Chiloé Kids' Print Studio Needs Supplies!

My name is Dan Cameron, and I’m a curator and art writer based in downtown NYC. I’m starting a fundraiser to help re-equip the printmaking studio at the Academia de Artes Islas al Sur in the city of Castro on the Chilean island of Chiloé. Based on my fifth research visit there in eight years, which I returned from a few weeks ago, it's clear that even a modest sum would make a significant difference in getting this program to the next stage.

Under the supervision of printmaker Rafael Lara, the studio already exists and operates the only two professional-level lithographic presses on the entire island. I became acquainted with Rafa some years ago because of his artwork, which I greatly admire, but I soon got to know his passion as a teacher of printmaking techniques to children. A previous visit to Chiloé coincided with an exhibition in his school of lithographs by a dozen of his students, all properly signed, dated and numbered (Rafa runs a tight ship). Because they were also for sale, I bought a couple for myself because they were very well made, the students’ talent was abundant, and it was a way to support Rafa’s initiative directly. On the trip that I've just returned from, exhibitions took place in two different locations in Chiloé of work by Rafael’s present and former students, but that was nothing from 2020 or 2021 because classes were suspended, along with budgets for supplies.

Because of his gift for teaching, his passion for sharing art and his wisdom about the visual and poetic aspects of Mapuche culture, Rafael Lara knows a lot of Chilote artists. A few years ago he introduced me to fellow printmaker Andrés Ávila, who also teaches art to high school students, in Quellón, the southernmost city in Chiloé, where salmon farms (salmoneras) employ a significant number of inhabitants. One of Andrés’s creations, a graphic novel called Song of the Salmon, dwelled on mutations and deformations caused by the salmoneras’ conditions and had been on my mind since my last visit, in 2019, when I acquired a few copies to circulate to people I know.

During this recent visit, it was evident that the printmaking studio’s supplies were running very low, with no new lithographic stones to print from and a shortage of both printing and cotton paper. Many essentials were nearly out, including emery boards, leather rollers, Daniel Smith lithographic ink, gum arabic, nitric acid, dermatographic pencils, gouache, and several other items that are easy to obtain. Instead of pressing Rafa on why I decided to reach out to him later to ask if donations of materials would be helpful for what he’s doing. He insisted that it would make a huge difference. A couple of weeks later, talking about his & Andrés’ work on a Hyperallergic webinar, I shared some images of the studio & mentioned that there was a shortage of materials, and several participants immediately said they'd love to help.

So here’s our scheme: I have two separate lists of materials from Andrés and Rafa, and these are currently being consolidated into a single shopping list by a friend & colleague in Santiago, Ramón Castillo, who is going to see what can be obtained cheaply there & then shipped the much shorter distance to Castro. Meanwhile I’m going to research prices on different sources here in the US, and the decision of when to buy what from whom & in what volume will depend on how smoothly donations flow in. Ramón & I both felt that $2,500 is a reasonable goal because it allows us to achieve things even if we only meet a portion of our target and make a significant impact if we end up with that much to spend on printmaking supplies. Knowing that there is potentially a substantial amount of private initiative to tap, this effort isn’t limited to raising cash through GoFundMe. At the end of this missive, I’m posting the address of Academia de Artes Islas al Sur for anyone who wants to organize their personal supply chain to Rafa and his students or who knows of excess lithographic materials somewhere & would be willing to help get it into their hands.

Thanks to everyone who’s gotten this far in the story and to anybody who donates, no matter how small the amount. Getting children involved in art-making techniques like printmaking is an excellent boon to culture overall. I know that contributions to the Taller Litográfica de la Academia de Artes Islas al Sur will have a positive impact on the Chiloé of tomorrow.

Rafael Lara
Taller Grabado Greja
Academia de Artes Islas al Sur
Calle Blanco Encalada No. 158
Castro. Chiloé
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Dan Cameron 
New York, NY