A New Space for Free Art is Born in Bolivia

June 11, 2013


It is an initiative to promote local artist talent in El Alto.

World Bank

  • Young artists will have a place where to show their artworks.
  • The gallery is the outcome of “Arte Joven” (Young Art”) an initiative supported by the World Bank.
  • Eight pieces of the artwork winners “Arte Joven” will be exhibited at this cultural space, which was built in one of the poorest communities of Bolivia.

On La Paz’ streets it is increasingly common to look at diverse artistic expressions. There are more wall paintings, either more sculptures, or monuments, and there is also a group of poets  who called themselves “Acción Poética” (Poetic Action),  whose task is to assault public spaces writing down their verses on the walls.

At El Alto, a sparkling city of aymara migrants with a population of one million inhabitants, the situation is very different.  Nonetheless, from now on it will have the Free Art Gallery, the first open space that will exhibit large-scale artwork and that may be the beginning of a change in this great community located 15 minutes from La Paz.

With both a new architecture and artistic style for El Alto, this square is opened at the Nuevos Horizontes neighborhood.  The artwork constitutes the corollary of the Arte Joven initiative, that began as a contest in order to give an opportunity to the young artists.

Arte Joven was conceived as a contest to award economic incentives to the young painters and sculpturs, as well as training in workshops with artists of international trajectory.  But furthermore, the 8 winning artworks, (out of the 340 that were presented) were resized on large-scale, four sculptures and four paintings, and were placed in the gallery for permanent exhibition.

The World Bank’s team in Bolivia adopted the Arte Joven organisation as a participatory activity, and to promote the joint work, and along with the municipal government of El Alto and the company I3, the work began. In August 2012, during a working and solidarity journey a symbolic beginning was given to this  endeavor, when not only the inhabitants of Nuevos Horizontes but the World Bank’s personnel together and united, with shovels, picks, and wheelbarrows cleaned up the debris of the place.

For Faris Hadad-Zervos, the World Bank’s representantive in Bolivia who led the team, “the experience of sharing a working journey with neighbors and our families was a lesson of solidarity and fellowship, but above all this, it has made us feel very useful”.

" This is wonderful because it opens up the possibility to tell our children that art is one of the ways to education. It allows us to show them what kind of life they should have. We have never before figured out, that a square with artwork pieces would be built here.  "

Alfredo Cuba

Neighbor of Nuevos Horizontes

A Space for culture

The municipality of El Alto financed 75% of the gallery’s construction. The administrative duties were carried out by the I3 (through the CEDES Foundation) and the Bank’s officials in Bolivia have worked on other activities, among them, in the organization of an auction of more than 50 artwork pieces of connoted Bolivian artists for funds collection, as well as the contest broadcasting.

Nowadays the gallery is a reality, and it is a real proof that artwork can be on the streets and be valued by the neighbors. Tenths of workers, mainly women, have participated in its construction. Many of the women went to work for 9 months with their small children.

"This is wonderful because it opens up the possibility to tell our children that artwork is one of the ways to education.  It allows us to show them what kind of life they should have. We have never imagined before that a square with artwork pieces would be built here", expressed exited Alfredo Cuba, neighbor of Nuevos Horizontes.

It is a park that has a garden with flowers, a watering system, with power facilities to have the artwork illuminated, and what is most relevant, it is a space that the neighbors have taken as theirs looking forward to protecting it permanently.

We are very proud of this Project, this kind of initiatives generate bonds with the community which we want to reach, as the main goal of our presence in Bolivia”, affirmed Hadad-Zervos, during the opening act of the gallery.

Initiative to be followed

Reproductions will remain exhibited permanently at the open-air art gallery, which was built on an open space that was full of litter, and which has become a new space for socialization and recreation for almost 200.000 residents of the sector.

It has been a joint work promoted by the creativity and imagination of a selected team of the World Bank, who had the initiative to impulse the artwork through the existing young talents in the city of El Alto and in La Paz", said Edgar Patana, Mayor of the Municipality of El Alto.

Arte Joven has attracted the attention far beyond the borders of El Alto, and it intends to be replicated in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz.

The Arte Joven initiative took place with important partners and cooperators, such as the National Academy of Fine Arts (ANBA), the IDB, The German Embassy, The United States Embassy, Sol Bank, Bisa Insurance, the Foundation “Tú Estás Vivo de Viva” (“Your are Alive”), the Bolivian CEDES Foundation and the Mérida Romero Art Gallery.