One of the many things we love about Mexico is how art is central to the culture. From elaborate murals and public art displays, to ceremonial masks, handmade pottery, jewelry and more – everywhere you look is adorned with vibrant colors and patterns. Even simple homes and storefronts are expressions of art with their brightly painted walls and whimsical signs.
Mexico’s art scene is not just a feast for eyes but also for the ears. Music seems to emanate from every crack and corner, from mariachi bands playing in restaurants and on the beach, to banda and norteño music pumping from car stereos and house parties, to sexy salsa in the bars and nightclubs – music is everywhere in Mexico.
From a young age, Mexican children are encouraged to express their inner artist. Without fail, nearly every public event, park or museum we have visited in Tepic and Guadalajara (the capital cities of Nayarit and Jalisco, respectively) has had stations set up for kids to paint, draw or sculpt with clay.
Even in the tiny village of Chacala, art is alive for both children and adults. This town of only 400 permanent residents is home to some of the most accomplished artists in the region, and attracts dozens of international artists and musicians every year. A prime example of Chacala’s thriving art scene is the town’s annual Music and Art Festival, which recently took place in March.
This free, four-day festival is a showcase of local and international talent. This year’s musical lineup included jazz, salsa, and mariachi bands from Mexico, a techno DJ from Cuba, solo acoustic artists from the United States, and many more. The festival also featured musical performances by and for kids, including Maya and all her classmates! There was also an exhibition of local and international artists and daily art workshops for kids.
Exposing children to music and art is a central focus of the annual event. Funds raised by festival sponsors have helped support the hiring of a permanent music instructor for Chacala’s primary school, and also brought Kindermusik – an international music and movement program – to town for a weeklong workshop for local students prior to the festival.
We had an incredible time at the festival and were impressed with the level of talented musicians and artists that came to our tiny village for those four days. In fact, we are constantly impressed with the level of talented artists that show up here on a regular basis.
Just a month before the festival, Chacala hosted an artist in residence program, which brought in eight artists from the United States, France and Mexico for a week to create. At the end of the week, there was an exhibition of all their artwork, and we ended up buying an amazing painting of Chacala by Puerto Vallarta-based artist Ada Colorina. The exhibition was held at Chacala’s Los Arcos Gallery – a bright and cheery artist space that hosts artist exhibits every month throughout the winter. Since we’ve been in town, we’ve enjoyed exhibitions from painters, sculptors, and photographers from Mexico, Canada and the United States. Most of whom live here semi-permanently in the winter months.
One local artist and permanent resident is Miguel Perez. Perez is an accomplished lithographic and digital artist who is well known among the artist communities in the Mexican states of Nayarit and Jalisco, and in the Bay Area of California. He is largely responsible for putting Chacala on the map as an artist destination and for attracting other artists to create and exhibit here. He is also a wonderful mentor and inspiration for hobby artists like Brian, helping them to create and experiment in his printing workshop here in town.
Maya, too, has gotten much more in touch with her artistic side during her time here in Chacala. Her school, El Jardín Montessori Waldorf School, emphasizes art education. Since she has started school here, we’ve seen her drawings and paintings go from scribbles to recognizable objects and people, to her current craze of abstract expressions of animals. She regularly starts drawing with no intention of making anything in particular, and ends up creating all sorts of fantastic creatures like dragons, lions, birds and butterflies.
As for me, living in Chacala has inspired me to write more, and I’m doing as much of it as I can between all our time exploring the area, participating in community events, and hosting visitors. (Hence, why it’s been so long since my last blog post.) 🙂
Lucky for me, writing is also an art form that is celebrated in Chacala. Later this year, the town will host its first ever Literary Festival (website in development), which will include a writer-in-residence program, community book club, literary and storytelling workshops, and an industry retreat following Guadalajara’s International Book Fair.
So, if you need yet another reason to visit Chacala, come for the local art scene! And don’t miss next year’s Music and Art Festival which will take place March 9 – 12, 2017.
Here is a slideshow of our art encounters around Mexico!