By Leah Jacobs
Last summer in Taraz, Kazakhstan, a painter and an anthropologist teamed up to help artists move beyond Soviet-era art training. Their goal was to promote socially engaged art, which grows out of local experience, over socially relevant, state-imposed art. Through lectures, master classes, brainstorming sessions, and workshops, Mexican-American artist Daniel Gallegos and his wife, Kazakhstani anthropologist Zhanara Nauruzbayeva, encouraged Taraz artists to examine questions about belonging to an ethnically diverse culture and to draw inspiration from childhood.
Artpologist, as they call their collective, was launched in 2007. Its first project—Transformations of Space, in Almaty, Kazakhstan—asked artists to explore the effect of the city’s real estate and construction boom on their own lives. The multimedia results were shown at Almaty’s Soros Center for Contemporary Art.
Voices of Taraz artworks went on display in that city’s exhibition hall. Now Gallegos and Nauruzbayeva are back home in Hartford, Connecticut, where Gallegos is painting watercolors of Taraz scenes to fulfill the project’s Kickstarter funding campaign. They contemplate a return to Taraz next summer, perhaps to host a piñata-making workshop for children, this time inspired by Gallegos’ childhood.
Leah Jacobs is a freelance writer in Baltimore, Maryland.
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