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GUATEMALA IN ENGLISH
Kenneth J. Wolverton was in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala July/August of 2001, where he went to Casa Xelaju Language School to conclude the second year university level Spanish 211 and 212.
Casa Xelaju is involved in social initiatives. While Wolverton was there he was invited to direct a mural project at an orphanage, called Hogar de Niños, (www.xelapages.com/vol-casahogar.htm). It is through this project he became interested in returning to Guatemala, but also because of the success of the completed mural, several groups became interested in Wolvertons return to Guatemala.
The mural at Hogar de Niños gained respect and because of that the directors of an NGO, EntreMundos have acted as a liaison with Association Mayalán; an organization whose members come from the rural Mayan communities of highland Guatemala. They are a not-for-profit association with no political party affiliation. To learn more about Mayalan, visit their website at www.mayalan.net .
Ten rural communities are full members of Mayalan. They work in a variety of social actions affecting rural Mayan communities such a human rights concerns, humanitarian aid, institution and organization building, economic development, domestic violence, education, public health, and other issues.
The focus of community organizations varies a lot due to geographical differences, historical and political differences (some of the communities are communities of repatriated refugees from the civil war, others suffered severe persecution and massacres but chose not to flee) and economic differences (communities in coffee-growing regions are largely dependent on low paid work through huge coffee fincas, while most communities are dependent on subsistence farming and are concerned with issues such as environmental degradation and severe land and water shortages).
Over the past few years, Association Mayalan have helped most of their member communities work together to fund and construct community centers that provide health and educational services in addition to serving as meeting places that help facilitate community unity and cooperation. For most of these communities, this is the only building with electricity, windows and real tile floors.
Wolverton tried to raise funds since he was intially contacted by Association Mayalan in 2002, and in January 2006 decided to fund the project himself. In February 2006 Association Mayalan responded positively to his proposal to create murals. They have requested Wolverton design and direct one or more collaborative murals at their office and also in member communities if possible. (Letters)
It would be a 4 to 8 week mural project beginning in summer 2006 on the success of grant applications. It is also possible depending on funding that a film/video documenter and/or media team will also be actively involved. Reference to The Team means Wolverton and individuals who may help facilitate the collaborative project, either residents of the village or outside resources.
The Team will document the project through writing, digital photography and video and send weekly press eleases to a variety of local and international media outlets.
The concept of The Guatemala Mural Project is to create several interior and exterior murals working with indigenous people, in communities and villages near Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. The plan is to initiate a mural arts project with the participation of local people by responding to their requests and working with their ideas and skills. Murals will be created in schools, village squares and public facilities. The ultimate goal and consequence of the murals is that it will help introduce literacy and in particular to women by means of Arts in Alternative Education.
THE COLLABORATIVE TECHNIQUE
The Collaborative Technique will be implemented to conceive, design and create large public murals. Each mural will be created in a 1 to 2 week time frame.
· Prior to the projects initiation, national and international magazines and newspapers will be offered an article series on the project.
· All aspects of the mural being created will be documented through digital photography, video and writing.
· Weekly press releases will be sent to a collective of local and international media organizations
· An online website about the murals project will be updated weekly. Each community will be given a hard copy publication on conclusion.
All digital images by Kenneth J. Wolverton in Guatemala July 15 to August 15, 2001
Kenneth Wolverton has worked as a “collaborative” artist with large groups, schools and communities since 1971.
His work has been created equally between private and commercial commissions. He has worked with teams of professionals in business and public organizations such as schools, community centers and youth centers.
Wolverton has been the lead artist on many collaborative murals and has conducted training workshops and taught classes in mural art and sculpture.
He created several posts as an artist/organizer, working directly with community groups and individuals in a collaborative and created public artworks or events, such as murals, sculptures, or festival art.
Wolverton works in a diverse collection of professional, cultural and ethnic situations. He has been at the front of creative projects with Navajo Reservations, Hispanic and Afroamerican groups in America and communities in Australia, Britain, France, Guatemala, Iran, Mexico and Turkey.
Wolverton has been involved with art in social context and Art in Alternative Education since 1975 when he was funded by the Leverhulme Trust (London) as Artist-In-Residence for eight years with Theatre Workshop Edinburgh, (Scotland) and directed the first rural community arts program in the western isles of Scotland.
To insure the success of each project, the director must act as a catalyst, an animator, a community liaison as much as being the artistic director. The basic objective of each project is to interact with the requests and the needs of the community.
There is unpredictable creative power in the collective of a community. The need of professionalism and organizational skills of the directing artist must be prominent for a successful creative collaborative project.
Experience in the collaborative is essential for an outsider to help indigenous people to tell their own story, while respecting their historical integrity and cultural aesthetics.
