LIBERIA, Guanacaste – Just off the beaten path a few miles from Liberia’s international airport, you’ll find a quiet property with a lazy duck pond and possibly the largest collection of art in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. Welcome to Hidden Garden Art Gallery, a secluded sanctuary where local artisans can commune, collaborate and create.
In a country where aesthetic works sometimes go undervalued and unappreciated, Hidden Garden aims to make a change.
“We are really trying to build a cultural center for the area,” says Charlene Golojuch, who with husband Greg Golojuch owns the gallery. “Working with both emerging artists and established artists, we have discovered huge talents.”
The gallery’s resident artist, Carlos Hiller, was the first to exhibit at Hidden Garden in 2008. Hiller specializes in painting realistic yet whimsical underwater scenes in oils. With a passion for protecting the planet’s delicate marine life, Hiller donates an enormous mural to a Costa Rican community each year in celebration of World Oceans Day June 8. This year’s contribution was a colossal painting of sailfish, razor surgeonfish and mahimahi for the Banco Nacional parking lot in Playas del Coco on the northern Pacific coast.
Hidden Garden has been extremely successful in facilitating Hiller’s career. Aside from the advantages of sheer exposure, his June alternative exhibit completely sold out.
“To keep sales profits with the artists, (Hidden Garden) takes significantly less commission than a typical Costa Rican art gallery,” Hiller says.
The museum’s greatest accomplishment by far has been the development of a solid circle of artists. Here, creative types find a place to meet and corroborate with other like-minded people, to compare and contrast projects or to simply ask for advice. Visionaries can wander the grounds looking for inspiration among the exquisite foliage and serene lake trail, and then take advantage of a spacious open-air patio to paint, sculpt or merely brainstorm.
Through Hiller’s involvement with Hidden Garden, he has been introduced to countless other artists. His “Ocean on Canvas” project consists of a series of collaborative works with Italian contemporary artist Alessandra Cola, Chilean surrealist Paula Riveros and Tico digital artist Felipe Artinano.
Hiller also produced an exquisite mixed-media piece with another acquaintance, professional photographer Diego Mejías. Together they created a work of painted images layered over a printed photograph, with the unified perspective of a masked diver looking half above and half below the surface of the water. Hiller painted fish and dolphins that appear to be looking up at a real-life skiff captain, who in turn is looking downward. The painting sold for $700 in an auction in Guanacaste’s Playa Hermosa, and proceeds went to a children’s charity.
Mejías specializes in photographing the natural environment, both on land and underwater, and has also benefitted from displaying his works at Hidden Garden.
“It’s wonderful to know that there is a place where we are exposing art in Guanacaste,” he says. “There are very few places that do that.”
Hidden Garden Art Gallery features 10 rooms displaying works by approximately 52 painters, photographers, engravers, sculptors and other artists. It hosts two new exhibits each month. Although the gallery strives to focus on local talent, it doesn’t discriminate by nationality; in fact, it displays the works of artists from all over the globe, such as recent Swiss exhibitor Helga Denoth.
To attract a fresh crowd, Hidden Garden every Saturday holds a vendor fair where locals sell natural products and homemade pastries, cosmetics and jewelry. Organized events like its recent Guanacaste Annexation Fiesta also attract attention, as do culturally themed exhibits. The gallery also hosts occasional concerts by performers such as Guadalupe Urbina, a musician and painter who recently exhibited her oil and acrylic paintings – mostly inspired by Mesoamerican folklore – in an exhibit titled “Cosas del amor, del mar y de la tierra” (“Things of Love, the Sea and the Earth”).
Upcoming exhibits include: Juan Carlos Ruiz, through Sept. 17; Oscar Líos, Sept. 18 to Oct. 15; Ana Isabel Navarro, Oct. 23 to Nov. 5; and Kéyner Segura, Nov. 6 to 20.
Hidden Garden Art Gallery is five kilometers west of the Liberia airport on the road to the Pacific beaches. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information, call 2670-0056 or 8386-6872, or visit hiddengarden.thevanstonegroup.com.