Art in action 

Using art as a medium to teach social, cultural and environmental values in rural Nicaragua

Dagan Beach, a photographer and graphic designer, is originally from Toronto but has lived in Whistler for the past 14 years.

Beach went to Nicaragua last November on a yoga and surfing retreat with Neo Alpine, and stayed at the Los Cardones Surf Lodge, an hour outside of Managua. Los Los Cardones offers guests a unique opportunity to get away from civilization and relax, immersing themselves in yoga, surfing and deserted beaches, with solar power as the only energy source.

But Beach and his fellow travelers were also given the opportunity to witness a unique development project in action.

“This couple that runs the lodge had set up a program with a local community, where they would take guests there every weekend to contribute in whatever way seemed to fit,” Beach explained.

The program is called Arte Accion, a not for profit group that uses art as a medium to teach and encourage more than 70 local children to improve their environment and community through art workshops.

The couple that runs Los Cardones takes guests who are interested in the program down to the school to see what they are doing, and participate in some of the activities.

“I was kind of thinking I was going to be sitting down and drawing with these kids, which I did do,” said Beach. But Arte Accion isn’t just about art — some of the other people on the surf-yoga retreat came along to teach the kids yoga moves and play sports.

“It was just really cool to see all these kids getting together in a free forum where they were coming just out of curiosity and they were completely open to whatever was being presented to them,” said Beach.

While he was visiting the school, Beach was amazed by the children’s positive attitudes and the impact the program seemed to be having, and took the time to hang out with the kids and take photos.

Beach likes the concept behind the Arte Accion program — instead of giving direct aid through donations of food or clothing, the program is using art to broaden their horizons.

“It’s going towards a mental growth,” he explained. “The program… is designed to inspire them and show different possibilities to things that are available in life, as opposed to whatever work that they get farming or labour work that is available in the area.”

When he returned to Whistler, Beach decided he wanted to help support Arte Accion.

“I wanted to share the images with as many people as I could,” Beach said. “I wanted to give something back to them because the images impacted me so much.”

Beach is holding a fundraiser at the Garibaldi Lift Company on Wednesday, April 9, featuring music by DJs Mister Fister, Vinyl Ritchie and Chili, and a slideshow from his trip.

The photos showcase not only the school and children, but a variety of other places along the southwestern coast that Beach traveled to during his two-week trip. Beach says there are lots of shots of landscapes, surfing and culture from the surrounding towns to give people a real taste of Nicaragua.

Entry is by donation, and all the funds raised are going to the Arte Accion program.

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