My Croatian Baby
In 2014 I was invited by the City of Kastav to do an Art Exhibit and Cultural Exchange Program at the Holy Trinity Chapel Gallery for two weeks.
I was welcomed to this beautiful country by my dear friend superwoman Edina and amazing husband Zlatko and beautiful daughter Aya.
We drove from Zagreb to Kastav, listening to some Andean music, which made me feel right at home.
As soon as we arrived, we got to our little apartments and went straight to the Gallery to set up the exhibit.
The Trinity Chapel Gallery was beautiful with so much character and history. My jetlag disappeared once we started unpacking everything.
We had a wonderful lunch with the Mayor overlooking the Adriatic Sea and were looking forward to my opening that same night.
Opening night arrived, and not many people came. We were disappointed, but we were so tired that we just continued with the plan and enjoyed the rest of the evening.
I was a little bit worried. I was going to stay there for two weeks; I didn't speak the language and Edina, Zlatko little Aya had to return to Bosnia.
I was alone in Kastav. So, I asked my self: what do you do when you are alone in a foreign city? No language, no friends, no idea where you are! No worries- just go out.
That weekend, after my friends left, I ventured out. I walked all over this little city. I drank coffee like crazy, ate some great food and started to learn about my new home.
I looked so local that I started giving walking tours to another lost tourist from India. So I made my first friend.
Sunday afternoon, while I was enjoying my delicious coffee at the local coffee shop, a big man came over to my table to introduce himself. He had been taking pictures at my opening night. He seemed nice at the beginning, but as the conversation continued, he started to ask me strange questions, like who are you, who pays you, how much are they paying you for this exhibit? He started asking me why should the city pay for a foreign artist when there are so many local ones that can benefit instead. How can a little Ecuadorian-American woman-artist bring any anything significant to this city?
So, I understood the no-show at my exhibit and why he was taking pictures of the event. Instead of running away from this big man who seemed pretty upset at my stay in his city, I decided to continue with the conversation and understand what his problem with me was. So after the coffee, I guess he liked me because he gave me a tour of Kastav, and thanks to his knowledge, I learned it's great history.
Monday morning, I had a meeting with Mayor Lukanovic to discuss our plans for the next two weeks.
As part of the Art/Cultural exchange, I was to create an art project for the English speaking-kindergarten students at Vladimir Nazor.
When I started to develop this project, I wanted to teach the children the process of art creation, to create with intention and to learn about the world and other cultures.
I wanted to learn about Kastav through the kids. So I named the project "Cats of Kastav." The kids' artwork was going be at the Gallery during my closing ceremony and finally to make it a complete cultural exchange program, Vladimir Nazor students would do a skype call and exchange artwork with my nephew's elementary school, Newton-Lee Elementary School in Virginia to learn about kids in America, and for my nephew and his friends to learn about Kastav.
I was welcomed to this classroom by my now dear friend Kristina. Again, I was a foreigner in the room and had to tell these little children where I came from and why I was there. I introduced my self and told them I was an artist from Ecuador and lived in the US. I had a notebook with paintings of Quito by Guayasamin and showed them Quito through the eyes of an artist. They loved his art and wanted to learn more about Quito. They told me about Kastav, and together we walked to the Gallery to see my paintings and get some inspiration from the cats and Kastav's famous sites.
Those two weeks were fantastic. Working with those little kids changed my life. I found a new calling; I learned that I love to teach!
We worked hard for two weeks. I set up their painting at the Gallery and the big day came for the closing of the exhibit. That night, the Gallery was packed. Everyone came to celebrate the event! We had a full house and unforgettable memories.
We were co-creators of something beautiful!
So happy that everything happened the way it did.