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idiomArt: Expat project provides creative space that motivates and inspires Cuenca artists

The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.
— Mary Oliver

By Robert Bradley

I was both early and late.

I called Sara Coppler, co-founder of idiomArt, (5-92 Manuel Vega at Juan Jaramillo) last week to cancel an earlier appointment I had made with her. But, as I was feeling better, I thought I would make up for it by dropping in for a visit first thing Monday morning. We had arranged to sit down and chat a little later in the morning, so I took the opportunity to visit with one of the artists currently renting studio space. Perfect.

Susan Armstrong, artist-in-residence

Frances Knighton and her husband, Robert, are newcomers to Cuenca, having arrived in September from upstate New York. Frances and Robert are early retirees who moved here for the simplest of reasons: they were sick of snow, cold, and bugs.

The Knightons’ lives in Cuenca are not so different from those of other expats. They continue to home-school their daughter, reside in a comfortable home with all the accommodations they wanted, including fiber-optic internet that helps them keep up with family and friends in New York. However, there is one profound difference that Frances could not quite explain; she is now bursting with creative energy.

In the few months she has been in Cuenca, she is already gathering acclaim for her paintings, a medium she had not worked in before. Her furniture “makeovers” are truly astonishing; her sense of balance and contrast is of a quality most take years to attain. I asked her what she attributed to her newfound success, and she answered reflectively: “The best I can guess is that I have time to be at peace here. It was the oddest thing, from the very moment we arrived in Cuenca, I felt completely at home.”

Her time at idiomArt is no less enthralling. “The collaborative environment at idiomArt allows a freedom of expression I did not know I possessed. The creative energy that surrounds me here inspires and motivates me every day,” she said. “Being actively creative is a very important component in my life now. I owe a debt of gratitude to Sara and Kathy for creating an environment that is so positive and encouraging.”

The guiding light behind idiomArt is shared by its two directors.

Kathryn McCullough is an author, artist, former instructor at the University of Kentucky, and a contributor to Huffington Post. Sara Coppler taught drawing, drafting, and architectural design at the University of Kentucky, and worked for more than two decades in the fields of international development and poverty housing, much of it with Habitat for Humanity.

I asked Sara what idiomArt means to her. “This is our vehicle to attain Passion Mode,” she said. It shows.

idiomArt is built on the premise that everyone has a creative force. By forgoing the antiquated notions of who we are, it shines a light on individual energy as the artists explore ways and mediums to allow the creativity to spring forth.

One of the more popular workshops that captures Sara’s and Kathy’s vision is furniture “makeovers”. Not only do students create a lasting art piece, it is also a utilitarian object that can be used every day: art becomes a part of daily life.

Another series of workshops and classes are designed and taught by two of Cuenca’s finest artists, Maite Eusebio and Alberto Soriano, who are designing practical hands-on classes. They blend highly technical ability with a dreamlike reflective mood in a body of work that is perfectly suited to the high Andes. It is their intention to develop a gallery of their work at idiomArt and to continue to work collaboratively in developing a curriculum to satisfy the needs of Cuenca artists.

Well, not exactly here.

The success of idiomArt requires a larger venue with more light for painters, water and racks for fiber artists using dyes, and enough space for looms, spinning wheels sewing machines, and additional personal studio-space for a growing arts community.

An ideal site for them will include a small garret for personal use, be centrally located in the historic district, and of course, that will be pet friendly. Stairs are an issue as well. Many of the expat artists renting one of the 20 studios presently available are less than enthused with the notion of climbing more than a single flight of stairs or maneuvering around narrow passages. Sara and Kathy are looking diligently at all available options, with an eye toward a patrimonial property.

idiomArt is a beacon. It is a light guiding many in Cuenca’s art community. It is the finest example of the serendipitous nature of Cuenca where good things happen and dreams are realized.

Contact information:
idiomArt, 5-92 Manuel Vega y Juan Jaramillo, Cuenca
underthedomes.org/idiomArt
idiomrt@idiomArt on Facebook