Yet many contemporary artists are no longer an integral part of community, but are seen as oddities or elite superstars who come at a high price.
Artists have subtracted their work from active participation within communities and by consequence; society has been impoverished by this condition.
Art thereby is denied a firsthand experience in a daily situation, as one may compare the labor of carpenters, electricians or plumbers within society.
The ugliness and violence that exists within contemporary society, to a large degree is the absence of creative elements offered on a daily basis.
Society could easily be more gentle and progressive using creative outlets. If a percentage of professional artists returned to a Renaissance attitude, and in coordination with social planners, trained young artists within apprenticeship or guild conditions society would change for the better.
In essence, this is the spirit of Art in Alternative Education and is not a new concept, but goes back to the primordial birth of art as the tool of communication, the first media.
The glossy magazine art world and university academia often see collaborative work as amateur, (nonprofessionals are creatively involved), and threatening because it dissolves the contemporary artistic ideal and commercial status quo.
Experience gained working at a community level in a collaborative form brings abilities and philosophy that can be taught at a higher education or societal level.
A long term mural project in Guatemala would be very significant for the development of skills and career opportunities for anyone involved in that process.
The professional experience applied to the indigenous people of Guatemala would help understanding and communicating in Spanish and their ability to negotiate.
An Art in Alternative Education program would help them achieve that goal, and conversely the non-native speakers would also be learning the Mayan language and culture
Wolverton has lived and worked in the American Southwest for 20 years, where the majority of his collaborative art projects have done with Spanish speaking young people and adults.
He has also worked with the Navajo and Pueblo Native Americans many times in his career and his art has evolved with their cultures. His interest and artistic development has been drawn towards the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
To be invited into the intimate inner circles of one group, automatically allows one to develop better communication and a network of exchange between the indigenous cultures.
Guatemala is of course not only a Spanish Speaking nation, but the Mayan culture is ancient and regarded with great respect by other indigenous peoples as well as by academicians of anthropology and other fields of the humanities, such as art, literature, and astronomy.
To gain personal insight into indigenous cultures can only be gained by living and working with their people directly.
To be invited to work with indigenous people is not only a real opportunity to learn their inner truths. It is an honorable privilege that must be taken with seriousness and integrity.
When an outsider is invited to work with any indigenous people, that indeed is a profound compliment which demonstrates a faith and trust that is rarely given to non-indigenous individuals.
The history of the Mayan of Guatemala is long and often tragic. These people have already been betrayed and persecuted by “outsiders” many times. To be allowed to work with them in any capacity through their own invitation demonstrates an incredible trust.
Association Mayalan (see Letters of Invitation) is an NGO that represents 10 villages. In working with Mayalan and directing mural projects within their villages is a rare opportunity, both as an individual artist and as a representative of the American culture.
This cooperation is an opportunity of International Exchange, promoting peace and understanding between peoples as the most significant goals of art and culture.
Wolverton has created over two hundred murals in the last thirty years. Most of the murals have been done in the Collaborative Technique.
Generally speaking there are two factors which determine the amount of time that it will take to complete a mural. The first factor is the type of actual detail and finish. The second factor is the dimensions and type of surface of the mural wall.
In the case of the first factor, the mural is designed around the number of people and the artistic skills they have. The more developed those skills are, the more sophisticated and technically difficult the mural can be. For example, the mural can range in style between photo-realism and hard-edge cartoons, depending on the ability of the participants.
Wolverton completed two years of university level Spanish and has spent eight weeks in Guatemala and Mexico, working directly with the Spanish speaking locals. His Spanish is basic yet Mayan is the indigenous language, and communication will be learned together.
He is accomplished in InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, FrontPage, PowerPoint, scanning and Word.
He used traditional film photography all of his life but focused exclusively in digital photography since 1999.
Wolverton graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism December 2004.
From 1978 to 1981 he wrote a weekly arts column for The Arran Banner, Isle of Arran, Scotland.
He served as a reporter and photographer for the University of Arizona’s El Independiente and Cursor.
Murals have visual high-impact and in most cases are larger than life in comparison to canvass salon paintings. Because of this characteristic, murals effect the environment where they are created.
Rarely does a mural have no reaction from the public. Murals stimulate human interaction and communication. If the whole community is informed and invited to share ideas as well as participate in the creation of the mural, the result has a positive influence on the public.
Association Mayalan has its own agenda, with specific requirements to be represented in a mural. However, they have common denominators in their cultural identity, a similar imagery of icons representing their sacred values. Therefore, the murals will speak a cultural language easily recognized by all and assume a powerful role in ageless testimony.
