Art Walks in Xela
by Alba Carrasco
Art walks are cultural expressions that are created with the aim of exploring urban spaces by linking them to specific topics under an experimental and educational approach. Exploring different urban areas whilst also reflecting on our relationship with public spaces, on social issues and then sharing these insights with others are just some of the ideas pursued by this initiative.
Following the methodology of “The Walk Exchange”, La Ciudad de la Imaginación held its first art walk within the framework of its Guatemala Después exhibition in collaboration with Sitio Seña, who are one of the artistic projects that will be presented at the exhibition. The Walk Exchange is an organization founded by artists and educators in New York who offer these kinds of creative and educational walks openly and freely for the public. They place an emphasis on the body as a means to produce and transmit knowledge, and since 2010 these initiatives have been organised in collaboration with a multitude of different organisations. In the words of one of its members “we walk to learn about spaces, ideas and about each one of us.”
The potential that our city of Quetzaltenango has to develop these types of activities is immense. On one hand, the fact that such activity is innovative, never before performed in Xela, opens up a world of possibilities to explore different social, political, cultural and historical aspects of the city with the use of critical readings and interpretations of art which can be carried out by diverse and heterogeneous groups of people, thereby facilitating educational, creative and touristic experiences for all involved.
We believe that one of the great potentials of this project will be its capacity to enable us to reflect on new approaches to issues that concern us as individuals and as a society. An urban art walk could be a tool that invites us to build autonomous knowledge right on the streets of Xela, helping to highlight the value of diverse experiences, knowledge and perspectives of the participants, who will play an active part in bringing these spaces to life with their imagination, role-playing skills and memory.
These kinds of urban walks aim to be creative expressions in and of themselves; collective artistic actions that connect a touch of spontaneity with dynamic research that can yield concrete results for the city and its inhabitants. Whether it´s through its gastronomy, historical memory, social dynamics or many of its other key features such as ethnicity, urbanism, sexuality and politics, Xela is a city that naturally lends itself to these kinds of culturally creative walks. Their experimental nature will allow these walks to be both serious and fun, waking new sensitivities in the participants to their everyday surroundings.
Ciudad de la Imaginación´s first experience using these artistic platforms came about through a collaboration with Sitio Seña, a collective project founded by a group of artists who wanted to reflect on migration through the symbolism transmitted in traditional weaving and textiles. Using a contemporary language, this symbolism evokes the experience of Guatemalan migrants en route to the United States. Walking to specific points in the city, the walk was used to symbolize the journey of a Guatemalan migrant in order to enable participants to be able to reflect on all the risks that such a journey entails. It was such a valuable experience that Ciudad de la Imaginación plans to continue using this platform of artistic urban walks in the future – so stay tuned for further updates: http://www. ciudadimaginacion.org