My landlord, Jorge, is a patron of the arts. When I imagine a patron of the arts, I imagine some fabulously wealthy person in the past, supporting the creation of art in Italy or New York; Someone with an impossibly luxurious lifestyle, maybe with a couple of designer dogs on diamond leashes standing at attention nearby.
None of this sounds much like Jorge. Jorge runs a small hotel in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and spends most days either repotting plants or greeting customers.
But I don’t know what else to call him because, for more than a week now, he’s kept three artists working full-time. They show up with paints and brushes and they work all day (except for a lunch break on the roof).
They started out by making more suns. When my husband, Peter, and I checked into his hotel, Jorge had 2,504 smiling sun faces hanging from every wall of the courtyard. The artists made another dozen sun faces, some of which look like superhero suns, and I assumed that was why they were here—maybe there was a goal to hit 3,000 by year’s end. What do I know? But the artists never left.
Yesterday, they showed up with two enormous blank canvases and set them up in the courtyard. I was terribly curious about what they were up to, but was afraid figuring that out would require more Spanish than I could manage.
I eventually learned that these canvases were going into hotel rooms. Depictions of the town’s skyline, with the stunning 17th century gothic church, were being painted on both and, naturally, there would be a smiling sun in the bright blue sky. The artists were working from little photos Jorge provided, but the photos were small and fuzzy, in black and white and, of course, there were no smiling suns in the photos.
I think it’s a wonderful idea. The artists are down in the courtyard right now and appear to be having an excellent time. I see these artists working away and it touches my heart.
“Where does Jorge get his money?” Peter wanted to know.
Peter worries that we are not paying Jorge enough and when the eight-room hotel is not full, Peter frets that Jorge will go out of business. But Jorge has been doing this a long time, so I tell Peter not to worry.
I was walking through the artisan market, as I do almost every day, when I saw a hand-painted T-shirt that I loved. I told the young woman running the shop that I loved it, but it was too big.
“Eduardo could make you a smaller one,” she told me in Spanish.
“Eduardo?” She pointed to the T-shirt. At the corner of the artwork, there was a signature. It said, “Ed.”
“Oh! Does Eduardo paint all the clothing here?”
“Yes!” The young woman said enthusiastically. “Eduardo… or his mother.”That sealed it. I had to have a T-shirt now that I knew it would be personally painted by Eduardo… or his nameless mother. In a world where so much of what I experience and own is so much the same, it’s wonderful to know there are artists out there, making beautiful things one at a time.
My T-shirt was finished four days later and I’ve been wearing it nearly nonstop. I don’t think this makes me a patron of the arts, certainly not on Jorge’s level, but it thrills me to know I have a shirt that is exactly like no other and that I provided a little work for Eduardo… or his mother.
Till next time,
Carrie Classon’s memoir is called “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.