Day 1 – 24.08.2017
A quieter start to the day today to enable me to do some work catch-up before travelling by bus (2-hour journey) to Valparaiso where Emma and I were to spend the next 2 days. (Nick was travelling to Antofagasta for the same period).
What an extraordinary city Valparaiso is. Set on 45 steep hills (Cerros), it’s a patchwork of colourful walls and houses in a dense jumble of tiny streets joined together by steps and pathways. Street art is everywhere. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
After we had booked into our hotel, Hotel Montealegre, we walked through the colourful streets down to the port and harbour. We climbed up numerous steps round yet more vibrant, dynamic and sometimes thought-provoking street art and then had lunch in a wonderful little restaurant with a balcony overlooking Valparaiso down to the harbour front. Musicians played as we dined!
We then went on to the Balmaceda Arte Joven centre in Valparaiso. The Chilean Government has hosted the Valparaiso Centre for many years. It is a great facility for youth arts practice of all kinds and has a colourful set of steps leading up to it which make it impossible to miss.
Here we met with Frederico Botto, the Regional Director, who I had last seen at the Artivista Symposium in Santiago. He introduced us to musician Lito Celis, who has led the Bandas del Laboratorio Pruduccion Musical – a programme of 9 youth music bands – for the last 2 years. Tonight was the start of the third year.
We sat in a room of some 40 young people, aged between 18 and 29, all of whom had auditioned to join the 14 week programme of musical development. Lito talked them through the programme indicating that he required complete commitment, that it was tough, that they would learn a lot and that they would work across all musical styles and genres. Groups from the programme would have incredible opportunities to compete for gigs, recordings and festival performances. It was clear that everyone in the room respected Lito (himself a versatile musician, teacher, recording artist and singer/songwriter) and, although it would be very demanding, that they were looking forward to the programme very much.
Lito asked me to say a few words to the group about Artswork and my impressions of Chile in terms of the arts. I spoke about some of the work Artswork does, particularly around apprenticeships and pre-employability work, including with care leavers, in and through the arts, and showed Chukie’s film.
After that, it was time for a swift pizza and back to Hotel Montealegre for bed!
Day 2 – 25.08.2017
We met up with Frederico this morning at the BAJ Centre and travelled 40 minutes by car, through the city of Vino del Mar, to the town of Quilpue and the Liceo (School) Artistico Guillermo Gronemeyer to meet with Lito, who was one of the music teachers there, and other colleagues. This school, one of a thousand schools in this region, is the only one which embedded music in every area of learning. Along with Lito, we were met by the Liceo’s Deputy Principal and their English teacher, and had a brief look at the English teacher’s classroom. Like the rest of the school, the young people had been facilitated to express themselves artistically through murals and ‘street art’.
Here I gave a presentation about Artswork, the importance of the arts to young people and the importance of music to both our creative industries and young people. There were about 30 young people in the room aged 14 to 17 – all keen musicians – and again, just like the group last night, encouraged to work with a range of instruments across music genres from Rock, to Cuban, to Samba. I spoke to the young people about the skills they were learning through music. One said, “With music we can get together no matter what the language”. We also spoke about communication skills, team skills, and listening – all useful for employment as well as for work in music-making.
After my presentation and discussion, several groups of young people played for us and we were in for quite a treat of styles. What was noticeable was the absolute commitment of the young people to their playing and to their groups. One of the music teachers worked with them, singing and playing drums.
We were then invited for lunch at a local restaurant where we discussed possibilities for next steps. A lot to think about!
Frederico then drove us back to the bus station at Valparaiso giving us much information about the area and the contrast between the relative richness of Vina del Mar and the relative poverty of Valparaiso (Vina del Mar has a very large and long standing opulent Casino), and I had the opportunity to feel the spray of the Pacific Ocean on my face!
And so back to Santiago where we ran into tremendous problems with the Metro and had to get off and walk and then finally get a taxi! Time for me to prepare for the next day (Saturday) and my very early rise for an excursion to The Andes (Embalse y Leso) in spite of what I feared was a cold coming on. Further excitement ahead!
This week, Artswork’s Chief Executive, Jane Bryant, is working in Chile – and blogging daily about her travels. Keep up with Jane on Twitter @JaneVBryant, and read her previous blogs at the links below