San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Skené Foundation hosts alternative gift fair

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Under her pseudonym “Ishtar,” Hellen Guillén Valverde makes every kind of jewelry imaginable.

Robert Isenberg

It was a great idea: Invite artists from across San José to show off their handmade works. Dub it the “alternative gift fair,” to attract Christmas shoppers. Host the event in the Antigua Aduana (old customs house), a colossal brick warehouse in Barrio Carmen that is often used for big events. Raise awareness of the Skené Foundation, a nonprofit organization that produces and promotes a variety of arts and events, most recently its own theatrical rendition of “The Kama Sutra,” performed in San Pedro.

Although organizers hoped the event would draw art lovers from all over the city, foot-traffic was a little slow last Wednesday, and participants looked a little disappointed. “There wasn’t a lot of advertising,” admitted one artist. “Just on Facebook. People typically come on the weekend, not during the week.” She had already booked a spot at a street fair next week, and added she looked forward to it.

There were other deterrents as well: the four-day fair was scheduled from Tuesday to Friday, starting at 11 a.m. and going until 11 p.m., when most people are working or commuting. Skené booked a band for each evening, but the customs house is more like an airplane hangar than a music venue.

Still, artists seemed eager to unveil their works, and the room was lined with about 50 foldout tables. For patrons who were lucky enough to visit, artists showcased an impressive range of products and materials, from baked goods to clothing.

“It’s either this or a call center,” said Juan C. Flores Hine, a multimedia artist. Hine wore a patch over his eye, owing to debris in his studio. When asked whether the patch bothered him, he said, “It’s worth it.”

The fair continues through Friday, Dec. 6.

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Silvia Monge Fioravanti makes her own paper, then binds the leaves into diaries. Like many bookworms, Fioravanti shied away from the camera.

Robert Isenberg

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Marilyn Montero Zeledón is a multifaceted seamstress, but she also designs outfits specifically for Barbie dolls. Sound eccentric? Her mother did the same for 30 years.

Robert Isenberg

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A microphone awaits use on a temporary stage at the Alternative Gift Fair.

Robert Isenberg

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Sculptor Gabriela Rojas uses the most unique material of all: bovine horns. From the bony material she creates all kinds of Costa Rican animals.

Robert Isenberg

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They look like metal or wood, but Luis Huayamave’s sculptures are made from shaped paper.

Robert Isenberg

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