated” into modern colours. The woman on the right welcomes the patients in Maya Chortí.










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