A former 19th-century slaughterhouse in the Bolivian capital Cochabamba has been home to a unique mega-sized project since 2005: mARTadero – breeding ground for the arts. The project was initiated by the Spanish/Bolivian artist and architect Fernando García.
"After lengthy consultation, the Cochabamba municipal board gave us permission to use the deserted and dilapidated slaughterhouse complex, or matadero, for thirty years free of charge. At this time, mARTadero is the only example of industrial architecture being restored in Bolivia. The concept is also unique: mARTadero serves as a meeting place for artists and the people living in the neighbourhood," García explains. "In the beginning, it was difficult to win the neighbourhood's trust: contemporary art is considered strange and scary. Now, however, children, youngsters and adults participate in a variety of activities, including creative studios, environmental education, workshops and concerts. Working in a setting in which 'normal' people are also active is also inspiring for the artists."
García and his team were awarded a prize by MTV in Latin America for mARTadero's special mixture of artistic and socio-cultural activities in October 2007. In a country as divided as Bolivia is, he believes that art and culture are constructive tools in achieving social change and stimulating interaction between the various population groups. "I refer to myself as idealistic and super-realistic: to date the project has cost only $ 45,000. That not only makes it sustainable, but also places high demands on the small staff and many volunteers. We are doing everything we can to acquire the additional funds for five staff members. In the ideal situation, mARTadero would have 32 paid employees, but I am well aware that this is an unattainable dream for the time being," says García.
Brand new living, working and sleeping quarters are now being created for foreign artists. This is being done so that cultural exchange within mARTadero can be expanded. The Embassy of the Netherlands in La Paz contributed $ 15,000 to the construction of these studios. Interested artists can reside there for a small fee for a number of weeks or months. Every effort is being devoted to getting the studios opened soon.