By Kimberly Austin
The Pol/Econ section at U.S. Embassy La Paz regularly conducts meetings with local contacts, which creates the need for a space that reflects positively on American values. In a country with an ongoing negative narrative of the United States, presentation is important. Previously, the space used for conducting meetings showcased a photograph of the terrible traffic in La Paz and a print of John Wayne brandishing a revolver. With an urgent need for a new look, Embassy La Paz set aside a small budget to refresh the space with new artwork to include original pieces from local La Paz artisans and artists with disabilities.
Approximately half of the funds went to purchase original pieces from local La Paz artisans. Not only did the purchase support the local community, but the chosen fair trade handwoven tapestries and acrylic landscapes beautifully depict familiar Bolivian scenes. The remaining funds went to purchase 13 pieces of original art from the nonprofit Art Enables. Founded in 2001 and located in Washington, D.C., Art Enables is a vocational arts program for individuals with disabilities. Regularly featured in local and national media, the Combined Federal Campaign describes Art Enables as, “A nonprofit supportive employment program and art gallery dedicated to creating opportunities for adult artists with disabilities to make, market and earn income from artwork.”
Before being cleared and permanently located in the Pol/Econ office, the La Paz facilities team hung the art in the embassy auditorium for the entire community to enjoy. Chargé d’Affaires Bruce Williamson kicked off the exhibit with remarks regarding the importance of social inclusion, and he shared a three-minute video about Art Enables. The decision to support local businesses, American artists and individuals with disabilities depicts U.S. values and delivers a compelling visual narrative that can change local perceptions about Embassy La Paz and the United States.
Kimberly Austin is an office management specialist in the Pol/Econ section at Embassy La Paz.