An accurate documentation will follow the project through all its phases, from birth to completion, and serve as an effective tool to disseminate information about the process of creating a successful community art project. A variety of media will be used to reach the largest possible audience, such as published articles, web sites and photographic reportages.
The Mural project will have a significant impact not only in Guatemala, but its echo will be heard in a broader international community, through the integration of publicity through all available media. Media will be created through digital photography and video, audio cassette, hardcopy paper publications, plus community radio and/or television that will be included in a website that can be downloaded and reproduced.
Association Mayalán is an organization whose members come from the rural Mayan communities of highland Guatemala. We are a not-for-profit association with no political party affiliation.
I am writing you on behalf of Mayalan, an association of indigenous communities here in the Xela area of Guatemala. We work in a variety of areas affecting rural Mayan communities such a human rights concerns, humanitarian aid, institution and organization building, economic development, domestic violence, education, public health, and other issues. We are extremely interested in working with you to design and obtain funding for one or more murals at our office and also in our member communities if possible.
To learn more about Mayalan, you may want to visit our website currently located at www.mayalan.net . Nearly a dozen rural communities are full members of Mayalan. To become a member, communities must organize themselves to work on community problems and issues such as those listed above. The focus of community organizations varies a lot due to geographical differences, historical and political differences (some of the communities are communities of repatriated refugees from the civil war, others suffered severe persecution and massacres but chose not to flee) and economic differences (communities in coffee-growing regions are largely dependent on low paid work through huge coffee fincas, while most communities are dependent on subsistence farming and are concerned with issues such as environmental degradation and severe land and water shortages).
Over the past few years, we have helped most of our member communities work together to fund and construct community centers that provide health and educational services in addition to serving as meeting places that help facilitate community unity and cooperation. For most of these communities, this is the only building with electricity, windows and real tile floors. We would love to work with you to design and create murals for one or two of these communities, in addition to a mural for our office building in Xela. However, we do not know if financial or temporal constraints would limit your ability to work on three murals.
I am assuming that you will be able to raise the financial
resources you need to complete these murals.
As far as time goes, our office is located about ½ hour by bus away from downtown Xela. We would love to put a mural on the outside of our building. The two communities that are closest to Xela are located near
Solola and San Martin. It takes about 2 hours by bus to reach them both.
These communities are very well organized and have really made a lot of progress on the problems facing their communities. These both recently completed community centers and I think they would be overjoyed to help you (or simply watch you if you prefer) create a mural on their community buildings. If you would like, we could organize community members to help you paint the mural.
I have very little experience in mural painting, but depending on the type of mural you paint, one idea is for you to sketch the mural and the wall and then have a big festival day during which children or older community members could help you paint the different sections of the wall.
We are already planning a community festival in each community to work on other issues such as health care and environmental concerns, and we could incorporate the mural creation into the program. This might also help you save time, since you would have a lot of helpers (or it might make the process more difficult if overseeing painting is too difficult).
Another idea is that you could work with women's groups or
youth groups in the communities to plan the mural. Of course, you could also
just do the mural completely on your own. Whatever you think is best is
fine with us.
As far as the mural in our office goes, we would love to work with our Board of Directors (leaders of all our member communities) to design the mural. Once again, you could decide if you want to work on it solo or if you would like us to bring in community members to help you out.
As far as themes for these murals, I think it might depend on the communities and their experiences (for example, most of the men in the Solola village were massacred by the army during one night in the 1980s, while San Martin is a community of refugees repatriated from Mexico.) We could work with you to focus on a couple of themes for our office mural.
We definitely don't want to hinder your creative juices, so we would be happy to give as little or as much guidance as you would like.
I hope that this is not too much information. We would
really love it if you could find the funding and
time to work on all three murals, but we will definitely understand if that is too much of a
Thank you so much for your kind offer. Please feel free to respond to this email in either Spanish or English. The majority of the Mayalan staff (everyone except me) speaks only Spanish and Mayan languages, but I will be here to translate English emails through the end of July.
Thanks again. Sincerely,
Ruth DeGolia, International Programs Coordinator
Max Gimbel, Info-Doc Program Coordinator, Update Editor
3321 12th St. NE, Washington D.C. 20017, tel. 202.529.6599, fax 202.526-4611
I sent information about your project to the good folks at El Espacio (the physical home of entremundos), and after a short discussion said that they would be pleased to house you, Laura and her daughter from mid-late June til mid-August. Please note the message from David Cohn regarding space at el espacio. You can contact him directly to arrange specifics ; firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to seeing the murals.... Max Gimbel
Letter from EntreMundos
Thanks for the e-mail. Working at El Espacio is my pleasure. I really love it there. You have no idea how nice it is to feel "at home" while I'm here for such an extended stay.
