November 29, 2009
Several years ago a group of artist friends and I had the amazing experience of conducting childrens’ art workshops in the Lacandón Jungle of Mexico. We were hosted by the indigenous Mayan communities of Nahá and Lacanja in the state of Chiapas near its border with Guatemala. New York artist Kelynn Alder conceived the project and led the drawing and painting workshops, Josh Gosfield offered collage, Nola Lopez led mask-making and polaroid photography, and I held the printmaking sessions. The kids drew on their environment, culture and dreams to create a unique collection of artworks which we later exhibited at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York City.
This past month I took the opportunity to revisit both communities and reintroduce the program to a new generation of youngsters. I was joined by photographer Janet Schwartz and Na Bolom projects coordinator Adriana Chamery García. We offered printmaking and digital photography workshops which, as before, were greeted with great enthusiasm and creativity.
We’re now planning the next round of Lacandón art workshops for the spring of 2010. We have five artists lined up and have been invited by the village of Metzabok in addition to Nahá and Lacanja. Our project is named LCAW which stands for Lacandón Children’s Art Workshops, though Lacandon Community Art Workshops works as well since all age groups are welcome to participate.
Our program’s three main objectives are to preserve the oral history of the Lacandón people through visual art; to provide participants with the opportunity to express themselves creatively in a workshop situation that they otherwise don’t have access to; and to create a greater international consciousness about the Lacandón jungle, its people and culture. We have a project website in the works and plan to publish artwork through limited-edition prints and artists’ books. Proceeds and donations will fund successive Lacandon Art Workshops and benefit the communities through Na Bolom, the non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the Lacandón Maya and the preservation of the Chiapas rain forest.
We’re really grateful to our friends at Na Bolom whose generous guidance and logistical support make this project possible. We also thank Club Balam and the Lower Eastside Girls Club of New York for sharing their equipment for the digital photo workshop.
More news and an artist roster to follow as the spring program takes shape. Stay tuned!