Driving past the simple facade of this art studio along the main street of Panchimalco, one would never guess what treasures lie behind its doors. The owner and genius behind this amazing oasis for creativity leads us on a personal tour.
In short, his focus is to provide an inspirational space for community youth interested in expressing themselves through their art. He mentors the various small groups of developing artists we watch work today. Each group is led by a student leader working alongside the group. It is an “each one teach one” concept put into practice. Looking at the caliber of intricate detail in many of their sketches, I find it hard to imagine all these youth are from this one small town. We chose a good day to watch art in action. It is Saturday, and the kids are off school.
We first admire the indoor galleries where one wall prominently features four student self-portraits. The adjacent wall highlights pen and ink pieces of their work. Yet another wall consists of various students’ interpretations of a poem.
The hilly property directly behind the studio is the site of a former waterfall, now transformed into the perfect setting to divide into smaller outdoor spaces for students to both create and exhibit art. In every nook and cranny of this picturesque setting, groups of students are sketching still life arrangements or faces, or they are browsing through art books of “the masters.”
The “shoe gallery” directly behind the studio is a small area consisting of a whole variety of men’s and women’s shoes and boots filled with plants of all types. The students’ assignment is to fill a donated shoe with something living. Each reflects a bit of the former owner’s personality.
A metal spiral staircase leads up to the owner’s own creative workshop. A large outside terrace provides a panoramic view of Puerta del Diablo, a famous mountain, on one side and its town, including the 300-year old church, on the other side. It is a breathtaking view. Here the group of students sketch faces in the foreground of their sketchpads while incorporating this landscape into the background.
We continue to meander up and down the curved, hilly paths where art is etched into the rock and student chalk drawings adorn the side of a retaining wall giving every step a new visual experience. Stone sculptures and running fountains offer tranquility.
At the bottom of the property is an unexpected gift with a “WOW” factor. Located under a shaded pergola screen is a large photojournalism display. A huge cross-shaped fountain filled with fresh bougainvillea petals centers this series of black and white pieces hanging on the white walls. Each one makes a strong emotional statement. Each one beckons the viewer into the story behind the photo. Each one depicts a theme of human condition, often of endurance and hardship, but some of celebration. The expressions in the eyes of the subjects pull the viewer into the mystery behind each dramatic photo.
This enchanting working studio will continue to function long after its owner. He has arranged to leave it as a legacy gift to the youth of his community continuing to function without him.