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The small town of Jama Ecuador has many multi-talented artists, and most of them dodge the spotlight.  How can they get more recognition if someone doesn’t prod them forward from time to time?!

Months ago my friend Luchy Cevallos wondered how to bring more attention to his cybercafe on incoming “Jama Avenue.”    After a few test drives past his building,  I suggested, “Luchy;  people are looking straight ahead toward the center of town.  You need something bright and colorful to turn their heads.” A few weeks later as we painted the pole, he snickered when people slammed on brakes or swerved as they looked back as they drove past!   “Someone is going to have an accident,” he chuckled.

At night, Luchy pulls a few tables and chairs to the sidewalk to expand the social area;  calabash light fixtures dangle in front of the window, and a tempting menu prompts customers to place an order.     Luchy also owns Cabanas Palo Santo, and I often wonder when he has time to create art.   But create he does, and his fame is slowly spreading!

Sergio's Paint Delivery

Inspired by the brightly-colored post, Sergio Hernan Berrios Silva , tourism director for the canton of Jama, spearheaded a competition to transform the concrete power poles on the incoming Jama Avenue into works of art. During the week of March 12- March 17 (2012) Sergio coaxed artists from 8 years to 30-something to tap into the creative influence of the Jama Coaque precolumbian indian designs and blaze Jama Avenue with paint!   Co-sponsored by Diners Club International, the contest triggered a current of creative energy that pulsated from one end of Jama Avenue to the other! Neighbors loitered on the sidewalks or watched from the shadows of a nearby bench as young children dashed from pole to pole and compared styles, subject matter and techniques.

Rycardo volunteered for painting the damaged posts

Jama’s multi-talented artist, Rycardo Aclivar, declined from entering the contest, yet painted numerous posts and encouraged others throughout the week.  . . .

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.James Madden of nearby Lalo Loor Reserve not only painted dramatic designs but also mentored many of the younger artists.   Other Lalo Loor volunteers contributed exceptional talent before other obligations pulled them away.

Lalo Loor Volunteers (above and right)

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By day three, many asked why I had not painted a pole, so on day four I  joined the painting fiesta!  Within five minutes of setting up, I was joined by a handful of eager children wearing, “Please may I help?” expressions on their faces!  Oh dear!

"Zeebras in Training" - What should we paint - Jama Coaque or zebra stripes?!!!

At times surprise showers halted the painting process.   Paint dribbled down posts, and artists retreated for an hour or overnight until it stopped.

Javier tackled two posts at once and showed by example that excellence should not be hurried.

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Like an army of ants, all artists repaired damage and resumed work when the sun smiled on us again! .

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Friday afternoon brought more onlookers; some strolled by on foot.  Some viewed the progress from mototaxis.  Others observed from cars and trucks.  All gave nods and words of approval as they watched their town transform.

 

Saturday found the most serious artists still at work. New volunteers, inspired by the explosion of color, joined forces and painted with extreme energy and focus!

Admiring each work, a panel of four judges walked the entire length of Jama Avenue and inspected each creation.  A line of enthusiastic children trailed behind, and the difficult task of evaluating the poles cast a serious mood over the group.

 

 

 

 

Each judge rated the 52 posts on a scale of five to ten; the scores were turned over to another panel, and the winners will be announced  at a breakfast ceremony on the 29th of March.

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A once-monthly  week-long “Painting Marathon” has been discussed, and hopefully the town of Jama will continue to blossom into an arts community.    In time, perhaps a gallery will represent this town full of aspiring artists, and people will smile and say, “It started with one light pole.” Z

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