Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Visas received

With a nod of thanks to the embassy and all the support received, visas were received. We and Bloomington will soon play host to some special friends from San Juan la Laguna, Guatemala.

The project is on! June 28-July 11th

Press Release

A vision by two local educators is about to be realized this summer when 15 students from Guatemala will arrive in Bloomington to co-create a mural with local students along the B-line trail. Nearly four years ago, Gracia Valliant and Sara Irvine made a trip to Guatemala, and while staying in the town of San Juan La Laguna, hatched a plan to create an exchange program between students in that town and Bloomington, Indiana. The group they formed, Art Across the Americas, is not only amazing in terms of their fund-raising successes (including many private donations, business sponsorships and a highly-coveted $29,000 Eli Lilly Travel grant), but for the fact that it is in reality a student-run organization. After fund raising in 2007-2008, the Bloomington students travelled last June to San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala last year and co-created a mural on the side of a textile shop alongside their Guatemalan peers. It was a bonding as well as educational experience, and they made a promise to the Guatemalan students to bring them to Bloomington in 2009 to paint another mural. Of course this has not been easy. Not only was the fundraising goal higher than last year, but passports visas for the 15 students and 6 chaperones was also a large task. With the fundraising so close and airline tickets on the rise, the group has decided to take the plunge and purchase the tickets. The Guatemalan students will be here for two weeks, June 28-July 11th. The group plans not only to make a great mural for all of Bloomington to enjoy, but to show our Guatemalan guests all the interesting things in Bloomington, including the Mather’s Museum, 4th of July fireworks and swimming at Lake Monroe and Bryan Park Pool. Art Across the Americas is still continuing to seek financial support. If you or your business are interested in contributing or underwriting Art Across the Americas, please contact Gracia Valliant at

To learn more about the Bloomington students’ trip to Guatemala last year, logon to

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Guatemalans have their day at the Embassy

Our friends from San Juan la Laguna met the Consul General at the US Embassy today, Tuesday, May 19. For many of them, the kids especially, this will have been their first trip outside San Juan. Going to the capital must have been a great adventure. In a few short weeks they embark on an even greater adventure, going further from home than (probably) anyone in their family, ever.

We feel positive the US embassy will grant the visas. Senator Lugar's office submitted a very supportive letter. Our contact in the office believes they will have little trouble getting visas. So, we are likely to welcome our friends to Bloomington!

Fundraising continues apace and everyone is engaged in preparation.

Inquiries and donations for the program can be sent to Gracia at

Radio piece and story on WFIU

Art Across the Americas was featured on Artworks, a show "examining the local arts and culture scene in southern and central Indiana."  The piece aired Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 7:00pm.

Visit the WFIU Web site to listen to the piece, read a short article and look at some pictures from the trip.  

Link to Artworks story

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The mural!


Jessica and Sarah

One of the most important aspects of the traditional Mayan way of life here is the clothing. The women we see daily are dressed in the most beautiful skirts and blouses we've ever seen! Each village has a textile pattern that is specific to the people who live there and the women do all of their own weaving. It seems as if the layers of skirts would be too hot or heavy, but they are actually quite useful and do not hinder the abilities of the women. We have gone to numerous markets and seen countless examples of handbags, skirts, jackets, quilts, scarves, table cloths and runners, shoes, etc. that are spectacularly woven and sold at prices much lower than those found in the states. We have even been able to learn how actual back-strap weaving is done and have had the opportunity to try for ourselves. It is funny how much we love and admire the work of the women of San Juan as well as the textiles they have worn and sold us. It will be very different returning home and not seeing the beautiful skirts and shawls that are everywhere here!

Being at the mural site

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
One of the best things about being in Guatemala is all of the kids that show up to help with the mural. Every time I´m up there, there are kids that I have never seen before and kids that have come everyday so far. We always have to make sure that we a lot of paper so that the kids can draw pictures. Every time we are there they all either want to help us paint on the mural or they want to draw pictures of us.

Domingo is a student that is always there and is always doing something to help us with the mural, where ever we go I always look over and he is always right there following us to where ever we arw going (somw of us call him the Guatemalan version of Daniel).

Elana is another kid that is there every day and she is best friends now with Mariza and I. She taught us a game that is in Spanish and it is like London Bridges and tug-of-war combined. It is really fun but every time we play it it seems like someone gets hurt.

Not only have they taught us some of their games but we have taught them ours as well. Sara (or Sarita as everyone calls her) had some "Uno" cards in Clifford (her backpack) so we taught the kid how to play when we ran out of paper. We also taught them "Down By the Banks" and a lot of them learned all the words.

It is really fun trying to talk to everyone and to try to understand them as well. The girls and the boys actions with each other are a lot different than how we act with each other back in Bloomington. You don´t see the girl with the boys or the boys with the girls it´s more like they stick with their own gender. I think that the kids are going to be the thing that I miss most when we go home.