Before the Volunteer Park Amphitheater as we know it gets torn down and upgraded as part of an end-of-summer replacement project, nonprofit organization Chile Woke is using the space for an art exhibition precisely because of its old, slightly dilapidated brick wall. The fresh air and social distancing opportunity of Volunteer Park is also, of course, key.
Rebeca Sanchez and Marcela Soto, two Chileans living in Seattle, formed Chile Woke as a way to showcase the work of artists documenting protests across Chile in response to widespread economic and social inequality.
Starting Sunday, Chile Woke is putting on its first large-scale, free exhibit: The Uprise of Chilean Graphics and Street Photography.
“Our idea is to try to bring the feeling of what is going on in Chile and specifically how posters and messages have been taking over the walls in the streets and becoming kind of like the people’s bulletin board,” Sanchez said.
Protests erupted in Santiago, Chile on October 18th following a rise in Santiago metro fares. Protesting and civil unrest have continued since then, albeit stifled by COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns, and the country is awaiting a national referendum on forming a new constitution — a key demand of protestors.
As an organization, Chile Woke is working to show international solidarity with protestors and call attention to what is happening on the ground in Chile through artwork — art and messages that Sanchez says have repeatedly been painted over by law enforcement.
“Walls have become part of the field where the confrontation takes place, so there’s kind of like this constant writing and then painting white and then writing over it that, as someone who likes art, I find very interesting,” she said.
The exhibition is set up in a socially-distant fashion. Visitors walk in one direction through the showcase and stay six feet apart. The open air is also part of the exhibition. All you need to do is wear a mask.
Sanchez and Soto held an open call for art submissions through their contacts in Chile and gathered nearly 80 pieces — taken during the first three months of protests — depicting police brutality, political satire, references to the upcoming national referendum and more.
Chile Woke held one other small pop-up event in January and had planned on having more art exhibitions that ended up canceled because of the pandemic. Both the name Chile Woke and the eye emblem used in its branding are a nod to police use of rubber bullets during protests resulting in eye injuries.
“There’s been all this talk since everything started that there was this awakening and so everyone was talking about Chile Despertó, like Chile Woke. That’s why we use that name,” Sanchez said. “We find it very symbolic that while people are experiencing this awakening, there’s this repression that is hurting the eyes that are like the symbol of an awakening.”
The exhibit is open 10 AM to 8 PM Sunday through Friday in the Volunteer Park Amphitheatre at 1247 15th Ave E. You can learn more at chilewoke.org.
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