In 2012 Medellin, Colombia earned the title, “Innovative City of the Year” in a competition organized by Citigroup, the Marketing Services Department of WSJ. Magazine and the Urban Land Institute. According to The Latin American Herald Tribune, “Medellin was chosen for its modern transit system, environmental policies and its network of museum, schools, libraries and cultural centers that enrich the community.” Though these government funded initiatives are impressive, Medellin, like all other metropolitan cities, struggles with many serious social problems that exist below the surface. Nevertheless, there are many devoted individuals and organizations in Medellin who have picked up where the government left off. It is encouraging to see that the overwhelming majority of community organizations in Medellin employ the arts as a instrument for solving social ills. AIP was fortunate enough to sit down with some of these individuals and organizations to discuss the role of the arts in creating societies that reach their full human potential.
Jontre Romaropocol, founder and director of Raiz Felis, (Happy Roots in English) a nonprofit organization that expands human potential through the arts. Since 2002, Raiz Felis has worked with economically disadvantaged populations in Medellin to provide free professional instruction in guitar, percussion, painting, and dance. Riaz Feliz also provides Christmas gifts to children in Medellin’s marginalized communities. Jontre spent an entire week supporting AIP by setting up interviews, translating, and making sure we received the highest level of hospitality. We would like to thank Jontre for his generosity.
A musician who uses her craft to find truth, share hope, and express the realities of life in Medellin Colombia. Cata works closely with Jontre Romaropocol and Raiz Felis and has recently finished work on her music video titled Reconstruyendo. Cata is also student who studying advertizing and supports her mother and little sister selling candy on busses in the evenings. She is a highly determined individual who is doing great things for her city. Cata explained that music has helped her to see the light in a sometimes bleak world.
Founding member and vocalist of Crew Peligrosos 4 elements school of hip hop, which is a arts collective in the Comuna 4 district of Medellin, Colombia that was founded in 1999 with the purpose of teaching children and young adults the four elements of Hip-Hop: DJing, Break dancing, emceeing, and graffiti art. Crew Peligrosos services over 400 students in Medellin and is supported by a community that, during the violent days of the Pablo Escobar days, feared the youth. The organization has a symbiotic relationship with a local public school where Hip-hop classes are held on weeknights from 5:00 pm -10:00 pm
Director of Corporacion Cultural Artistica Canto Arena, a youth group that explores, promotes, and showcases various traditional Colombian, Atlantic Coast, and Pacific folk music. The program provides a place for young people to share knowledge and participate in cultural events through music. Yeisme is a musician and community leader who not only believes, but demonstrates that the arts can transform society. In addition to his work with Corporacion Cultural Artistica Canto Arena, Yeisme runs a program that provides space for elderly women to congregate, express themselves, and learn arts and crafts that they can sell to supplement their incomes.
Director of the internationally recognized dance company Ritmo Extremo (Extreme Rhythm). The dance company teaches a fusion of modern, contemporary, and jazz to represent Colombian folklore. Ritmo Extremo was started 17 years ago when Tomas decided to give up his lucrative career as an engineer to follow his dream of opening a dance academy.
Veteran actor of Teatro Matacandelas in Medellin, Colombia, a cutting edge association dedicated to experimental theater, music, and puppet shows. Juan David had devoted his life to his craft and feels that creativity is an essential capacity for solving the problems of the world. When asked how he would convince people in power to invest in the arts, he responded that if all of the artists, musicians, dancers, poets, and other creatives were suddenly missing from society, people will understand the value of its artists.
A visual artist, entrepreneur, and environmental activist, Juan David mixes his background in graphic design with recycled materials to create pieces of art that he sells at local markets around Medellin. His work, especially recycled material clocks, reflects a concern for the future and sustainability of our natural resources.