Edwin is busy painting a bottle on a large sheet of white paper. He is calm and concentrated and, as his teachers explain, reinterpreting the reality of the bottle to paint it in two dimensions. He is surrounded by a happy group of 6-11 years old boys and girls, all busy painting gardens, families, animals and scenes from everyday life. The students are learning painting in a beautiful and bright learning space as part of the Infantilarte (children and art) program of Casa Tres Mundos, a cultural centre and music and art school in the heart of colonial Granada (Nicaragua).
Edwin Enrique Gutierrez, 21 years old, is actively engaged in the Casa Tres Mundos arts school. For the past three years, he has taken drawing and painting classes three afternoons a week. Edwin is very happy to come to Casa Tres Mundos where his nickname is Picasso. His mother Blanca accompanies him to class and explains that he has learned a lot during the past three years, is well accepted by fellow students and is always very happy to come to art class.
Edwin lists the names of his adult class teachers who have become his friends and his favorite things to draw (fruit, church, pitcher). While he is registered with the adult class open to students ages 12-90, he can join the children’s class led by Ligia Sandini if he wants to. Edwin clearly signs his name at the bottom of his painting and states that he wants to learn more at Tres Mundos.
Art and music are not part of the regular curriculum in public and private schools in Nicaragua. The large majority of students in Nicaragua never have the opportunity to study and learn painting, drawing, singing or how to play an instrument. Casa Tres Mundos offers affordable (100 cordobas or just over $3 per month) art classes in drawing and painting to children, youth and adults from Granada and surrounding communities. Drawing classes cover four techniques – charcoal, dry pastel, pencil, oil pastel – whereas painting classes teach how to use watercolour and acrylic. For the adult class, three teachers provide individualised advice to students so they can improve their skills: Robert Barberena, Adan Gonzalez and Jamir Mejia. These three dedicated teachers give their time on a volunteer basis; however, they can use the space to paint and can earn income from selling paintings in the art gallery adjacent to the art school. The art adult class began in January and graduated twenty students in November. Some students come from as far as Masaya or Catarina to participate in art classes at Tres Mundos.
According to teacher Robert, art classes have helped Edwin become more open and social. Drawing and painting seem to act as a healthy therapy that contributes to Edwin’s wellbeing. Edwin is known for following his creative sense and his unique view of the world; he reinterprets reality as he sees it and does not follow the trends set by fellow students.
Edwin is indeed a unique art student and embodies the mission of Casa Tres Mundos: Culture for all. There are no barriers to learning art and music. As teacher Robert explains, all who wish to learn are welcome and every student becomes part of the visual arts family of Casa Tres Mundos.
Odette Langlais, volunteer, Friends of Casa Tres Mundos, November 2017
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