Making recycled hand-made paper at Laguna de Apoyo’s Peace Project

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Spartacous Cacao is a 36-year-old visual artist from California who moved to Central America in 2009 seeking inspiration for his work in a new environment. His paintings have been photographed by Getty Images and he has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in Latin America focused primarily on expressionist figurative painting and printmaking the artist is also familiar sculpture and land art works.

When I first came to Nicaragua from El Salvador, little did I realize then that I would start up an art studio and make hand-made paper in the Laguna de Apoyo.

93623b9fc623418fd1ca757bf1eff019The journey began in November 2013, while I was living and working in Alegria, a village on a Volcano in El Salvador. A proposal I had sent in to do a print-making workshop in Casa de los Tres Mundos (C3M), Granada had been accepted.  Soon I was in Granada with all its romanticism and colorful history.  I was honored to be giving a workshop at C3M with one of the best collections of etchings and relief prints in Nicaragua.

Soon after that I was invited to the Laguna de Apoyo by one of the young artists at Taller Grafico La Sirena in the C3M. Arriving at the laguna that evening I was delighted to see a place I had only dreamed of: clean water, lush vegetation and the sound of monkeys.  It was another world, and I knew I had to come back to this place.

After a few months I returned to the laguna. Then I came upon a sign that said PEACE PROJECT www.thepeaceprojectnicaragua.org.  I decided to visit, and was soon introduced to the program, which focuses upon English and computer classes for local children.

At the same time,   there was an art component which was being encouraged by Alison Wiklund,  www.alisonwiklund.com a Finnish artist who was also working in Malawi Africa with another sister organization called HEEED (Health Education, Environment and Economic Development) The goal was to make artistic recycle paper products that would provide sustainable jobs and income for PP.

IMG_0046So after some lively discussion, I was presented with the challenge of recreating a similar model here in the Laguna de Apoyo. I took up the offer with glee and recognized a great opportunity to develop a strong art program.  There was the political will and some funding to do it with the Granada Rotary Club being one of the main collaborators.

I was shown a small dusty storage room.  Little by little, I began in February to convert this space into an art studio, while giving classes to the children and building the hand-made paper program. Now, 9 months later, the paper-making program has developed by using local fibers such as banana stems and even dried algae mixed with waste paper.  From these recycled sheets, we were able to print many etchings and woodcut prints, as well as framed one-of-a-kind art- works.

The local children have played a large role in this activity, while learning different skills.    Art classes are given weekly at PP and at schools above the crater rim. My Galanes school class-room has a few aluminum zinc panels which function as a roof and two aluminum zinc panel for walls, while during the recent rainy season – a stream of mud flowed under the desks. But this did not deter the children, who are absorbed in drawing, shading, coloring and learning to make art.

More recently, in late October, PP organized a stimulating field- trip to Fundacion Ortiz Guardian Centro de Arte in Leon, which houses a remarkable collection of Latin American art.  The group included about 35 children, most of whom had never set foot in a museum.

At the same time, I continue to produce my personal art-work, trying to find a way to integrate this with PP, as well as activities with the children.  This is a challenge but well worth seeing the impact on all concerned. Indeed, I could go and on, but you have to see this for yourself!

While the goal of PP Art Program is to be sustainable the greatest challenge now is marketing, selling our hand-made paper, as well as the art-work. However, we aim to achieve this sometime early 2015.

Yes, there are many stories coming from the Laguna de Apoyo, beautiful people living there along with the crisp waves reflecting the sunshine of paradise at The Peace Project Hostel!  Please check out our web site and, for more info – link to The Hand-made Paper Project.

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