This past spring, food giant Goya partnered with BRIC to generously sponsor the exhibition, Bordering the Imaginary: Art from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Their Diasporas. In conjunction with sponsorship of the show and as part of the company’s Goya Gives initiative, the popular food label proposed working with BRIC to facilitate an artist residency at the Orfanato Niños de Cristo orphanage in La Romana, located in the Dominican Republic, and founded by Henry Cardenas and Marc Anthony of the Maestro Cares Foundation. Bordering the Imaginary exhibition artist iliana emilia garcía was selected to travel to the Dominican Republic to provide a series of art workshops at the orphanage. BRIC's Contemporary Art Program Manager Sol Nova accompanied garcía on the trip, and helped out with the workshops she provided to 25 orphaned kids interested in art, ages 10-18. Here, Sol talks about the trip and her experience helping the youngsters at Orfanato Niños de Cristo create art.
As a second project, iliana wanted the kids to take a closer look at their surroundings. She introduced them to the work of famed African-American artist Jacob Lawrence—known for his modern depictions of everyday life—to provide them with inspiration. They walked around the orphanage grounds and documented their various spaces—such as the dining room, baseball field, basketball court, laundry room, library, and garden. After this exercise, we taught them printmaking—a media and technique they had never used before. It was a bit messy at first but they quickly got the hang of it. We ended up leaving all of the supplies there for them to do some printmaking on their own, with a few of the older kids left in charge.
On the first day of the Artist Residency at Orfanato Niños de Cristo, iliana introduced the kids to the styles of a variety of famous artists such as Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald, Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, Chuck Close, Vincent Van Gogh, and Andy Warhol, among others, in order to provide context and give them inspiration for their own self-portraits. The kids used a combination of collage and drawing to create their own self-portraits.
On the last day we taught the kids how to frame and present their work. We organized a small exhibition with all of their work on display for the entire orphanage to see. It was clear how proud they were of what they produced. They are incredibly talented and the administrators at Orfanato Niños de Cristo are intent on nurturing their skills and interest in art.
I had no idea what to expect of my time at the orphanage, because I had never done anything like this before. It was a transformative and enriching experience. I was reminded of the power and importance of art every time one of the kids smiled. It is my hope and intention to work with the orphanage again.
- Sol Nova
About Orfanato Niños de Cristo & Maestro Cares
Founded in 2012, the Maestro Cares Foundation strives to improve the quality of life for Latin America’s most impoverished youth. Maestro Cares Foundation’s first project was in La Romana, Dominican Republic. The dire need of assistance displayed by the youth in this area motivated the creation of Maestro Cares Foundation. Orfanato Niños de Cristo now accommodates up to 50 orphaned, abandoned or previously abused boys from 10 months to 18 years old. The campus includes dormitories, classrooms, a health clinic, a dining hall and recreational facilities. Maestro Cares Foundation continues to support this facility through educational programs, staff, therapists, recreational programs and operational expenses. Orphaned children in the Dominican Republic face critical challenges ranging from malnutrition, homelessness and of lack of access to education. Due to Dominican Republic’s limited governmental funds, orphanages become the only opportunity to better a child’s life. Orfanato Niños de Cristo is dedicated to improving the lives of the children, focusing on education, health and housing, as most of the children spend their entire childhood and young life in the orphanage.
About iliana emilia garcía
Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and based in Brooklyn, iliana emilia garcia's work explores the complexities of living in the diaspora. Garcia’s work mirrors the uneasy transition of immigrants to a new space, filled with longing for their home countries and hope for the future in their adopted land.
Garcia’s solo exhibitions have taken place at St. Francis College, Brooklyn; El Centro Cultural de España, Santo Domingo; and other institutions in the United States and the Dominican Republic. She has participated in group shows at BRIC and 490 Gallery, both Brooklyn; Fordham University, the Bronx Center for the Arts, the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, No Longer Empty, and the Manhattan Graphic Center, all NY; as well as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. and the 3rd Triennial Poli/Gráfica de San Juan, Puerto Rico. Garcia earned a BFA from Parsons School of Design, NY, and an AA from Altos de Chávon, La Romana, the Dominican Republic.