History of the Ajijic Society of the Arts:
A Brief History of the Ajijic Society of the Arts (ASA)
In the early 1980s, a group of artists (many of whom were graduates of Neill James’ children’s art program that was started in the 1950s), along with patrons, would meet at the Bernard Gallery in Ajijic (now the Enrique Velázquez Gallery). Even then, Ajijic was the heart and soul of the art colony that existed on the shores of Lake Chapala.
In 1986, this original group of artists chose the name Ajijic Society of the Arts for their informal group.
In January 2001, after a significant decline in membership, sweeping policies were put in place to increase the group’s exposure and membership. Eighteen months later, membership had grown to more than 120 artists.
ASA had an active group of volunteers working with the Neill James Saturday art classes at the Lake Chapala Society. ASA member Mildred Boyd headed the group, and took over running the Children’s Art Program from an ailing Neill James.
Many of the Society´s shows and events were held at the Ajijic Cultural Centre. At that time, the centre was a dilapidated structure, with a corrugated roof which leaked badly over the art exhibits. To encourage the municipality to improve matters, ASA made frequent donations and was instrumental in constructing the present building.
The main yearly event became a judged exhibition taking place each Spring, with each member permitted to enter two recently-completed, original works. Prize ribbons were given in: oil painting, watercolours, acrylic, jewelry, fabric, photography, and other categories.
Monthly shows were also held to give artists opportunities to exhibit and sell their art. Favourite venues for these Sunday events were La Nueva Posada, the Lake Chapala Society, and the Ajijic Plaza.
Today, ASA continues these traditions, and now has over 200 members.
History of the ASA’s Annual Art Walk
ASA members Marion and Val Decker had taken part in art walks in California, and were impressed with how successful these were. When they moved to San Miguel de Allende in 2004, they found that someone there had set-up a similar event. Unfortunately, it wasn’t successful, and was not repeated. When they moved to Ajijic in 2008, and joined ASA, they had it in mind to do something here, under the auspices of the Ajijic Society of the Arts.
The first year it was held was 2012. Unfortunately, as in San Miguel, it lost money. After some thought and debate, they decided that the public and sponsors would be more supportive if ASA shared the profits with a local charity. The Children’s Art Program was the perfect fit. Over the next few years, the Open Studios Art Walk grew, and became so profitable that it now makes possible the annual Summer Art Camp for the children.
Through the Art Walk, ASA truly continues the work of Neill James and Mildred Boyd by supporting the LCS Children’s Art Program both by contributions from the Art Walk profits, and by tireless work by ASA volunteers with the Saturday art classes and the annual Art Camp. Every July, the Art Camp features art workshops in various mediums and techniques for over 125 local children over a five-day period. As with the Saturday art classes, these programs are free of charge, and include all materials the children need to complete their projects.
The sales from the Art Walk admission booklets, along with ads bought by the sponsors, allows the Children’s Art Program to fully support the most talented young artists – the future of art in our community.