San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Rejuvenating Culture in San José

The Plaza de las Artes is an open area in front of the Iglesia La Soledad in downtown San José. Avenida 4 dead ends at the western end of the plaza, and Calle 9 runs right through the middle of it.

Most josefinos use the space as a thruway rather than a destination, but the Municipality of San José is working to change this with a series of arts and cultural events that will help the plaza live up to its name.

The series started in late January and will continue throughout the year in conjunction with the city’s status as the 2006 Latin American-Iberian Cultural Capital. There will be outdoor dance performances, film festivals, workshops, live music and more, with the ultimate goal of establishing an ongoing public art program in the plaza that will continue to grow well after the year is over.

Plaza de las Artes is a perfect place to do this – and not just because of its name. Formerly Plaza La Soledad, the rejuvenated public space was inaugurated in September with the intention of providing a setting where people can relax and spend time with their families while witnessing and participating in the Costa Rican art scene.

The plaza offers a variety of spaces and settings ideal for innovative performances: circles of benches, a makeshift amphitheater composed of rounded steps, and the very distinctive, red metal arcs that curve 10 meters above the ground. Performers such as the dance/theatre group Metamórfosis have incorporated this unique setting into their repertoire at both the plaza’s inauguration and in a late-afternoon performance in January. There are plans to even further enhance the plaza by painting the sidewalks, adding more benches and trees and incorporating mosaics, sculptures and art installations into the scenery.

The Municipality of San José aims to “promote and spread creativity and cultural diversity” with their programming, introducing some variety into the city’s arguably limited cultural offerings. The current schedule promises a wide range of events and entertainment that will appeal to different age groups and interests, and the organizers will continue to accept project proposals throughout the year. National and international artists are invited to share their work at the plaza.

The next major event will take place the last weekend in April. The Festival of Urban Art will convert the plaza into an outdoor café with more than 30 tables, where the public will be invited to celebrate “contemporary urban diversity.” Approximately 30 artists will create, display and sell their artwork over the course of the three-day festival, which will also include a series of musical and dance performances that will feature hip-hop, ballet, yoga, trova and more.

Other upcoming events include: chalk and pastel workshops for youngsters 12 and up, Saturdays from 2-4 p.m. through March 25; International Music Day, an all-day celebration starting at 10 a.m. June 21, the summer solstice; performances by emerging artists every Friday in November; and Christmas caroling by different groups Fridays in December.

As mentioned above, the city is still accepting proposals for activities, exhibitions and performances, and the schedule is subject to change. Past events – which include theater, dance and multimedia performances, the National Poetry Festival and a special Valentine’s Day dance – have all been well attended and extremely successful, suggesting a promising future for Plaza de las Artes and cultural life in San José.

For more information on events taking place at Plaza de las Artes, visit or call 255-2360.


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