CELEBRATING its ninth consecutive year, Costa Rica’slargest, open-air arts festival will once again be taking over partof the eastern San José suburb of San Pedro from Dec. 1-5,flaunting its wares in a colorful display of national and internationalartwork, music, dance and theater productions.In a bid to bring art out of the gallery and onto the street,painters, sculptors and photographers from Latin Americancountries including Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador,Panama and Cuba, will join Costa Ricans for a five-day celebrationof art.The exposition is, in fact, the only one of its kind in CentralAmerica and the largest in Latin America.The organizer, Ulises Castillo, owner of the Galería deUlises, said that he dreamed of using the street as a place forartists to exhibit their work and make art more accessible to thepublic.“It was my fantasy,” he said. “Art is not just for a few elitepeople, it is for everybody.”The international festival began nine years ago involving 30artists and has expanded every year since. This year there will bea record-breaking 450 artists and 150 stands.In addition, students from the University of Costa Rica willpresent plays, dance productions, music and magic shows. Some50,000 visitors are expected to attend.CASTILLO is very dedicated to his work and is proud tobelieve that he has helped put Costa Rica on the map.“We live in a small country and some people have neverheard of it,” he said. “You say Costa Rica and they reply:Where? Puerto Rico? This event has helped to promote CostaRica and its artists.”Organizing the festival takes all year, but in the spirit of truecamaraderie, the costs are divided equally among all the artists.Last year was the first time the festival was extended to fivedays, rather than two, but unluckily they were plagued with badweather. However, Castillo is confident that this year, the weatherwill cooperate and everything will go well.“We have learned a lot since we started out and this year weare better prepared,” he said.In this relaxed, communal atmosphere, artists and visitorsare free to wonder around and enjoy all that is on offer, withgreat opportunities to pick up a bargain.“The artwork is sold at lower prices because during the festivalwe sell direct, the middlemen are cut out,” Castillo said.MANY famous artists such the Cuban Domingo Ramos orCosta Ricans Edgar Zúñiga and Ana Wien will be displayingtheir work. It is also an opportunity for young or unknown artiststo gain recognition. Every year the festival is dedicated to a specificartist, whose work is also displayed. This year the artist isRosibel Pereira, a handicapped woman in a wheelchair whopaints with her feet.Castillo is pleased by the overwhelming success of the eventand proud his dream has become a reality.“The existence and success of the festival prove that youshould always believe in yourself,” he said, adding that it promisesto be an exciting event that is definitely worth going to see.The free art festival takes place on Calle 9 in San Pedro,Montes de Oca, on the grassy square behind the Outlet Mall.