Written by VAST first international artist in residence, Xochi
A Greeting from Xochitl Rodriguez
My journey from the United States to Bhutan has been a long one. It didn’t just start in my hometown of El Paso Texas. The journey began at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival where I met Asha Kama Wangdi. After some conversation concerning art, Asha invited me to volunteer as VAST’s first artist in residence. The beauty of VAST is that it calls upon a person’s dedication in the most sincere of ways. You must volunteer in every capacity of the word in order to be a part of VAST. Recognizing the infinite value of such a journey, I began to seek outside funding for a one year visiting artist project. After receiving negative responses from 12 possible grant providers, I was fortunate enough to receive the majority of my requested amount from the Ella Lyman Cabot Trust Fund.
The process was grueling and at times very discouraging, but on account of the incredible gifts VAST has to share with the world, I went forth as fearlessly as I could, keeping my eyes on the awesome power of such an incredible opportunity. After receiving word, there were quite a few formalities to be had. You must be invited and granted permission to enter, especially for such a long period of time. So after receiving my incredible news, I left El Paso, Texas on September 17th and arrived in Bhutan on September 27th.
After visiting several places, some expected and some unexpected, I flew among the clouds through the beautiful Himalayas to arrive in Bhutan. My experience thus far has been full of surprises and beautiful adventures. I arrived just in time for Thimphu’s Tshechu where I was fortunate enough to witness some of Bhutan’s most incredible religious traditions first hand. I have visited a traditional Bhutanese home and was lucky to be present for a Puja ceremony. I have climbed up and down a mountain among the clouds during monsoon and I have been a guest at Bhutan’s first ever National Boxing Tournament. The most incredible of all my experiences, however, has been spending time at VAST.
I was invited to volunteer at VAST as a resident sculptress for the purposes of sharing the knowledge and experience I have with contemporary sculpture. I feel honored to have this opportunity to volunteer with VAST. I had my first meeting with the students on Saturday, October 3. It was my greatest pleasure to encounter a group of students who were not only eager to learn, but also enthusiastically engaged in planning the role sculpture might have in VAST’s next big project “YOUNG ZOOM”. It felt incredible to look out at their faces full of excitement for the “strange sculpture” we are planning to create together. It is my hope that I will be able to add to VAST’s incredible group of volunteers and help its student’s develop new tools to express themselves with. In these last couple of weeks I have observed a culture that is steeped in beauty, both external and internal. From my host family’s home in the mountains just outside of Thimphu, I wake up to the clouds and to two tiny children who greet me every morning with smiles and curiosity. As I walk through the town during the day, the children smile at me and the bold ones ask me where I’ve come from or sit beside me to hear the music I’m listening to or to see what I’ve taken a photograph of.
I have seen a world full of color and peaceful sounds. Every place I visit in Thimphu, I can hear children playing and people living. I’ve heard archers’ chants and calls in the distance as they carry out their tournaments. In all this beauty, I understand that I have come to Bhutan at a crucial time in the history of it’s Kingdom’s development. The capitol city is booming with the signs of Bhutan’s curious and unique case of modernization. As I hear children play and people live, as I see the unique and awesome power of Bhutan’s ever beautiful environment I am filled with hope that I may help provide these children with methods by which to express themselves and be heard as Bhutan’s future unfolds.
Children are the most valuable instruments humanity has toward progress and in Bhutan they are the most important promises for a beautiful future. It will be a great honor if I am able to contribute to the nourishment and development of their artistic talents and already incredible social consciences.
Likewise, it will be my greatest honor to learn from them.