On her daily walk to gather firewood, a Mayan woman was drawn to a colorful display of yarn and papers woven through the heart of the community forest. The first public art installation in Xolsacmalja, Totonicapán, Guatemala had been created by her neighbors’ children and ArtCorps Artist Isabel Carrio as part of the Reforestation Day (May 28th) celebration.
On a blindfolded walk through the forest, their secondary senses discovered textures and sounds. During another workshop session, each child chose a tree to support and protect, picking a name for the tree and giving it long hugs to feel its smell and temperature. They took abstract photographs looking at nature through the lens of forms and composition.
They explored the concept: “If I cut down a tree, it will be because I want to do with the wood something that I really need or want for my development.” The kids mentioned things like: a marimba, a guitar, a chess game, a canoe, a table, a book. Then they painted watercolors of these needs and wrote stories about them.
For the installation, the group chose an area in the forest with a barren stump surrounded by tall trees. They decided to build a tent for the dead tree by weaving together strands of thread hanging from the living trees.
“What is missing when we cut the trees?” Shade, food for the squirrels and other forest animals, a place for birds to nest, oxygen, rain, beauty, a space for play and recreation, medicine, etc. All of these words were hung from the thread tent, creating a playful space–a “tribute to the stump.”
Isabel explains her passion for public art: “I believe in the power of surprises. In these communities every day is kind of the same, so walking into a public art installation in the forest draws people in and is transformative.”
This project is being carried out in partnership with EcoLogic Development Fund.
Tags: Art for Social Action, art for social change, ArtCorps, ArtCorps Artist Isabel Carrio, children, creativity, Ecologic Development Fund, environmental education, forest, Guatemala, painting, photography, public art, senses, storytelling, Youth Leaders in Conservation