In March of this year I went to Mexico for an Artist-in-Residence at Guapamacátaro in Michoacán. This 3 week residency fosters collaboration with local residents and the artists selected live in a 150 year old hacienda.
Alicia Marvan is the director of the residency and has opened up her family’s country home for the last 8 years to house artists and promote a cultural dialogue with the small agricultural community of the valley. I had applied a couple years prior with a project proposal that related to the importance of trees to the migrating monarch butterflies that come from the Great Lakes region of Canada and the US to this small patch of forest in the nearby hills. I applied again, only this time I had Natalie Biesel apply with me as a collaborative couple. We received word of our acceptance on October 1st of last year and were thrilled to begin the process of planning our trip and preparing our project.
We left early on March 1st and arrived in Oaxaca for a long weekend touring ruins, museums, restaurants, markets and the widest tree in the world, El Tule. (Want to see more? View my flickr set from Oaxaca here.)
We then rode two buses for 12 hours from Oaxaca to Mexico City and finally to Maravatío to arrive at the residency. In the small bus station we met the Canadian component of the residency. Millie Chen, Mary Anne Barkhouse, Sheila Ziman, and Gareth Lichty. Oh how little we knew at the time how amazingly talented and wonderful these people were! They had all made work with Alicia during a residency at the Tree Museum a few years before.
Once at the hacienda we met the remaining members of the residency that would soon become our family. Juan Diego Perez La Cruz from Venezuala, Caroline Doherty from Massachusetts, and Karla Hernando from Mexico.
There were dogs, horses, chickens, roosters, turkeys, cows, a roof dwelling cat, mice, and the occasional scorpion. The house sat just in front of a meandering stream lined with beautiful trees in a large flat valley between mountains. Every where else was dry like desert with patches of green fields watered by ingeniously designed irrigation ditches. And one kilometer away was a massive lagoon!
Alicia’s grandfather had built a small church in the front yard which was later donated to the local diocese and frequented by the locals on their MANY religious holidays. Just in front of that was a small school that split their schedule for the young ones in the morning and older children in the afternoon. That left plenty of time for the kids to run around playing soccer and seeing what the crazy artists were up to. Thankfully many of us needed their help.
Coming in Pt. 2: Monarch Butterfly Reserve, Mexican tree climbing, and the beginning of our art project…