Argentinian artist Valeria Fiala first came to Aspen in 2016 as part of the Sister Cities Artists Exchange Program and was Struck by how much it reminded her of her Hometown of San Carlos De Bariloche — a city in the foothills of the Andes, considered the gateway to Patagonia. She loved Aspen so much she decided to come back and stay longer, which she has done over the years.
“Whenever I come here, I just feel connected to Aspen in a way I can’t explain. Geographically, it (Bariloche) is very similar to Aspen — surrounded by mountains, rivers, and lakes; a resort town founded by pioneers,” Fiala said.
The Sister Cities Exchange program between Aspen and Bariloche has existed for 20 years and is coordinated by Lala Caffarone and Griff Smith. Caffarone is originally from Bariloche but has called Aspen home for 22 years, so she has a deep love and connection to both.
“Bariloche is one of Aspen’s most active sister cities. We created the art exchange program in 2014, and our goal is to create artistic opportunities and promote world peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time,” she said.
This year, Fiala was invited back to the Roaring Fork Valley by Art Base to spend a few months teaching art to midvalley, Spanish-speaking youth, a job she is enjoying. Most of her students are from El Salvador, and are so “passionate and talented,” she said. She finds it fulfilling to work with them and said she is honored to teach them in their mother tongue, filling a role much needed in this valley. She’s especially excited about an upcoming exhibition of work Dec. 9 at Art Base in Basalt.
“We need to move out of our comfort zones and find a way (to help these students). I was so well received by the students, but I’ve also had a lot of help,” she said.
Outside of teaching, Fiala wanted to connect with the art community in town and meet and collaborate with local artists, so she approached the Red Brick Center of the Arts, with which she was familiar when she was here on the artists exchange, and asked if they had any space, “even just a corner,” where she could come in and work.
The Red Brick is one of the few places that provides local artists affordable studio space, which is very hard to come by in Aspen. They didn’t have extra studio space, so Fiala pitched the idea of her working in the entryway of the building and then donating the finished piece to the Red Brick. She liked the idea of working in an accessible space where artists would come in and out, stop to introduce themselves, chat, and have a real-time, first-hand experience of the process of her drawing.
It’s Dec. 1, she will be unveiling her piece, “Among,” which is a graphic-inspired drawing of a flock of Patagonian sheep all crowded in together. She said she has been drawing sheep for a long time and sees them as a symbol of Patagonia. The drawing represents togetherness, co-existence, and makes a point that we as humans are part of a society “are not alone,” she said. It was a happy coincidence that the timing for the unveiling of her piece will coincide with the opening of Red Brick’s Annual Residents Show.
“This show is our chance to show off the incredible talents of the artists making work here in the Red Brick every day. Aspen is never short on reasons to celebrate, and we feel the same about the Dec. 1 evening. Lots of creative energy and work happening here,” said Sarah Roy, executive director of the Red Brick Center for the Arts.