By Kimeko Mccoy
For the last 20 years, Aviles artist Pablo Hugo Rozada Vena has participated in more than 50 exhibitions.
His career carried him through the role of curator, coordinator and designer of different artistic projects for several city councils in Spain and France.
But Tuesday will be his first time in the U.S. as part of an artist exchange program between sister cities, St. Augustine and Aviles, Spain.
From Aviles to St. Augustine
Rozada was invited to participate in an artist exchange program as part of the international public art project, Obelisk Art 450.
Speaking through translator Ana Lombao in Aviles, Rozada said, “I am thrilled about the trip, the project I will be involved in, the possibility offered to me to meet new artists from such far away but whom I feel so close.”
The artist said he’s positive he and the other artists involved in the project share the same concerns and interests.
“Basically we artists always feel the inexplicable need to create things without a reason, which is sometimes so difficult to explain,” he said.
The Obelisk Art 450 project was envisioned by the nonprofit organization Compassionate St. Augustine.
Compassionate St. Augustine Executive Director Caren Goldman said she’s excited for Rozada’s arrival.
Rozada’s process of designing the artistic intervention on the obelisk is already finished.
“The aim of the project was using a common element for both cities, and I immediately thought of Pedro Menendez, who was from Aviles and founded our sister city,” he said. “His image will be displayed from different perspectives — on all sides of the obelisk — as he represents many of the positive values established by the 1812 Cadiz Constitution.”
For the exchange program, Rozada will be in St. Augustine from Tuesday through July 21.
He comes on the heels of local artist Jan Master, who visited Aviles in April and participated in a public art project there.
From St. Augustine to Aviles
Master landed in Aviles with a suitcase and fabric from around the world. She wasn’t sure how she would tackle it, but she was tasked with what she calls “doing art” on a tall obelisk.
“On that, what I wanted to do was I started thinking about the fabric of people’s lives, what is a true democracy. I was trying to think about how we can integrate ourselves into the world with compassion and I could carry it in my suitcase,” she said.
Master is an installation artist. She creates pieces big enough for a person to walk through but as she looked around, she noticed other artists had painted their obelisks.
“I’m not sure what they thought of me,” she said. “Because of the language difficulty, I’ll never know what they thought when I came with the suitcase and started pulling all this stuff out.”
The artist has been to Spain before but hadn’t done international work on behalf of St. Augustine.
Master will host Rozado and his wife during their stay in St. Augustine.
He’ll have a studio donated by a member of the community and a house in Lincolnville.
Master said she thinks it’ll be a culture shock for the Spanish artist, but it’ll be exciting.
She plans to feature his art in a show in her art gallery, Amiro Art + Design.
“We’re bringing in some of the obelisk artists from here — just a few of them,” she said.
International exchange program
The exchange program started last year when representatives from St. Augustine and its sister city, Aviles started talking about the possibility of an international public art project.
“We thought the Obelisk Art 450 project could happen on both sides of the ocean,” Goldman said. “This project in terms of being in St. Augustine was just a beautiful fit in what we hope to do to commemorate St. Augustine.”
Compassionate St. Augustine is a nonprofit organization that privately raised funds for the exchange program and public art project.
Goldman said the organization is still pursuing fundraising efforts. For information, go to compassionatestaugustine.org.