At SVA, summer as a season may still be with us, but summer as a concept is long gone: New students have arrived, classes have begun and returning students are catching up with their peers and faculty about what they did over the long break. MFA Fine Arts student Guido Garaycochea has an especially interesting story to tell. His summer job this year? Cultural envoy for the U.S. Embassy in Honduras.
The embassy invited Garaycochea to Honduras for a two-week visit this past June. While there, he led workshops at local art schools in the country’s capital, Tegucigalpa, and in its next-largest city, San Pedro Sula. He also lectured on his own work, served as a juror for the 24th annual Art Biennale of Central America and the Caribbean, and met with Honduran academics, artists and officials to discuss his experiences as a working artist and educator (Garaycochea has taught art at colleges in Chile and Connecticut). It was a schedule so “absolutely nonstop,” he says, that there was no time for sight-seeing—a pity, as he’d been curious about the region’s Mayan heritage. On the plus side, though, the weather wasn’t as sticky as he’d feared. In fact, the climate, along with the culture and local Spanish dialect, reminded him much of Peru, where he was born and raised.
Garaycochea was asked to be an envoy because of his artistic accomplishments—he has been showing his work internationally since 1989—and for his long history of arts advocacy and social activism. For the past several years, he has volunteered as an art teacher at Connecticut’s York Correctional Facility (“for those two hours [of art instruction], the inmates are free,” he says), and in 2001 he co-founded Expressiones, a nonprofit art gallery, studio and educational space in his hometown of New London, Connecticut. Expressiones offers arts programs to children and adults in low-income households and provides residencies for established artists from all over Central and South America. The center’s mission is not far off from Garaycochea’s role as envoy: to promote a greater appreciation for Latin American art and culture in the U.S., and to promote the opportunities and resources available in his adopted country to Latin Americans.
Now that he’s back in his on-campus studio at SVA, Garaycochea is preparing a few paintings for two upcoming exhibitions: “One Language is Never Enough: Latino Artists in Southern New England,” on view at the Fitchburg Art Museum from September 21 through January 4, 2015, and “Intersecting Post Modernities: Latin American Art,” which debuts at Expressiones on October 3. He’s also begun thinking about his thesis project. The topic will be “pain,” he says. “It cuts across cultures.”
Images, top to bottom: Garaycochea speaks at a press conference at the Instituto Hondureño de Cultura Interamericana, a cultural center supported by the U.S. Embassy; Garaycochea with Honduran students at one of his workshops; Guido Garaycochea, Manhattan, 2013, mixed media on wood panel, 92 x 84″. Photographs courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Honduras; artwork courtesy of Guido Garaycochea.