Social projects, fairs and festivals to energize the local community

Valérie Ancelle, founder of Art Lodge, a residency based on a small island off the coast of Panama, developed numerous social and cultural projects that actively participated in a more inclusive society with a prosperous future.

This has been made possible thanks to the dedication of the founder to build her space in this small community made of artists and craftsmen, and to offer them new opportunities in their practices. For instance, one of her first project “Tejido Coco” involved the youth and the women of the island that produced handicraft objects made out of coconut roots, which would be sold to tourists, companies, restaurants… “So we created a whole range of individual handicrafts, tableware, curtains. I mean everything, a whole mine of crafts that worked really well and the group was really lively,” confides Valérie Ancelle.

In parallel to slow tourism activities for travelers, another way to stimulate the island was by opening a residency program in which artists are invited to interact with the inhabitants. “The community is really open and every time we have artists or travelers who are here, they are really happy to be able to exchange, to be able to do something,” explains the founder.

She is also establishing educational programs with the kids of the local school, notably around thematic such as environmental awareness, protection and data studies of the fauna and flora, introduction of new species, alcohol issues… “We will try now to have a positive action. I think that art is really an incredible social development tool. And thanks to our relationship, we really feel part of the family with them, we are very well accepted, so we manage to have very nice projects,” indicates the residency founder.

Another major project is the fair. After hearing about a fair that was happening on the island for many years and where all the families from the region were coming, as it was an important event for these populations that are far away from the cultural capital, Valérie Ancelle decided to launch a new fair dedicated to art, culture, environment, and community. “I created this fair thanks to a group of friends. And thanks to a friend of mine, who has a travel agency, To Kenya Travel, who supported me a lot. And we succeeded in setting up a handicraft and eco-tourism fair that was a really good success,” explains the founder. The idea was then to give back the fair to the community, and after five years of organization by Art Lodge, it is now in the hands of the locals to continue its programmatic.

The space will now focus on other projects such as art festivals, and social and cultural activities with “the people who want to, some young people who are here, who are really positive, who have a nice approach, who come back to their island, who want to create something. So we will try to be really present and to be able to support them,” concludes Valérie Ancelle.