Dear Joanne and Fouad:

We finally held our mural paining marathon Sunday morning. We had to struggle with the lack of funding up until the end, but managed to put on an extremely successful show. Frankly, words are not enough, so I'll wait until we can put together the pictures - I don't have them yet, the Museum has their own photographer, which is very, very cool because the pictures will have good quality.

We had around 160 kids present. But as i told you, the place where the museum is enclaved is surrounded by slums, so we had a floating population of approximately 100 more, who came to take part of the additional amenities. The press was absent, only because they are always absent from that tooo far out place. But I will take care of that with the murals on hand. Quite a few kids from the workshops could not make it in the end, but we incorporated kids from the communities working with the Museum - they have been working with the communities for ages and doing an excellent work. In any case, even if some of the kids couldn't make it to the marathon, the workshops were absolutely excellent. So any way you look at it it's a success!

In the end we worked 12 absolutely stunning murals - pictures to come later, we will set up a webpage to post them. We also had a day plenty of activities for the kids and managed to put together a sandwich, a few drinks, some ice water and offer them a decent something to eat - that in itself was really funny. The Museum staff prepared 350 sandwiches and they all went. I was handing them out and it was really funny to see the same little faces coming for more - I'd ask, didn't I give you one already? and their shy faces would say no, so with a smile I kindly offered another one and as many as they would take, happy to know at least that night they would have gone to bed with a full stomach.

We managed to have someone recording the event - my husband had to leave at the last minute - and if I can find some extra funding mainly to pay this guy for his wonderful work, we will put together a micro documentary (15 min) telling our story, which very much deserves to be told. We had an amazing choral group from a local school, whose voices are just angelical, we had two "cuenta cuentos" (story tellers), a hip-hop group and a master of ceremony. We also managed to get four buses from the military - which is exactly the work they should be doing, it's always nice to work with the armed forces and their group of volunteers. It all worked really well, since the kids were entertained while the very serious ones were busy drawing and painting. They all had a great time, absolutely loved the idea and would repeat it any time.

All the organizations involved gained quite an insight on how to put together a collaborative effort. Best of all, I was able and in charge to lead the show, which allowed me to skip all protocol - believe me, that's a big deal here - and immediately thanked all the right people: the creator - and I purposely used that word to include all religions) for allowing us to have a gorgeous day in the midst of a tropical storm, the kids, whom I called artists, my friend who served as first contact with the Fundaribas Foundation, the coordinators from the two foundations involved, the absolutely wonderful teachers and facilitators, the parents, the volunteers, the maintenance staff and the bus drivers.

Very positive things were accomplished: two institutions which normally would not work together, did and they are engaging into a long lasting cooperation by instituting art therapy for the kids under treatment for drug use, and for the little ones who attend prevention classes. Kids who normally would not go to a Museum, had a great time there painting. Our beloved friend Domingo de Lucía (owner of the company that produces the paint we used) donated 40 art kits for 40 children who participated in the project to attend art classes at the museum. Another organization called Young Artists, decided to offer mural sessions as part of their teachings, and the director of the museum offered to exhibit the murals once he saw the work - there was no room for this before because the activities of the museum had packed the agenda. And the schools associated to UNESCO will include this activity as part of their regular activities planned for next year. In all, an amazing array of beautiful things happening in so little a time ( 4 months) and almost no resources. Just imagine what we could do if there was funding!

I am very pleased with the results. The Art Miles project in Venezuela was all about cooperation, solidarity and unity and the mission was beautifully accomplished. I have to thank my friend Dianne Rogers for bringing this beautiful idea to my attention and all the wonderful people, including my kids and husband, for believing in the project and encouraging me to go through at all times. The Art Miles Project is up and running. We already have a lot of people interested in following my steps and I believe I already have the right person for filling in my shoes. I will continue to be involved as board director while I am in Canada, and will try to do our first show there.

So this is our story, I hope other people with no funding will be inspired and continue to work. The end result is just SOOOO MUCH WORTH IT!

Leonor Alvarado-Splinter, B.SSc, MA
Directora Ejecutiva/Executive Director
Fundación Curiara para el Desarrollo Sostenible/Curiara Foundation for Sustainable Development

View ArtMiles Venezuela july 16 2006