I had met several of them 2 years ago when I was invited to Honduras via the US Embassy in Honduras to collaborate with the Arte de Las Calles Collective.
After a few minutes of catching up and sharing good vibes with each other – I asked them all to form a circle so we could discuss the project at hand.
“I know we all want to go out and paint and meet up with the local Costa Rican artists – I would love that too and we will – but at this moment we all need to focus on one thing – the reason why we were all invited to come; to share good, positive and creative information with the youth that is jailed in Centro Penal Zurqui and offer them a lot of patience and love. We’ve all have received goodness - now its our time – our turn to give goodness and we will give to them.”
Seimer from Guatemala who represents the Guate Graff Crew asked, “ Do you have a an idea of what we are going to paint and who will paint what?”
I then continued to say “ Good question, allow me to explain - I understand that we are all teachers and or professional artists but for this particular project, I ask you all with a humble heart - to please have trust and flexibility in me - for this project – there is a methodology at hand that has proven positive results in previous projects and it will do the same here – I do need your help and your backing because the youth here needs a lot of attention and love.”
“Say no more brother, we all got your back – lets go in there with all we got.” Seimer said.
We went into that juvenile penitentiary carrying within us all the right tools – brotherhood, love, unity and joy.
Once we were in the conference room and all the youth were brought in by the guards, Our good friend and brother MC Ko-Co opened the circle with a strong and positive flow of words. He rapped and shared abundance of energy that everyone in that room felt. Every hour and every day after that, the youths’ hearts began to thaw from the crystallization their hearts carried.
There were moments that we had to really turn up the volume to our patience and flexibility due to so many moving parts to the project, but for the most part we sailed in a sea of positivity and everybody kept strong.
At the end of the project, I made it a point to ask everybody involved in the project to share with me how they felt and if there was anything that had moved them spiritually and mentally. Everybody including myself shared that it was a very strong experience – that there was a lot of good things that came out of it. “So much reflection upon seeing the youth in this place and its made me go into deep and inner observation.” my friend Cas said. I’m leaving this place a changed man – a better man.” Cas said as he took a sip of his beverage and stared into the future.
In the beginning the youth were closed off – the room felt cold, they had a strong wall created in each one of their beings. By the end of the project – we (the artists, teachers and program organizers) received hugs, warmth and positive words from the youth. They invited and encouraged us to go back and visit them soon.
I am grateful to Beverly Thacker from the US Embassy in Costa Rica who suggested the idea from the beginning of the planning stages to make the project be a true impact in society and invite artists from all around Central America to participate in it.
We worked as a group as brothers and sisters to give the youth at Centro Penal Zurqui the attention and love they need and deserve as their right of birth.
Thank you Seimer and Dhero from Guatemala - Thank you Cass and Arito from Panama – Thank you Mario and Malu from El Salvador – Thank you Crow and Icon from Nicaragua – Thank you Rapaz and MC Ko-Co from Honduras and Thank you Yiyo, Pucho and Roy from Costa Rica.
You were the perfect group of artists to collaborate with to make this project a success and we did. Thank YOU.
Much love and gratitude to the US Embassy in Costa Rica – Beverly Thacker, Gabriela Bolaños, Carlitos, Laura, Juan Ca, Perro y Luis – Thank you.
Much love and gratitude to Gina Marin – Arte por la Paz, Vice-Ministerio por la Paz, Vice-Ministerio de Educacion y Justicia and all the art teachers that volunteered their valuable time to part-take in the project.
Much love and gratitude to Randi, Dean Killian and friends for adding so much to the project via their financial support for Yiyo, Pucho and Roy – phenomenal artists from San Ramon, Costa Rica and documentation of the project.
Much love and gratitude to FIA – Festival Internacional de las Artes for their grand support, caring and hospitality.
Thank you all and the rest of the other people and groups for making this happen. I am honored to have been selected to be a part of this bold and ambitious project – I would not change a thing – I go home feeling energetic, strong and propelled to continue my body of work globally. Thank You.
This mural is painted on the exterior wall of their jail cells.
Photo Credit: MC Ko-co