Text and photos by John Keeble
Great dreams often founder on practicalities.They can be starved by everyday difficulties such as lack of space and stimulating interactions.
Cuenca is rich in talented people who aspire to express themselves with visual arts or writing but many may be frustrated by not having sufficient space, guidance or community interaction for their creativity to blossom.
A new centre has set out to remedy that – IdiomART Studio opened Wednesday for those interested in the visual arts and writing.
The studio, at 5-92 Manuel Vega y Juan Jaramillo, kicked off with six free workshops – three on visual arts, led by three well-known artists, and three on writing, led by local writers. Among the opening day visitors who dropped in was Cuenca’s acclaimed ceramic artist Eduardo Segovia.
IdiomART is the brainchild of artist and writer Kathryn McCullough and her partner, Sara Coppler, a social projects specialist with worldwide experience.
“We are offering affordable creative space, access to which you can purchase like a gym membership, by the year, by the month or even the week,” said McCullough.
IdiomART’s mission is to help those with a creative spirit to achieve their writing or art potential. Experienced members can work as they choose, developing their projects and storing their materials at the centre; and beginners will be encouraged and helped to build their confidence and skills.
The centre is sponsoring events such as workshops, art talks, literary readings, book launches, and exhibits. McCullough and Coppler also intend idiomART to become a place of stimulating interaction where members can meet other creative people, have a cup of coffee, and discuss their ideas with like-minded artists.
One of those attending workshops yesterday was Laura Inks Bodine, co-founder of Fishbondel Sur. She split her time between poetry and a visual arts workshop.
“This project is inspirational,” she said. “You can dip your toes into different opportunities. I have had a terrific day with so many people who want to be creative.”
Although the project is likely to appeal immediately to older gringos living in Cuenca, McCullough and Coppler already have sponsors for two year-long scholarships for talented Ecuadorians in need of a place to work. Later, said Coppler, the project will pursue other ways to involve Ecuadorians.
A third audience of potential users are visitors to Cuenca, whether they need somewhere to work for a few months or just a few days to meet like-minded people in their own areas of interest.
The centre is housed in a corner house and its arc of windows afford a light area for the visual arts; and other rooms towards the back have the peace needed by writers. A comfortable lounge area invites cozy discussions and several of the walls are covered in heavy mesh for hanging members’ work. And there is always coffee in the kitchen.
The studio is open Monday through Friday, with weekends reserved for special events
Members are entitled to use the centre as they like – as a place to work, a place to meet others, a place to attend events (some paid), and a place to relax and think.
“It’s fabulous for people interested in art,” said Magy Peña, a Cuenca artist who paints and makes art items from everyday objects like plastic bottles. “It’s like an arts festival – that’s why it is fun.” For beginners, she added, it can draw out creativity.
The ethos of the centre, according to its founders, is one of encouragement and stimulation. Workshops, seminars and talks are planned for the next few months, including a furniture workshop, a photography seminar, and a session on making Christmas art using trash (“trash to treasure” is a McCullough specialty).
The project has been made possible by a GoFundMe appeal which has raised $2,000 to meet costs, and by gifts including a microwave, sofa, stools and art materials.
“The reaction has been very enthusiastic,” said McCullough. “We want people to feel they own the centre – if they think of it as their own, then we will know it’s successful.”
Membership fees are $20 for a week, $60 for a month, and $400 for a year. Memberships available through the GoFundMe page – https://www.gofundme.com/