Artists Reclaiming Xela
El Colectivo Andén is a community of local artists based in Xela which aspires to reclaim public spaces in the city in order to create multidisciplinary projects exploring art, history & social transformation in Guatemala. In March 2014 the Collective hosted the event “Homenaje al Ferrocarril de los Altos” as part of their Zona Intervenida project – an eclectic mix of art, dance, theatre & film in homage to Xela´s iconic railway station (now a Cultural & Sporting Centre). We recently caught up with Bonifaz Canelo, one of the founders of the collective & the project, to learn more…
XW: How did the Colective Andén & its Zona Intervenida iniative come about?
BC: Actually, first came Zona Intervenida, which was established in February 2013 with the vision of using spaces in the Centro Intercultural in order to film a process of artistic interventions there, highlighting its importance for the history of Guatemala & Xela (the Centro Intercultural was originally built in 1930 as the Ferrocarril the los Altos but it only lasted 3 short years as a railway station before it was closed. It then served as a regional military base for over 60 years). A group of artists from Guatemala, the United States, France, Spain & elsewhere came together to work on the project.
Colectivo Andén then came about as a result of the collective work that took place during this initiative.
XW: What are you hoping to bring to Xela with the Zona Intervenida project?
The main aim is to encourage artistic expression at the community level & to recognise the history, value & potential of such public spaces for art.
XW: How do you see the current situation for artists & the use of public spaces for art in Xela?
You could say that Xela is currently going through a relatively recent wave of new forms of cultural activity, reflected in the festivals, art exhibitions, music & dance fusions that we are seeing emerging throughout the city. The visual forms of art have especially been gaining an increasing amount of interest in Xela recently, and we have been seeing more & more of this kind of artistic creation.
There are so many great places that could be used for artistic & cultural activities in Xela; the problem is that the local government authorities don´t really do much to promote the use of such spaces for art or culture, and there needs to be more demand & interest from local residents in order to generate this support from the municipal authorities.
XW: What are the opportunities that exist in for art in Xela & what do we need to improve in order to better facilitate artistic expression in the city?
Xela is a place of opportunity, and this is not a new phenomenon. Throughout the history of Xela, art & culture have been reflected in several important figures for the country & for the world. I believe that art should focus more on the transformation of society for the greater good and for the harmony of the population: you have to let art be the channel through which we heal our wounds & strengthen our social fabric, and stop letting soulless entertainment from being the only artistic product that is accessible to the majority of the population. In Xela, there are many more interesting & constructive ways of passing your time than spending it in a shopping mall or watching TV!
XW: What more can we expect from Zona Intervenida & Colectivo Andén this year?
For Zona Intervenida we´re planning some public presentations & forums about themes such as history & memory of public spaces for art, & collective creative expression for the second half of the year.
In the Colectivo, we´re currently e focusing our efforts on strengthening the collective spirit and on innovating our artistic & creative products, such as the ones we offered during the Homenaje al Ferrocarril de Los Altos event.
Check out www.zonaintervenida.com or their Facebook page for updates.