As for the muralist (Ken is his name, right?), I talked it over with all of the long term people living at El Espacio. We all agreed that it would definitely change the dynamic of life their but that it would be well worth it. Sanna, one of the dutch girls living here right now has even volunteered to give up her room for the duration of his stay. She is staying in the big room that I think you once lived in and later Silvia. I think that room should more than suit their purposes. Besides I think it's the most cheerful room in the house. So, please go ahead and tell Ken that we're more than happy to accommodate him with a living space and we all look forward to meeting him. If he could do a mural in El Espacio that would be an added bonus.
You mentioned that your other friends won't be coming. If they are looking for comfort, that may be a good idea. The only room we have available is the one adjacent to the kitchen and it has fallen a bit into disrepair. It is our least popular room. As far as the healthy energy that takes place in El Espacio... yes it still exists, although we are all pretty mellow as far as the hours we keep. I think everyone in the place works a job with fairly traditional hours.
Well, thanks for being in touch and I look forward to hearing more details about Ken's arrival. If you need anything at all, don't hesitate to ask.
Wed, 3 July, 2002
Dear Mr. Wolverton,
Greetings from Totonicapán. Max Gimbel from EntreMundos gave me your name and asked that I write to you explaining briefly about Colaboracion Educacional Mundial (Global Education Partnership) and our desire to have you paint a mural at our building.
My name is Angela Datz de Blanco. I am the Director for Colaboracion Educacional Mundial (CEM). CEM is a small organization that serves rural youth ages thirteen to twenty five. We train youth in job and entrepreneurial skills and computer literacy. Our youth learn to be self-sufficient, literate, and employable or to create economic opportunities for themselves. We have served approximately six hundred youth since we began in 1996. We have fifteen youth currently attending our courses. Many of our students are artists in the rural textile industry and appreciate the beauty of murals.
We are requesting to be considered in the Mural project . Currently in Totonicapán, there are no murals in existence. A mural would provide beacon of light for our students and those in the community who visit our office on a daily basis. We pride ourselves on providing a beacon of hope to our youth and we would like to give something to the community as a whole, a mural would do just that.
Max also specified that we provide brief details on the possible contents of the mural being requested. Ideally, a mural picturing the indigenous and non-indigenous youth coming from the rural areas into the world of technology and the workplace, a transition of sorts with lots of color in order to provide a light of hope at the end of the tunnel of poverty would provide an excellent beacon of hope in the visualization of the future for our youth.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this proposal for a mural in Totonicapán. If you would like more information, please contact me at my email address email@example.com Again thank you for your time and consideration, Best Regards, Angela Datz
(12 Undp- http://hdr.undp.org/hd/
(13) Literacy- http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/47/104.html Literacy For All Distant Dream By Celina Zubieta, March 1999
(14 Agre- )http://www.aol.com/agremilusa/embassy.html,
(15) On-war- http://www.onwar.com/aced/data/golf/guatemala1961.htm
(16) Contemp- http://www.uop.edu/~aiida/contemp4.htm
(17) Guate-Lit- http://www.guatemalaliteracy.com/
(18) Arte- http://www.artemaya.com/
(19) Alter- http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/alted.html -The Arts in Alternative Education - Part 1 by Alice Lovelace - In Motion Magazine - Art Changes - from Where I Stand
(20) Teach- http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-9219/global.htmZimmerman, Enid, Teaching Art From a Global Perspective.
(21) Resource- http://www.state.ok.us/~arts/Pages/schools/schools.html-Resources and Programs for Schools.htm Arts in Alternative Education, Oklahoma Arts Council and State Department of Education Partnership
(22) Images- http://images.google.com/images
Anderson, Mary, B. Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace or War
Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder/London 1999
Blum, William, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II,
Common Courage Press, Monroe, Me 1995
Heptig, Vince, A Mayan Struggle: Portrait of a Guatemalan People in Danger, Guatemala, 1997
Nelson, Ralph, Popol Vuh, Houghton Mifflin Company Boston, 1977
Culvert, Peter, Guatemala—A Nation in Turmoil.
Westview Press –Boulder/London 1985
Black, George, Garrison Guatemala. Zed Books Ltd. London,1984
Christenson, Allen J., Art and society in a Highland Maya community: the Altarpiece of Santiago Atitlan. University of Texas Press 2001
Carlsen. Robert, S. The war for the Heart and Soul. University of Texas Press. 1997
(1.) Association Mayalán, www.mayalan.net
(2.) Max Gimbel, Info-Doc Program Coordinator, Update
3321 12th St. NE, Washington D.C. 20017, tel. 202.529.6599, fax 202.526-4611
(3.) EntreMundos, El Espacio, www.entremundos.com
(4.) Colaboracion Educacional Mundial, (CEM) firstname.lastname@example.org