Colombia’s Cultural Initiatives – Notes from the Field
By Kyle Keefe
Earlier this year I traveled to Colombia, where I had the opportunity to visit a number of cities, museums and cultural sites. I encountered inspiring cultural initiatives and learned a great deal about the nature and character of Colombia’s cultural venues. Here are a few of my “notes from the field” for your reading pleasure.
I started my travels is Bogotá, the capital and largest city in Colombia. I was struck by the high number of visitors to museums and other cultural attractions, in particular the many families (from grandparents to babies) who visited museums in the capital together. The locals I spoke to agreed that museums are especially popular with families, who see them as a way to pass on histories and educate youth on the customs and traditions of the country and region. Needless to say, this is an invaluable role that museums around the world aspire to fulfill. The Museo de Botero (displaying the work of Fernando Botero, as well as the art of Picasso, Renoir, Dali, Monet and others), Museo Casa de la Moneda and the Coleccion De Arte Banco De La Republica Bogotá are located on the same campus and are free to the public. Collectively, the museums have a wide spectrum of objects and artworks. I was struck by some of the very powerful political artwork exhibited in the contemporary galleries of the Museo de Botero. These priceless resources will benefit from further growth and program development in the future.
Another must-see for me was the Museo del Oro, a fantastic state-of-the-art museum with engaging exhibitions and a large collection of pre-Spanish works. The museum has an activity center geared toward young people that features technology and encourages interaction with visitors.
The city of Medellín, northwest of Bogotá, has undergone a radical transformation over the past three decades. Home to the drug Lord Pablo Escobar and the “Medellín Cartel”, Medellín was once considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. The Cartel disbanded in the 1990s, and the city has since become a thriving industrial and cultural center.The Jardín Botánico de Medellín was one of my favourite stops in this city, and contains species native to Columbia and South America. The new orchid garden features a distinct, architecturally intriguing structure (pictured in the photo here). The gardens also house several amenities including an upscale restaurant, outdoor café and an outdoor performance space.
Medellín has more than 40 art galleries, and is known as one of the most environmentally conscious cities in South America (in fact many Latin American cities appear to be ahead of the global curve in terms of environmental action.) Many of the city’s new buildings and structures including the sports coliseum and the metrocable line are built to be environmentally sustainable. Recycling and compost bins are also located on street corners. Medellín was one of the first cities to connect underprivileged communities located in Medellín’s hillsides to the larger metropolitan area through a series of metrocable trams. The metrocable makes transportation more democratic throughout the City and has acted as a catalyst for the development of community centers and libraries. A video describing the system can be accessed here:
I travelled to several cities and towns throughout Colombia, and to my mind Bogotá and Medellín seem to be making the biggest strides at the moment in terms of culture, quality of life and modernization. Please leave a comment if you have any further insights on these two centers or on any other communities in Colombia – we’d love to hear your opinion!
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It has been years since I traveled outside the US. I was especially impressed with the blog on Colombia. We hear so much bad news all the time about drugs and violence there. How enlightening this little visit to your world has been. I live in Kansas City, really a very beautiful place with a growing scene in the arts — all of them. We are especially proud of our new performing arts center and the addition to the Nelson Museum. BUT, we don’t seem to be able to stop the sprawl and build decent modern transit. Thank you. We could well emulate the transit system in Bogota.
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