‘One of a kind experience’: People connect with and learn about Colombian art, culture

Performer at VMFA's Art of Latin America Family Day. Photo by Andrew Hill

Ghailah Nyeanchi, Contributing Writer 

Underneath the glow of an orange spotlight, a dancer swirled her red and white skirt to a Colombian song while the audience clapped along to the rhythm. The crowd erupted in applause once the performance was finished. 

Dance Performances by the Latin Ballet of Virginia was one of the many presentations hosted by the Art of Latin America: Colombia Family Day event on Sept. 9 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. 

Celebrate the Art of Latin America Family Day began in 2011, according to Amy Peck, the senior public relations manager of the VMFA. The event was a combination of family-related programming and community partnership that encapsulated the diversity in the museum’s collection and in central Virginia.

“For this year’s ‘Celebrate the Art of Latin America: Colombia Family Day,’ we hope guests learn more about Colombian art and culture, connect with the community and explore all that VMFA has to offer,” Peck said. “We truly want to create educational and fun events where guests can learn, explore and celebrate.” 

People gathering at VMFA’s Art of Latin America Family Day. Photo by Andrew Hill

The event featured a multitude of art activities grounded in Colombian culture, according to the VMFA’s website. Stations where visitors could read more about the roots of their artwork as they created their pieces were organized inside and outside of the museum. 

“Visitors to our Family Day event can become artists for the day, exploring hands-on art activities that highlight the rich cultural traditions of Colombia, including themes of nature, music and history,” Peck said. 

The event also hosted Colombian artists local to the Richmond community. Alfonso Pérez Acosta, one of the participants at the event, created a collaborative artistic demonstration, according to the VMFA’s website

The piece was a map of Colombia, painted from coffee, with small coffee cups scattered around the country. The cups were artwork from various attendees, who drew in their illustrations with markers. 

“The idea from the beginning was to have an interactive piece where people could bring in their own energy,” Acosta said. 

Bold blue letters written in Spanish were in the middle of the maps.  

The phrase written, júblio inmortal, translates to immortal joy in English, according to Acosta. It’s an important part of the Colombian anthem and he wanted to bring that human element of connection and togetherness into his artwork. 

“It’s mainly about bringing people in, you know, their drawings and me, and the assistant volunteers and everybody placing it in a way that builds up to the actual event,” Acosta said. 

Acosta wanted to remove the fear and anxiety people experience at being imperfect when making art, he said. 

“It is not about perfection — it’s about trying new stuff, exploring new things and having fun,” Acosta said. 

Culture is more than just knowledge or information, Acosta said. It’s a sensation, it’s a feeling. Acosta hopes people understand that from this experience, he said. 

Acosta found it beautiful that the VMFA hosted an event about Colombian culture, he said. 

Emery Valasquez, an attendee at the event and a freshman high school student, agreed that it was a “beautiful” event. 

“It was a one of a kind experience, it was very educational,” Emery Valasquez said. “I know a lot more about Colombian culture than I did before.” 

Laura Valasquez, Emery’s mother, welcomed the opportunity to explore Colombian culture. 

“My husband and I are both South American, but my husband is from Colombia,” Laura Valasquez said. “I thought it would be a good place to connect with the culture and everything.”

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