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Member Spotlight | Instituto Sacatar

"These kinds of things don’t magically happen. People build them and make them happen." - Sacatar Solo artist, Laurie Anderson

When Mitch Loch and Taylor Van Horne first started talking about starting an artist residency program their sights were set on Sacatar Canyon, high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. But months into researching, the vision was changing. Taylor had lived and worked for ten years in Brazil's island state of Bahia as an architect. There was something about the place that had stuck with him - the way the culture fearlessly adopted global influences and fluidly reinterpreted them through its own cultural expressions. An environment that felt ripe for creative practice and intercultural exchange.

In 2000, Mitch and Taylor created the Sacatar Foundation, a California 501c3 nonprofit corporation that would fuel the program. And the Instituto Sacatar, was born a year later in Bahia, Brazil with the mission of providing residencies for seasoned and emerging artists to create new work; promoting cross-cultural interaction and collaboration among the participating artists and the local communities; supporting artists in the creation of work that inspires across class and national boundaries; and encouraging art that returns us to where art began – to a wordless silence and a sense of wonder before all creation. Sacatar hosted its first artists in the fall of September 2001.

Open Studios at Sacatar

Since its inception, the Sacatar has hosted more than 300 residency Fellows from over 60 countries and has been involved with more than 500 community-based partnership programs and exchanges in Bahia and abroad. The program supports creative individuals of all nationalities and ages working in a wide range of creative fields, including dance, visual arts, music, literature, theater, film, photography, sound arts, culinary arts, architecture, design, performance, circus arts, and ecology. Each fellowship group is carefully selected to include a range of nationalities, languages, creative disciplines, and cultural backgrounds in order to foster the greatest sense of intercultural community and exchange during each two-month residency. Fellows are fully-supported with airfare, studio, room and board, and considerable logistical support provided.

The Instituto Sacatar occupies a 9000 square meter property on the Brazilian island of Itaparica. A narrow strip of native mangrove forest separates a network of artist studios, common spaces, and housing from the white sand beach and surrounding bay. “Even though you can see the rapidly expanding city of Salvador from the pier, Itaparica has the laid back atmosphere of a tropical island," Sacatar alumna artist, Margriet Westerhof writes."Horses flock together on the beach, fishermen in wooden canoes are crossing very expensive sailing boats and there is music all around, whether it comes from the back of a car or from one of the many religious festas.”

Sacatar grounds

In reading artist testimonials and narratives over the past 16 years, it is clear that the space Sacatar has created is key to its success. A space where cultures and people freely connect. The residency is a truly international platform that yields unexpected connections and collaborations rippling out into the world far beyond Sacatar's perimeter.

Performance by Pat Oleszko (USA) with Adriana Rojas Pretel (Colombia), Andrea Wurzer (Germany), Be Ward (Australia), David Poznanter (USA) and Isis Gledhill (Brazil) on the Island of Itaparica

As the political climate shifted and new travel bans were proposed in the United States, Taylor and Mitch saw their mission of borderless exchange as deepening in importance and urgency. “We do not believe anyone should be banned based on the country listed on their passports," Taylor writes. "In the coming year Sacatar plans to host thirty-two artists from at least seventeen countries. We say at least seventeen countries as we are specifically reaching out to artists from Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Iran and Sudan, committed as we are to exchange, collaboration and respect across international borders. We hope to place as many as five artists from these threatened countries in 2017 and 2018, while maintaining our own robust program through the Open Call, unrestricted by age, nationality or discipline. Reaching artists in these politically troubled countries is not easy, but we believe strongly in the need for global engagement.”

Sacatar | Artists-in-Residence by Country of Origin

During their two-month residency period, Sacatar Fellows are encouraged to utilize their creative practice to engage with the local Bahian communities in Salvador and Itaparica. Through strategic introductions made throughout each session, Sacatar assists Fellows in making meaningful connections with local constituencies, as appropriate to each artist’s discipline and particular interests. The results of these rich intercultural collaborative exchanges are shared through public programs across the world.

Having a strong network of international partners has been key as well. Examples of the incredible impact of these partnerships can be seen with each cohort. In the current year, institutional partnerships with Africa Centre (South Africa), provided assistance to host the Ghanian novelist Nana Ayim; Dance-UP (Philadelphia, PA) provided assistance to host the choreographer Ana Paula Hofling; FUNCEB, Department of Cultural Affairs of the State of Bahia (Brazil), provided assistance to host the Brazilian author Deisiane Barbosa; and Prêmio PIPA (Brazil), provided assistance to host the Brazilian visual artist Luciana Magno. Partnerships have also deepened Sacatar's support of disciplines underrepresented in the residency field. After the creation of a new dance studio in 2010, Sacatar partnered with Dance/USA Philadelphia to providing Fellowships for US-based dancers and choreographers.

Choreographer Daniel Gwirtzman works with local dancers in Sacatar’s on-site dance studio

Nana Ayim was one such artist, traveling to Sacatar in 2016 as part of a partnership with the Africa Centre. Of her time onsite she writes, "Bahia itself energized and added other dimensions to my work that I couldn’t have even dreamt of. The Instituto Sacatar itself was a dream in every single aspect, it is amazing to think that in this upside down world we live in, perfect pockets of space and support and creation like Sacatar exist."

Nana Ayim, Ghanaian writer, art historian and filmmaker

The challenges of running a program in South America are real, both financially and logisticaly. But the program has continued to chart a bold course forward. For now the focus is clear: to keep extending global reach, to deepen partnerships, to provide a space that is rare - breathtakingly alive, still and calm.

Just this year a new program of curated residencies for established artists, Sacatar Solo, brought American artist Laurie Anderson to Bahia. In her reflections, she talked about the work she accomplished, the people she met and, of course, the magic of the place she discovered in her month stay. “These kinds of things don’t magically happen. People build them and make them happen. So thank you to Taylor and Mitch for building such an exquisite and open and beautiful place to think and work.”

Founders of Sacatar Taylor Van Horne & Mitch Loch. Photo by Laurie Anderson