Let’s Talk Street Art with San Nicolas’ Mural Art Curator Tito Bolivar
by Lou-Ann Jordan Nov 4, 2022
What is the benefit of art to society?
Well, first, it isn’t singular. Art inspires, enlightens and provokes deep thought. It enriches a society, imparting values and nurturing sometimes changing opinions. What’s more, it’s a conduit for sharing the richness of one’s culture with a visiting public. Is it any wonder then that San Nicholas is so famous?
Located south-easterly of Oranjestad, San Nicholas has revolutionised art here in Aruba with its mural art. Even more remarkable is that Forbes dubbed the tiny coastal town as the Street Art Capital of the Caribbean.
The town currently exhibits 54 paintings done by local and international artists. Also, locals and visitors alike enjoy the creative feast that appears on buildings and walls throughout the area.
Today the area receives many accolades, with travel bloggers paying tribute to the eye-catching creative centre. Globe Guide highlighted San Nicolas as a ‘must visit’ location when in Aruba, and We Are Travellers named San Nicolas, Aruba’s coolest city.
But this all began with curator Tito Bolivar, who on a trip, had a spark of inspiration and a vision of how San Nicolas could be transformed. Yello had a chance to chat with Tito, and here he shares his inspiring tale.
How did you become involved in art in general?
In December 2015, I flew to Bogota, Colombia and experienced public art for the first time in my life. It was a fantastic discovery for me. One mural stood out in particular, and it’s what made me interested in public art. It was a massive mural with a kid playing the saxophone. On that mural was written “Arte por vida”, meaning ‘Art for Life’, and suddenly my eyes were searching for art everywhere.
Why did you choose San Nicolas as the place to transform into Aruba’s art district?
Once one of the most important places to be in Aruba, San Nicolas had slowly become the ‘forgotten city’. So, when our crew visited back in 2016, we knew the town had a different story that had to be told. It was awaiting something to bring it back to life, to shine again, and make a difference in our Happy Island of Aruba. We looked and knew that the walls that appeared abandoned and unloved were the perfect place to feature art.
What prompted you to do murals?
Back in 2016, when we were planning the Aruba Art Fair, I desperately wanted to include murals in San Nicolas but had no idea how to incorporate them into the fair. In the end, I decided the murals would be a gift that the Aruba Art Fair would leave behind for the world to enjoy in San Nicolas.
In what ways have the murals impacted the area and the people in the community?
Since 2016, new businesses have opened. Also, the youth of San Nicolas is focusing a lot on art. We even have an up and rising muralist from San Nicolas called Rasheed Lowe, alias ‘Mr Lowe’.
Additionally, visitors are now coming to shop in the city. Also, new grassroots movements have started up. Most importantly, the citizens of San Nicolas are proud of their city.
How do you go about selecting or inviting artists and choosing locations for the paintings?
As the curator of the murals, I do extensive research every year, searching for top artists from around the world. I look for artists whose style identifies with the Happy Island of Aruba. Then, my team and I extend an invitation, giving them a mural that would fit their style. Lastly, we provide the final approval of the artist’s “design” of the mural.
Is there a theme for the murals, or are artists given the freedom to create?
Although we do have specific criteria, we try not to limit the artists. It’s one of the reasons why we choose our artists carefully. We require they send us a proposal; from that, we can see if the pieces are suitable for our project.
How can visitors to Aruba explore San Nicolas’s murals?
I provide walking tours in San Nicolas under Aruba Mural Tours. Our ‘sightsees’ are not the regular run-of-the-mill tour. Because I’m passionate about what we’re doing, I take my time ensuring visitors feel at home here in San Nicolas. I show them the hidden treasures and meaning of the murals. I elaborate on how the projects started and how San Nicolas is changing. Then, of course, I give them a chance to explore San Nicolas’s restaurants, beaches, etc.
Are there any future artistic developments for which the public can look?
ArtisA, meaning Art is Aruba, the creators of Aruba Art Fair, will shortly open a multi-functional gallery in San Nicolas. The gallery will allow more interaction between the public and Aruban artists.
There is no disputing that art is very much a part of Aruba’s culture, and we’re excited to see it continue to grow and have an impact on locals and visitors alike. Yello thanks Tito Bolivar for sharing the exciting work in San Nicolas, Aruba’s thrilling art district.