San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Art in Public Spaces Beautifies the Capital

TO paraphrase singer Billy Joel, “Singus a song, you’re the piano bridge.”A pedestrian bridge painted to resemblea piano is the latest addition to the capital’sArt in Public Spaces program. Since2002, the Municipality of San José hasspearheaded an ambitious agenda designedto – you guessed it – exhibit art in open-airvenues around the city.“Art shouldn’t be only in museums orfamous people’s homes,” engineer RodolfoSancho, who heads the program, told TheTico Times.“Art just for art is uncommon,” Sanchosaid, explaining that the program bringspainting and sculpture to places whereeveryone can enjoy them.YOU’VE undoubtedly seen some of theworks if you’ve strolled around downtown.Sculptor Édgar Zúñiga’s El Barrendero,a bronze workman sweeping bronzelitter in front of the kiosk in Central Park,was the first. (If only all litter in the citywere so artistic.) Amosaic girl on an equallymosaic swing in Adrián Gómez’s LaHamaca graces the annex just east ofMorazán Park.La Chola, a buxom bronze ruralwoman strolling down Avenida Central,sculpted by Manuel Vargas, was unveiledlast year. It never fails to draw admirersand is arguably everybody’s new favorite.Last month’s inauguration of PuentePiano culminated the spruce-up of a long existingbridge, a utilitarian structure spanningthe bypass highway in the southernSan José district of Hatillo. PainterFrancisco Munguía decked out the bridge’sexterior as a piano keyboard, breaking upthe space with his well-known caricatures.In a new twist to the program, the pianobridge is a true public artwork, incorporatingcommunity input into the final product;paintings by 84 neighborhood childrendecorate the span’s interior passageways.The work is one of the few programprojects outside downtown San José, andthe only one thus far to grace a lower incomeneighborhood.TO date, more than ¢57 million($120,000 at today’s exchange rate) hasbeen spent on the artworks, all supported bycorporate financing. Artists present ideasand site suggestions to the municipality anda committee evaluates the proposals.Projects are slated for completion inthe coming year for the road leading east ofdowntown San José to Los Yoses, LaNicaragua Park in the southeastern districtof Zapote, and the intersection in front ofthe National Gymnasium on the west sideof La Sabana Park in western San José.The budget is, understandably, limited,but Sancho says proposals are welcomefrom artists of any nationality. Moreinformation on the program is available at295-6108.

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