Guatemalan Art Expo Raises Funds, Awareness

Children's Artwork Up for Auction

By Sarah White
Wednesday, December 2, 2015

John Brown University students in Dr. Joe Walenciak’s “Community Development in Guatemala” class mounted and displayed over 40 pieces of artwork for the Guatemalan Children’s Art Expo on Nov. 14. In its eighth year, the expo raises money to provide for the basic needs of people living in poverty and gives JBU students hands-on community development experience.

The class partnered with Accion Urbana, a Guatemalan ministry that provides food and medical, educational and emergency support for people living in the Guatemala City. The dump covers 40 acres and is home to 11,000 people — 6,400 who are children. In late August Accion Urbana hosted an art event where single moms and children created all of the pieces of artwork that were on display at the expo. Walenciak delivered the artwork to the U.S. and his students took over the project.

“They mounted the artwork and prepared it for display and sale, including the names of the artist, a picture of each artist and their story,” said Walenciak. “The students also developed the concept for presenting the art and did all of the promotion and logistics.”

During the first hour of the expo, people walked through the gallery to read the artists’ stories and study their work. After the viewing, people were able to bid on the artwork or choose the ‘buy it now’ option, which for most pieces was $35.

Walenciak explained that when he developed this project he wanted to show his students the role they could have in shaping people’s perception of themselves, particularly the residents of the dump who often view themselves as worthless. “The expo can help these Guatemalan artists understand that they have gifts that they can use to help their family and their community,” he said.

Other humanitarian groups were also present at the Expo. OneLoom, a Northwest Arkansas business that generates incomes for villagers outside of Guatemala City, sold scarves, yoga straps and leather clutches made by Guatemalan women. The Supérate team from JBU’s Enactus, an organization that uses entrepreneurial projects to create change in communities, also sold various Guatemalan-made goods including bags, wallets, book markers, key chains and headbands. The group, led by Heydi Cucul, a JBU student from a Campur, Guatemala seeks to bring English education to Mayan villages in Guatemala.

The expo raised approximately $1,400 for the artists through the sale and donations. Walenciak said Accion Urbana will use the money for food, medical, educational and emergency needs of the people it serves in Guatemala.

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