Walking, mapping, opening doors

Versión en español

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Connection Calvario-Hatillo town centre

An essential condition for a sustainable city is that it can be walked around comfortably and safely.  That it should be accesible to all.  Another is that it should be mixed, not only in it’s uses -residential, offices, public spaces and features-, but socially as well.  Another condition? To achieve a balance with whatever natural features still exist: water courses, green spaces, trees, biological diversity. Even though it sounds obvious the air must be clean to be able to breath properly! But also in a metaphorical sense, what is on offer should be so diverse that you just want to be there, day or night. That ‘habitability’ leads us to an additional wish: it must be enjoyable.

With that wish and those ideas we carried out a series of eight workshops in November of 2018 with 4th, 5th and 6th grade children from the municipal schools Maria May (in El Calvario) and Juan Manuel Cajigal (El Hatillo town centre).  We made walking tours and large collective maps with each group.  We “opened doors” to connect with the city, the one we have now and the one we’d like for tomorrow.  Why do we do this with children? Because they’re fundamental participants in urban transformation, to make it more integrated and fair.  It’s a learning process that begins with awakening that sensibility and stimulating empowerment.

Walking, mapping, opening doors is the latest MAPEA project, a group that was brought together by Natalya Critchley -a British artist resident in Venezuela for more than 30 years-. The first was the exhibition San Agustin del Sur Tourism Office in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Caracas in 2015, where we established a methodology that combined several verbs: to walk, to feel, to reflect upon, to map out, to act upon.  A visual project with children and adolescents from local schools connecting them with cultural centres with which unexplainably there is no connection.

On this occasion a bridge was established between school and gallery, and also between the barrio and the town centre. And a connection with a cultural milestone that is now four years old, El Calvario open doors. This exhibition, as in the previous ones organised by Natalya and MAPEA, is part of a call to attention for recognition of our barrios -that house a little more than half of the Caracas population in just a quarter of the urban territory- as a fundamental part of the city.

In these shapes and lines we can appreciate the sinuous contours or grids of the city in the same painting.  The contained and the overflowing.  The greenness, splashing everywhere. Behind the painterly beauty of these maps, where individual effort is part of the group energy -just as in the city-, it leaves us with an experience that begs the question: if most of us move around on foot, why is the space for vehicles so wide and so narrow for pedestrians?  Why do most of the pedestrian crossings not have ramps?  Why do we leave the wild vegetation to grow without paying any attention to it to then hack it back, why can’t we treat it as a garden?  Why don’t the barrios appear on our maps most of the time? Why are so many parks closed?  Why isn’t the city more like a permanent place of study for schools?  Why do we live so shut away indoors?

This small exhibition -this intense immersive experience- spills out from the container/gallery and will share the spotlight with the streets of El Calvario this December 22nd, as part of the 4th edition of El Calvario Open Doors. Each map blazons it’s individuality – that which is unrepeatable, but they all ‘breath’ a similar air to Natalya’s own work,  who as the generator of this project appears in a subtle way in these shapes, textures and colours.  A subtle landscape that invites us to walk through it with our gaze and see the city through new eyes.

Workshops: Natalya Critchley, Cheo Carvajal, Monica Santander, Yoandy Medina  

Video: Andres Catalano 

Graphic design: Diana Chollett

Exhibition design and hanging: MAPEA, Edgar Marquez, Franklin Garcia


4 thoughts on “Walking, mapping, opening doors

  1. Natalya, I have really enjoyed watching your videos of the young people creating large, colourful and inspiring paintings based on their environment in Caracas. It’s heartwarming to see such positivity and to feel the enthusiasm of all those involved. I am a great believer in the social and moral inclusivity of art, its ability to unite and empower individuals and groups to make change. The images are appealing on many levels and I am very aware of the significance your work must have on those youngsters. I’ve been so saddened to hear about the changes in Venezuela but your projects encourage belief in a hopeful future.


  2. Natalya, It is quite extraordinary that I received this link today when you wrote to me about Central Asia. What you have done – are doing – with the children and the community – is extraordinary and so life affirming, particularly in this current state of affairs. I will share this with colleagues and hope we will eventually meet. Kudos all!


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